Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child on what it was like to be part of Beychella
About the only secret that got out ahead of Beyoncé’s tightly guarded performances at the just-wrapped Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was the fact that the singer planned to reunite her era-defining girl group, Destiny’s Child.
But the spread of those rumors hardly diminished the feeling of triumph when Beyoncé brought out Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland to sing a mini-set of DC classics that included “Lose My Breath,” “Soldier” and the deathless “Say My Name.”
Here, Williams discusses what that moment felt like, the planning that went into Beyoncé’s instant-classic performance and how she and her band mates get along when they’re not standing onstage in front of tens of thousands of people.
The response to Destiny’s Child was intense. How did it feel up there?
Let’s call it a blessing. Beyoncé and Kelly — they’ve been in the game for, what, 23 years? Me just 18 years. And when people see us together they still lose their minds! People are asking, “When y’all gonna tour? When y’all gonna put out new music?” It’s been 14 years since we’ve had an album together, and people are still asking.
Does the level of passion surprise you?
With the young kids it does. They definitely know who Beyoncé is. But then they see these two other girls — like, “Who are these girls that my mom is going crazy about?” Some of these kids were probably 2 years old when “Lose My Breath” came out. And they for darn sure weren’t even thought of when “Survivor” came out.
The group was just one part of an incredibly elaborate concert experience. Talk about how you discovered what the show was going to be.
Initially I was like, “Bey, just go out there and have fun. People are gonna be so excited to see you.” And then I walked into rehearsal for the first time and saw this big old pyramid and that it was gonna be filled to the brim with humans. I said, “What in the bejesus is this? I told you just to go have fun!” But she can never do anything that we would think is normal. And this is what’s fun for her.
How hardcore were the rehearsals?
Everybody was pushing each other to do and be their very, very best. When Beyoncé does something, it’s because she knows that if she can do it, everybody else on the stage can do it. Somebody might have to rehearse a little longer than others or go over the music parts a little longer. But she shows that you put the work in, and I know that however many people were onstage — 150, 200 — I know they’re all gonna go home and their lives are gonna be changed because they saw her work ethic. They saw that she’s not some glamorous girl on private jets with assistants flocking her side, who just walks in and magically dances so great onstage. She is involved.
It’s wild to think that level of ambition went into something we may never see again.
I said, “Where is this pyramid going, by the way? Are the twins gonna play on it one day? Is it gonna be their swing set?”
What did it mean to you to help bring such a proudly African American performance to a space like Coachella?
First of all, long time coming. Music can heal and it can unite; it can unite races, cultures, faiths. And that’s what we saw out there in that audience. Destiny’s Child was able to do that; Beyoncé was able to do that. I’m not trying to get sappy, preachy, whatever. But there’s enough out there to divide us. I just love what she was able to do. I told her, “You have definitely had a hand in shifting the culture.”
Before this, Destiny’s Child got back together for the Super Bowl in 2013 and to record a song for an album of yours in 2014. The group is kind of always in the background, waiting to reappear fully intact.
I think because we have a relationship off the stage that’s so easy and fun, that chemistry ignites when we’re together. We’ve kept to our word back in the early 2000s, when we went on our first hiatus — we said that we would always participate in each other’s projects in whatever capacity we could.
Talk about that off-stage relationship.
I just moved to L.A. full-time in January, and I’m so happy to finally move to where the girls are. Kelly is a four-minute drive from me; I think Bey is 17 minutes exactly. So we can get together any time, whenever we want to. We haven’t lived in the same city since we left Houston in the early 2000s.
What else do you have going on? You just got engaged, right?
I am so over the moon about this engagement. I was starting to think, “OK, I’m in my late 30s — I’m gonna be that woman who is successful in her career but just a failure when it comes to love.” I literally was starting to settle in that. So I started traveling by myself, taking myself out. And I actually encourage people — don’t wait on anybody to go on a trip with you. Don’t wait to go to the movies with people. You’ve got to take your own self out. I started to learn to be whole by myself.
What about a new solo album?
It’s been four years. I’ve got to put something out this year. I doubt it’s gonna be a whole album; I’ve been concentrating on my home decor line. But I went into the studio with a good friend of mine, Jimi Cravity, and I’m tempted to put something out that we recorded in January.
Where are you musically? A gospel space? Pop space? R&B space?
I think it’s just a life space. Writing about the great things that are happening, what I’ve been able to overcome — a battle with depression that I still daily am cognizant of. Making sure that you heal from those triggers and those wounds. You can’t let stuff overpower you and overpower the good of who you are. I refuse to walk around sad and in a dark place every single day. I’ll definitely write about that. And I’m so encouraged by everyone that’s coming out. Mariah Carey just came out and talked about her bipolar. The Rock — he’s huge and big and muscular, and he just revealed that he’s suffered with depression! I want to tell people it’s OK to talk about it. You better talk about what’s going on in your life. You have to.
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