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A & E

Artworks: Singing is ministry and joy for Joliet grandmother

Joliet vocalist Trista Graves-Brown said people are surprised to learn she's 57 years old, a grandmother and a cancer survivor.
Joliet vocalist Trista Graves-Brown said people are surprised to learn she's 57 years old, a grandmother and a cancer survivor.

JOLIET – Joliet vocalist Trista Graves-Brown said people are surprised to learn she’s 57 years old, a grandmother and a cancer survivor.

But she is, and a proud one at that.

In an email, Graves-Brown, also known as Tristarr, said her daughter, Ranisah Brown, is a social worker, has two master’s degrees and is pursuing her doctorate. Graves-Brown’s son, Dr. Franklin Brown III, lives in Texas. And, of course, she has a grandson, Billy Bailey, age 12.

But whether she looks or feels her age, Graves-Brown gives God the glory for every blessing in her life. And that’s why she sings – with no plans of ever retiring.

“Singing for me isn’t about a career,” Graves-Brown said in an email. “It’s joy without effort because I love ministering to the hearts of others.”

Graves-Brown’s love for music crosses genres. Graves-Brown said she sings inspirational, Gospel, rhythm and blues, country and easy listening music.

“I like to reach and relate to all people who like all music,” Graves-Brown said in an email. “I even try to rap a little.”

She’s trying to “convert” some of her songs into Spanish to reach even more audiences, which she said is difficult, since she knows little Spanish, but not enough to make her quit.

“I like challenges,” she said in an email.

Graves-Brown recalled the song that debuted her singing. She was 5 years old, and the song was “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” During childhood, she sang with singing groups for local talent shows and dreamed of a singing career.

“But of course, realistically, I went to college,” Graves-Brown said in an email.

Her first cancer battle began in 1988, but she declined to elaborate. Several years later, Graves-Brown’s singing took off in earnest.

In an email, Graves-Brown said she auditioned with hundreds of girls for Sean Chaney Entertainment, which was putting together a girl group called Look, But Don’t Touch. She made it into the group, which subsequently opened for such artists as Mary J. Blige, Naughty by Nature and R. Kelly, Graves-Brown said in an email.

Her third CD, “Behind the Lipstick,” is available online at iTunes and CD Baby. In Joliet, one can pick up a copy at Sandy’s Unique, 28 W. Clinton St.; and Styles of Brass, 1948 Essington Road.

But how does Graves-Brown measure success? For her, success is not measured by the amount of “likes” on social media or the amount of money one earns. It’s about connecting the message of the music with the listener.

“If one person heard your message and heard your voice, that’s better than not hearing it at all,” Graves-Brown said in an email. “Dreams only come alive if you are living it.”

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Goal: “To reach the world and to reach the broken-hearted. ... They will become encouraged, strong, hopeful, no longer feel bondage and know God is their friend unconditionally.”

Challenges: “Marketing. It costs money. Sponsors, social media isn’t enough. You need a manager for booking so you can concentrate on being an artist. ... Exposure is a must.”

Words of wisdom: “There will always be challenges and disappointments. Don’t worry about living up to others’ expectations of you. Remember you are the only one who can live in your truths and tell the story. ... Let [God] lead your footsteps, and all your efforts will never be in vain.”

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