The actor and singer brought her cultural roots into Christmas classics
LOS ANGELES -- Tatyana Ali grew up in the spotlight. She started as a child actor on "Sesame Street" and "Star Search" and got her big acting break as Ashley Banks in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Who could forget the storyline where Ashley's cousin Will Smith was her manager trying to get her a big record deal?
In real life, Ali was signed to a record deal in 1998 and had a certified gold hit in 1999. She's worked steadily doing a mix of music, movies and TV. And now, she is releasing holiday music, an EP called "All I Have." The EP is a mix of original songs and Christmas classics with a twist.
"I knew even from those first brainstorming sessions that I wanted to explore some of my cultural background. So there's 'Los Peces en El Rio' that's in Spanish," Ali told On The Red Carpet. "There's a version of 'The Little Drummer Boy' called 'All I Have' that brings in calypso and the steel drum. Those are instruments, my father's from Trinidad so I grew up with the steel drum and it made sense to me with the story."
Creating the music for this EP was particularly freeing for Ali.
"I had an experience in the studio unlike anything I had when I was signed to a label when I was a kid," Ali revealed. "I could do whatever I wanted to do without rules or without restrictions or genre parameters or what would be good for radio, it's just about what felt good to us."
"I've always loved singing but that experience made me want to sing for others again besides for my kids and my husband," she laughed.
And while she joked that her young son says she sings "too loudly" at home, she hopes to continue making music her way.
"When I walk into a studio I feel excited. Always a little nervous, but nerves are good. That's how I know I am where I'm supposed to be," Ali said. "I've been performing since I was 4. I'm 44. That's 40 years! And nothing about it feels old, it feels brand new."
"All I Have" is streaming now on Spotify and Tidal.