If projections are correct and “Promise to Stay Here” has been streamed almost a half a million times, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU, alumna Kendra Foster has arrived.
However, when the Grammy award-winning singer/ songwriter begins to speak, you know that you’re in the presence of someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously, no matter how far she’s come. She’s humble and seemingly surprised by her recent success.
“You never really think that your gift would feed out into the world coming from such a small town,” Foster said.
The Tallahassee native ventured off to New York some eight years ago and recently jumped at the opportunity to come back to the city and perform at Tallahassee Nights Live at the Moon Nightclub. Channeling her inner Prince with ease, Foster said music has always been a part of her life, though she only wrote her first song as a student on the “Hill.”
“The first song I wrote was called ‘This World,’ and was performed with a local group called Fish-N-Grits,” Foster explained. “I did ballet for 11 years, but I don’t think I would love dance as much without music! Orchesis Contemporary Dance Theater is what attracted me to FAMU, but music is my deepest passion.”
As a student Foster followed her bliss and switched her major from math/chemistry to jazz studies and commercial music. It was at funk legend George Clinton’s studio here in Tallahassee where Foster began to compose music with the passion that eventually landed her a songwriting gig with D’Angelo and the Vanguard. Foster co-wrote and sang backup vocals for their album “Black Messiah” that won Best R&B Album of the Year and Best R&B Song for “Really Love” at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards.
The energetic songstress said winning the highly-regarded accolade “is a beautiful thing though not winning doesn’t determine the value of your artwork.”
Back to the Hill
Shortly after her arrival on campus recently for this interview, Foster admitted that she had not been on campus in five years and asked to take a tour.
“I feel a wave of monumental memories coming back to the forefront of my mind. My father was a math professor and mother was an English professor…being at FAMU feels so familiar. It’s like breathing,” the alumna expressed.
As she rode through campus, Foster chuckled and recounted some of her favorite FAMU memories.
“I have so many memories of driving through the set, standing in line at Foote-Hilyer, singing with the concert choir with people like K. Michelle,” she laughed.
The budding music star has come a long way and this is only the beginning. “Promise to Stay Here” was released through Billboard, helping to propel the song to airwaves across the nation. This summer Foster plans to release a video for the song, but for now she is working hard to make sure she rides the wave of her latest success.
After performing her new hit at ATL Live on the Park, in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park the day prior to returning to Tallahassee, Foster’s work ethic is strengthened from what she learned while attending FAMU.
“FAMU taught me how to navigate in this world and industry. And to hustle! Can I say that?” she laughed.