M A R A N D A
M A R A N D A
My name is Maranda Forney. To my family and close friends I'm known as Randi. I was born in Camden, New Jersey to amazing parents; George and Charm Watkins. As early as I can remember I loved to sing. I remember being at family gatherings and saying, "Do you want to hear me sing"? I would sing in school, church and at times in front of the bathroom mirror with a hair brush in my hand. When people asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
My response, "A famous singer!"
At the age of nine I asked my father to buy me a piano. He said, "Let's take lessons first before making the investment". When he saw my level of commitment, I woke up that Christmas morning to come downstairs to my very own piano. I practiced day and night so much so my father would periodically come into the room and say, "Okay that's enough".
When I was in the 5th grade, my favorite teacher Mrs. Brassington asked everyone to write a poem to create our very own class poetry book. Once completed, I took the book home and put music to each poem. My favorite poem of course was my poem, "Rainbows" which I can still play to this day.
When I wasn't practicing the piano, I would sneak into my father's record collection. His records were not to be touched but he had sooooo many. During the summer when he would leave for work, as soon as I heard the door close, I would run downstairs to play my favorites, Natalie Cole's " Peaceful Living" , Earth, Wind & Fire's "Reasons", Rose Royce's "Wishing On A Star" and so many more.
At the age of 13, I became obsessed with a new drama series on television entitled, "Fame" starring Debbie Allen. The series was based on Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York. It followed the lives of students and teachers at a fictitious performing arts high school in New York city. I wanted to attend a school just like the one on Fame, so I looked for one in my area. The closest thing I could find was the Merit School of Music, a music conservatory in Chicago, Illinois. It just so happened auditions were being conducted the same week. I headed into Chicago to audition singing, "The Greatest Love Of All". A couple of weeks later I received a letter in the mail beginning with, "Congratulations, you have been accepted...". I was on top of the world!!!
The Merit School of Music was everything I thought it would be. When you walked down the halls you would see and hear students in the halls and classrooms holding or playing instruments, voices singing, instructors coaching, dancers practicing, and groups gathered to collaborate which was my favorite. That is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I attended the Merit School of Music as well as the Illinois Summer Youth Music Program which I auditioned and was accepted at the University of Illinois in Urbana until the summer of 1985. My father who was an Engineer for Lucent Technologies accepted a promotional opportunity which required the family to relocate to Columbus, Ohio. I was devastated. I remember saying, "What about my music...what kind of state is Ohio...it only has four letters". My father allowed me to finish the music program in Urbana and then join my family in Ohio. I remember the high school was so small in comparison to the high schools in Illinois. There were four buildings and you had to walk from building to building to get to class (even in the winter). I signed up for Choir and butted heads with the Music teacher, Joseph Thrower on a consistent basis. He was being punished because I felt as though I were being punished for having to leave Illinois to live in Ohio.
During the school year my father did not allow my sister and I to work. Instead he wanted us to focus on school. Usually a week or two before classes were scheduled to end for the summer break, my sister and I would try to have two or three jobs lined up to work for the summer. One day while looking through the wanted ads, I came across an ad for a teenage girl who could sing. I called the number and a gentleman answered, "Chris Powell".
I stated my name and told Mr. Powell I was responding to an ad in the Columbus Dispatch for a teenage singer. The first thing he said, "sing something". I started to sing, "The Greatest Love Of All". He stopped me and asked other questions such as my age, my background and my address. I gave him my address and ran downstairs to tell my parents that a real music producer was coming to our house.
When Mr. Powell arrived, my father told me to go upstairs so he could speak with Mr. Powell. As I secretly stood at the top of the stairs to listen, I remember my father not being impressed and drilling Mr. Powell with question after question. My father ended the conversation by calling me downstairs and informing both Mr. Powell and I that I could participate in the group but he would not sign anything until I could demonstrate handling school and music. He also made it very clear that this was temporary and the ultimate goal was for me to go to college. Just before school let out for the summer a fellow class mate found an article in the Columbus Dispatch about a new teenage girls group from Columbus, Ohio who signed a recording deal with Warner Bros. I remember my teacher and class mates asking if that was me in the article and receiving comments like, "Remember me when you get famous". However, my new found fame was short lived. After locking my keys in the car at a photo shoot, I called my father to bring the second pair of keys. Excited to show my father where we were shooting (the empty DeLorean warehouse), he was not impressed and actually became infuriated. He then told me he was not signing any contract and I was no longer a part of the group. I begged and pleaded with my father and I even begged my mother to talk to him but he responded that it was very inappropriate for so many grown men to be around three teenage girls with no adult female supervision. That was the end of my association with "Teen Dream".
