Energetic, youthful and inspiring are just some of the words I can use to describe singer and songwriter, Tocarra Hamilton. Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Tocarra had her very first experiences singing in the choir of Ebenezer Church of God in Christ. I had the opportunity to discuss with Tocarra her transition from a singer amongst many in the stands of her church choir to becoming a stand-alone artist whose music is hard to label. Tocarra shared some personal tragedies, including a car accident that almost took away the use of her legs, but thankfully she was able to steer clear of tragedy to find some triumphs in her life, like her recently inked distribution deal with Universal Records and having the opportunity to give back to young girls, providing motivation based off her own experiences. Check out the full interview with Tocarra here…
Parlé Magazine: So Tocarra, as a child what is the earliest you can remember singing?
Tocarra Hamilton: I was probably around four or five years old when I started singing.
Parlé: Who were your favorite artists back then?
Tocarra: As a child I loved Whitney Houston, Patti Labelle, Monica and Nivea.
Parlé: Did you have a favorite song to sing?
Tocarra: *laughs* “Pretty Brown Eyes” by Mint Condition
Parlé: So the majority of your earlier singing was done in church back in Milwaukee. Were you nervous to sing in front of the congregation or was this stage presence something that came naturally?
Tocarra: Actually no, back then I would turn my back to the congregation to sing. I was very nervous. These days I want to make sure I’m putting off what I’m trying to put off. It makes you think that it is impossible. Pray, Get out there, and do you what you’re supposed to do.
Parlé: What was your favorite song to sing with the choir?
Tocarra: Whatever song they taught us I was happy to sing. I’m a good at learning music by ear. If I had to choose I loved singing Easter songs and “Silent Night.”
Parlé: Tell me about the car accident that almost claimed your ability to walk?
Tocarra: I can’t remember anything about the car accident. My first memory was of me becoming conscious on the side of the road. I was told someone hit our car after running a stop sign.
Parlé: What was the recovery process like?
Tocarra: The recovery was horrible. I felt my life was horrible. I was in the hospital for a long time. I had to use crutches and sleep with pillows in between my legs.
Parlé: After your accident you decided to move to ATL. Did you always want to move to Atlanta to pursue your music career or was that something that was inspired out of tragedy?
Tocarra: After being in Milwaukee and going through a few things, it was time for me to get out of there. The only things I could think to do were negative. So moving to Atlanta was my only choice. I visited and came back and forth between Milwaukee and Atlanta for a little while and then finally moved when I was 20.
Parlé: What was your family’s reaction?
Tocarra: My mom was not happy. She thought she wasn’t a good parent, but I had to get out of there for myself. I was not accepted. I wasn’t doing anything wrong but no one was taking the time to learn who Tocarra was. I had to take the steps to make myself a better person.
Parlé: What were the first steps you took after arriving?
Tocarra: I had to learn the ropes and figure out what I was trying to do. I was in a development deal and my manager Angela Manson got me out of that so I could learn first-hand. I’m a business woman now as well as an artist.
Parlé: Then how did you place your music in the right hands?
Tocarra: I got my music in the right hands by promoting, being in studios and putting things out on my websites, using the internet and social media.
Parlé: As a result you had the opportunity to travel on tour with some heavyweights in the music industry, what did you learn from that experience?
Tocarra: Yes, I’ve opened for Nicki Minaj and had the chance to work with Wale. I enjoyed all of them because you get to see how people are and how they work. I learned not to get caught up in the hype of being an artist. I learned to just be normal.
Parlé: You recently inked a distribution deal with Universal Records? What went through your head after the agreement was finalized?
Tocarra: That there is more work to be done, which is what I’ve been looking for. I’m excited but there’s just so much more work to be done.
Parlé: Do you make it an effort to not be labeled under one genre?
Tocarra: Yes, yes I do. I’m not an “in the box” type of person. I’m grown and able to talk about whatever I want to talk about. There are tons of different aspects of life and I want to be able to reach all of them.
Parlé: Did you write all of your songs?
Tocarra: I have written 90% of my music. I have accepted music from other people. It’s not easy to work with others. I know what I like and what I don’t like. It isn’t easy for me to take direction from others since I’m not an artist who was put together by a label.
Parlé: What part of your life do you most often draw from when you are writing music?
Tocarra: When I write, it comes from life experiences, experiences from those around me and what I see going on in the world today.
Parlé: We discussed your childhood favorites, but who are some of your current inspirations?
Tocarra: My favorite artists are Beyonce, Mariah, The Clark Sisters and Kim Burrell. These women have incredible vocal range and move me spiritually. I can remember being at a Mariah concert and crying.
Parlé: Aside from your music, you also do some motivational work for young girls? Why do you make that a point to do in your career?
Tocarra: I remember being a young girl and I had some tragic experiences. Young girls face so much today and I can relate to what they go through. I want them to know that I understand them, I don’t judge them and I’m just like them. The first mistake adults make is preaching to kids instead of talking to them and trying to find out what happened and what made them do what they did because there’s always a reason and when we talk to them, we can help them.
Parlé: If the last year, what was one of the most exciting moments?
Tocarra: Realizing that I have grown so much as a person and an artist. The route I’ve taken for my life and my career wasn’t the fast lane, and I’ve learned to be patient. I didn’t sleep my way to the top, it wasn’t handed to me, I worked for it and sometimes, it wasn’t fair but I made it and no one can take it from me.
Parlé: What are you most excited for in regards to the year ahead of us?
Tocarra: I’m excited to see what I’ve worked so hard for, come to be. I’m excited because everyday is a new day, a new opportunity and a new blessing. I don’t take anything for granted and I am truly happy!
Parlé: Aside from your own, who’s new music are you most excited to hear this year?
Tocarra: Everything Beyonce puts out, Adele, I’m also a big Hip-Hop head. I like Lil’ Wayne, Rick Ross, Drake and Pitbull.
Tocarra is truly someone to keep an eye on. Last year she and Lil’ Scrappy released the song “No Love.” Her music has been featured on VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop,” and with her deal with Universal Records, we are sure to hear much more from Tocarra.