Music News & Reviews

Gospel singer Mandisa back home and in a happier place

Grammy-winning contemporary Christian artist Mandisa returns to her hometown of Sacramento to perform at Golden 1 Center on Feb. 11.
Grammy-winning contemporary Christian artist Mandisa returns to her hometown of Sacramento to perform at Golden 1 Center on Feb. 11.

After overcoming so much sadness, Mandisa now radiates smiles. She’s headed home – if only so briefly – and that makes her heart sing.

“My heart broke last year when I realized I’ve been living longer in Nashville than Sacramento,” said the Grammy Award-winning gospel and contemporary Christian singer in a phone interview. “That’s 21 years! I moved to Music City to go to Fisk University (and stayed to pursue her music career). But when people ask me where I’m from, I always say, ‘Sacramento!’ 

On Sunday, Mandisa returns to her hometown as part of TobyMac’s “Hits Deep Tour” at Golden 1 Center. The concert also features Danny Cokey, Ryan Stevenson and Finding Favour.

Most of her family still lives here, said Mandisa, who grew up in Citrus Heights. Then known as Mandisa Lynn Hundley, she graduated from El Camino Fundamental High School and studied vocal jazz at American River College before heading to Tennessee.

“I love Golden 1!” said the 41-year-old artist. “I saw it shortly after it opened and I’m really looking forward to performing there. It’s beautiful! When you’re on tour, you see lots of arenas and Arco (Arena) was – well, it was home, but it wasn’t so great. But Golden 1, it’s the best! It has great dressing rooms and an exercise room and awesome sound. Now when I’m on tour, I’m really proud of our city.”

This 29-city tour is part of a triumphal comeback for Mandisa, who bounced back from debilitating depression. For two years, she locked out the world after the death of a close friend to breast cancer. Kisha Mitchell had been the inspiration for Mandisa’s hit single, “Overcomer,” and her 2014 Grammy-winning album of the same name.

Losing faith in God and prayer, Mandisa tried unsuccessfully to console herself with food.

Famously mocked by Simon Cowell for her weight during the fifth season of “American Idol,” Mandisa had lost 125 pounds before her depression. During her dark days, she gained it all back – plus another 75.

“I just shut down, isolated, and started turning to my old friend food for comfort,” Mandisa said in an earlier interview. “My loved ones were reaching out and I would ignore their phone calls and text messages. It got to the point where I had friends who, out of love and concern, came to my house banging on the door and I just put in some ear plugs and pretended I wasn’t there. I was angry at the world.”

Her friends eventually staged an “intervention,” Mandisa recalled. She went to a movie by herself (mostly to hear herself sing a song on the soundtrack, she admitted). When she came out of the theater, she found her car covered with sticky notes – all inscribed with messages of love. Her waiting friends echoed those sentiments in person and shook her out of her despair.

Grief counseling helped get Mandisa’s life and career on track. Three years after “Overcomer,” she was back in the studio, writing and singing again. “Out of the Dark,” her sixth studio album released last May, plays off those themes of reconnection and recovery.

“I’m better than where I was,” she said on the eve of this tour. “I’ve heard from a lot of people who also battle depression. My experience can be used for good.

“So far, I’ve lost 100 pounds – again,” she added. “I take it one day at a time. I try to concentrate on just healthy eating, eat more veggies, not as many processed foods. Fiber is important. I try to focus on lean meats and protein. It’s actually harder to eat healthy at home. On the road, we have a catering company that makes healthy meals every day. When I’m sitting at home, I don’t have a personal cook. And on the road, we do a 30-minute Zumba workout every day. So, I like the road.”

In January, she released a new video of “Bleed the Same,” an anthem of understanding from “Out of the Dark,” with fellow Christian artists and Grammy winners TobyMac and Kirk Franklin.

“(The reaction) is exactly what I wanted,” she said. “It starts a connection, a way to come together. I’ve heard from people in the Philippines, in South Africa. (Divisiveness) is not just something happening in America.”

Expect to hear that and more during Mandisa’s Golden 1 show, including a memorable duet.

“I’m planning a medley of all the songs Toby and I have done together,” she said. “That’s at least five.”

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

Hits Deep Tour

What: Concert featuring TobyMac, Danny Cokey, Mandisa, Ryan Stevenson and Finding Favour

Where: Golden 1 Center, 500 David J Stern Walk, Sacramento

When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11

Tickets: $15-$39

Details: 800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com

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