Fast forward four years later. My life was out of control. I dropped out of college, I did not have a relationship with my family and I found myself pregnant and homeless. After the birth of my first child, I found myself pregnant again. Disappointed in myself for having two children out of wedlock by two different men, I decided to take my future sister-in-law up on her offer to visit Body of Christ Tabernacle in Columbus, Ohio where Bishop Brian Keith Williams was the pastor. September 22, 1991, I received Jesus Christ as my lord and savior. I remember going to the altar in tears weeping during the altar call. I was so overwhelmed with emotion and so tired of being a disappointment. I believed I deserved the things that were happening in my life over the last four years. The church mothers surrounded me and had me kneel at the altar to call on Jesus. At the time I did not understand what was going on but I just continued to cry and call on Jesus. After several minutes Bishop Williams instructed the church mothers to take me down to the basement. I followed Mother Linda Mitchell to the basement where she encouraged me to continue to call on Jesus. Later I realized the goal was to speak in tongues which was evidence I was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Mother Mitchell asked what was on my heart. I told her that I wanted my boyfriend and the father of my daughter to get saved. I loved Michael and did not want to see my life without him. She said something that I will never forget, "You get him here and let God do the rest". Michael attended the following Sunday and surrendered his life to Christ September 29, 1991. We were married October 10, 1991. A couple of weeks later Bishop Williams asked who wanted to be filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of tongues. Many of us raised our hands and were instructed to go to the front of the church. I watched as Bishop Williams laid hands on different individuals and they began speaking in tongues. I remember thinking, "Lord please let it happen for me too"!
When Bishop came to me he said, "Lift your hands". I lifted my hands and he touched my forehead and said, "Fill her Father" and I started to speak in tongues. I was so excited and I did not want the flow to stop. I told everyone I knew about Jesus, I was so excited to share his word and just to be a part of something positive again. A week or two later something began to awaken within me that I had lost over the previous four years. My love for music returned and I started hearing music and writing songs. The words would flow so easily and the scriptures came so quickly even scriptures that I had not yet studied. I would hear a word and it would trigger a song. I would watch T.V and it would trigger a song. Even in my dreams I began to hear music, I would awake to write the song. I was surrounded with music. I wrote, "Seekingly Yours" about abortion, "Greater Is He" about spiritual warfare, "Tell Me" a Christian rap about the youth of our nation and so many more songs. My desire was to record my own album.
I shared my songs with Bishop Williams and one day he called and told me he was flying out later that evening to preach at Azuza at Higher Dimensions Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma where the pastor was Bishop Carlton Pearson. He continued, "If the Lord gives you a song based on my message, 'Shoulder To Shoulder' then great but if not...it's okay". What Bishop did not know, I was hearing the song as he was speaking to me. After hanging up the phone, I wrote the song and called an hour or two later. He informed me that he would call back. Once he did I sang the song over the phone. He then called the church musicians and had everyone meet at the church to record the song to take with him to Azuza.
In 1994 I decided to go back to school and finish my Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. My goal was to be able to record what I wanted the way I wanted but I knew it would not only take faith but money. Juggling church, work, a family with four children and now school was not easy but I stood on my favorite scripture, "Philippians 4:13". I knew once I finished school God had greater doors for me and I would be able to make money to record my own album.
In 1998 I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and immediately relocated to Chicago, Illinois with my husband and four children. I accepted a position with Lucent Technologies. My career began to take off and I realized I had a hidden strength for organization and structure and I loved to teach. I had a great career with the opportunity to make good money and travel but now it was time to get into the studio. In 2001 I recorded my first single, "In Your Presence" while pregnant with my fifth child and in 2005 I recorded my first album, "MARANDA" while pregnant with my 8th child.
In December of 2005, after the birth of my 8th child, I experienced upper abdominal pains and vomiting. My husband took me to the emergency room and the nurse stated, "You may have gall bladder disease since you just had a baby". She started an I.V. and gave me Pepcid for my gall bladder and Reglan for the vomiting. Immediately I began to have dry heaves. I asked the nurse if I could use the bathroom. She went to get a pole for my I.V. and upon her return my eyes closed and my head fell forward. As my legs began to give out, the nurse yelled, "Honey, honey!" She caught me and with my last breath I said, "I can't breathe!”
