Recently, I had the privilege to catch up with Tanya Goodman Sykes about where life has brought her and the lessons learned along the way. Read along for words of wisdom and anecdotes from one of Gospel Music’s favored female vocalists.
Andrew Stephens: First, share with us, how is life treating Tanya Goodman Sykes?
Tanya Goodman Sykes: Staying busy! I have been blessed to continue singing and enjoying time with family. Michael & I have a granddaughter, and she keeps us hopping. I also work for Pinnacle Financial Partners with their Learning and Development programs to help others become better at their jobs. I can work remotely, so this helps with my traveling schedule.
AS: To this day, Gospel Music fans still perk up when they hear the name ‘Goodman’. Through a variety of ways, you’ve been able to carry on a legacy so treasured in Gospel Music. How has the journey been through the years?
TGS: When I was a lot younger, it was more daunting (not that I didn’t appreciate it/wasn’t honored). All of those characters (Howard & Vestal, Sam, and my dad, Rusty) were “larger than life” in some respects.
I hear newscasters say that sometimes people comment on their wardrobe or appearance. All of us get comfortable with labeling things or putting them in a certain box/viewing through a specific lens. Most people have been supportive of my individual endeavors. Now, people will come up and share how they’re honored to meet me because of the history of my family. It’s an honor to hear their stories and be connected with them in some small way.
AS: In the past several years, Gospel Music listeners have heard you as the female vocalist for Goodman Revival. What’s it like reviving these favorites with your husband, Michael, and Johnny Minick?
TGS: It’s been an incredible time bringing these tunes back with Johnny Minick this time around. Having grown up with these songs, I’ve learned to take a different look at them. A song like “This Is Just What Heaven Means to Me” had a harder, driving sound when the Happy Goodmans sang it. When I sang it in a way to focus on the words, the message hit home with how our current culture is. Lyrics like “from all enmity and strife we’re free” or “no unkind words which wound the heart are spoken” are just as relevant for today as when my family introduced them to audiences back in the 60s and 70s.
AS: In addition to Goodman Revival, you’ve established yourself as a recognized soloist. Given your history of accolades and solo experience, what advice would you have for a soloist or even someone part of a group or worship team?
TGS: I’m going to share some information my dad told me. There are a lot of fantastic singers out there. I can turn on the radio for any genre and hear phenomenal singers. There’s no shortage of phrasing and runs stylistically. But, that’s not the stuff of greatness. That’s not the most important thing. DC Talk had a song that said “Keep the main thing the main thing.” We can’t lose sight of the lyric. We are communicating the Gospel. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the London Symphony and pull out every run in the book, if you’re not communicating/connecting the lyric, there is no greatness. Communicate that lyric, share that relationship with Jesus. Keep that line of communication with Him and let that pour out of the core of your being when you get the opportunity to be behind the microphone. Don’t sacrifice that opportunity to drown it with your coolness. Get out of the way of the lyric. Make sure it’s on pitch.
AS: You’ve been in the Christian Music industry for many years. What were some of the most exciting changes to see?
TGS: I get so excited when I see young talent. I remember when I heard the Martins for the first time, and they were this budding talent. When I hear their heart, the talent, and the desire to communicate this message.
Bill Gaither introduced Chris Blue former winner of ‘The Voice’ at 2019 Family Fest in Gatlinburg. He shared a few words about his story. He didn’t have a smooth start, sounded like his family struggled a lot. Their faith helped move them farther. I remember hearing my mom sing this when I was a kid. He started singing “Because He Lives.” He didn’t compromise that lyric. To me, that’s exciting to be present to see new faces, new hearts, and new talent.
Another exciting change was getting to be around in the Gaither Homecoming video era. It was great to see several folks like Hovie Lister, James Blackwood, Jake Hess, and Calvin Newton brought into the spotlight for their contributions to Gospel Music heritage.
AS: As you’ve traveled through the years, I’m sure you’ve had some hilarious encounters on the road. What’s one of the most unusual or humorous encounters you’ve had while singing on the road?
TGS: We were at the OpryHouse at Opryland, and we were filming these Gospel Music specials for PBS. Tennessee Ernie Ford hosted the event. He talked a bit about the history of Gospel Music and certain songs, then he had a lot of guests including Della Reese and the Speers. We (the Goodmans) filmed several of those, and we were on with the Speers one day. It was summertime, and we were hanging out backstage. The schedule changed where we would sing on the program. I had on a white cotton skirt, pretty straight and long, shiny/slick. I was hanging out backstage, and, all of the sudden, they said, “Goodmans, Goodmans.” I come flying around there, and they’re getting set. I tripped on a cable. I slid across the platform because my skirt was slick and instantly my white skirt had dirt around the knees. They had to position the cameras to not show my dirty skirt. That was a hilarious encounter for sure!
AS: What are some of your hobbies or interests outside of music?
TGS: I love the beach, the water, the sun. Some of my favorite authors are C.S. Lewis, Harper Lee, Richard Rohr, and Nicky Gumble. Michael & I have been going through a program with Nicky Gumble on the YouVersion app to read the Bible through in a year.
Our house has a big screened in back porch with seating for around 14 people. To come home and sit on the porch and talk with family or have a little ice cream or watch the baby is always relaxing. My favorite spot for sure!
AS: When you reach the end of your career, what would you like to be your legacy?
TGS: For the song to go on. That’s something my Dad always said, and that’s always stuck with me. My greatest wish is not to be winning all the awards and having #1 songs. My greatest desire is to reach. Knowing songs like “The King of Who I Am” is still moving people 35 years after being written encourages us. I was excited when Jason Crabb recorded “Who Am I”, and it was nominated for a Dove Award. My goal is that my music will outlive me by impacting others. If something I wrote or sang or said when I was standing behind a microphone will still be reverberating through the hearts of listeners in years to come, that will be my legacy.
AS: How can we keep up with you or Goodman Revival?
TGS: Visit us at www.goodmanrevival.com or follow us on Facebook or Instagram.