I love producing, writing. I rarely write with other writers unless I have a real great respect for them. Like Burt Bacharach, or Carole Sager, or Stevie Wonder. Somebody like Smokey - like that. Otherwise, I choose to write alone.
Sam Cooke had a huge influence on me. He left the gospel field at one point and went into the secular, and he had this huge hit, 'You Send Me.' Irma, my older sister, and I heard 'You Send Me' on the radio while we were driving through the South one night. We had to stop the car. We got out and danced around the car out on the highway.
For many years, I've wanted to do one, and I've always mentioned it to the chieftains, and they would say things like, 'Oh well. Christmas albums don't sell,' and things like that. But that's not the point. Christmas albums are important. The music is important. The season is important.
I used to have hamburgers coming and going, especially when I was on the road. Now, occasionally I will still have that quarter pounder because I love fast food, but you have to keep it to a minimum. I am now opting for salads and just healthier lunches.
I think you have a lot of really good artists today. You have your Beyonce, Usher, Nicki Minaj and the like. But our generation, the artists were stronger. You're talking about myself, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, Gladys Knight, The Temptations, The Four Tops.
I had not been in the jazz environment, having been brought up in the church. But once I got to New York, and I was signed to perform at The Village Gate and the Vanguard and clubs like that, and these - the Vanguard was one of the most elite, if not the most elite, jazz club out there.