The nurse yelled, “Code!” I heard several people enter the room and someone said, “What is her name?” The nurse replied, “Maranda”. Suddenly everyone was saying, “Maranda, Maranda, Maranda!” Someone said, “She’s not breathing…bag her!” Another person said, “She doesn’t have a pulse!” I began to ask God, “Is this what it feels like to die?” Someone said, “We need to contact her OB/GYN and let him know what is going on. Also someone will need to speak with her husband in the lobby.” In the meantime, a doctor went to speak with my husband. The doctor asked if he could speak quietly away from the children. He told my husband, “Your wife has taken a turn for the worst and we do not know why. She is unresponsive at this time.”
Meanwhile, a breathing tube was being put down my throat and I was connected to a ventilator. Even though I was showing signs of unresponsiveness, I could hear everything that was said in the room. Once I was stable, the doctors then stated they wanted to begin running tests. I was wheeled down this long hallway where I lost consciousness. The only thing I remember is saying, “I’M READY TO GO HOME BUT I DON’T WANT TO LEAVE MIKE TO RAISE THE CHILDREN BY HIMSELF” and instantly I could open my eyes.
For several years my husband and I told no one what had happened. We were just thankful I was alive to raise our children.
In 2007 I started graduate school to get my Masters in Information Systems Management. Once again working, managing a family with seven children in the home, church and going to school full-time, my plate was extremely full. I graduated October of 2009 with honors (GPA: 3.85) but I was too busy to attend my own graduation. I relocated to Houston, Texas in 2010 after accepting a position with Hewlett Packard. My career was on the rise and I was eventually promoted to Chief of Staff for the Americas PPS Delivery organization. As Chief of Staff, I had the full support of my Vice President Adrienne Ware.
In 2013 the company was going through a difficult transition. We had several Executive Vice Presidents in a short period of time. To encourage our team members, I wrote, "I Believe In HP" after listening to our newest EVP, Dion Weisler. I sent the recording to everyone within my organization and requested a picture or video of the team members showing they believed in HP. I had hoped to receive just enough footage for the entire song (3:10). To my surprise I received more footage than I could imagine and now had the challenge of trying to include all of the footage within the 3 minute video. The video was a hit and spread throughout HP like wildfire. I even received a message from Adrienne that Meg Whitman heard about the video and tried to view it for herself.
In 2013 I found myself in a season of writing. Once again I was hearing music at every turn. I returned to Circle Music Group owned by Shawn George. I recorded my single, "No Greater Love" and shot my first EPK. An associate of my husband heard the song and reached out to me. He stated a good friend of his was a major music producer and wanted to work with me. The producer was Derek "DOA" Allen of Sacramento, California. I knew from the initial conversation, Derek was definitely someone I wanted to work with.
At the time I completed six songs for my upcoming album with Shawn George but I really wanted to work with Derek. I had two songs to complete so I asked for Shawn's blessing to have Derek complete the last two songs. Derek turned the songs around within a week and my husband and I flew out to Sacramento to record, "You Give Me Life" and "We Cry Holy" . We completed both songs in one day. That time was so magical and I kept telling my husband I did not want to leave. I released, "You Give Me Life" in 2014 and recorded my first music video, "You Give Me Life" in January of 2015.
October of 2015 Michael was offered a promotional opportunity which required our family to relocate to Phoenix, Arizona. I then accepted a position with Dell Inc. After working with Derek, I was determined to allow him to produce a full project. So I sent him ten songs that I had written and wanted to record. I remember his response, "Okay this is a good start and we probably have two good songs so far." I remember thinking, "Okay...this guy is going to challenge me to write at a greater level". I stepped up to the challenge and delivered. Derek delivered as well when I flew back to Sacramento in 2016 to record, "Deep Within". We recorded all ten songs within 5 days.
In February of 2017 Dell sold my business unit to an investment firm who then laid-off my entire department. Ironically, I was at peace. I booked a 5 day cruise for my entire family to Mexico and we had an amazing time. When we returned, someone suggested I start my own business and that is exactly what I did. I knew my strengths were organization and structure and I was great in front of clients. I won my first client May of 2017. Soon after I was asked to take on another client and then a third.
Periodically I would lead the congregation in worship at my church. One day one of my pastors reached out to me to tell me he had a friend who was a producer and he would like us to meet in Orlando during a worship conference. My pastor set-up a "Meet and Greet" at Disney World. The producer was Aaron Rice and we talked about a possible collaboration. When I returned home, Aaron and I would hold several song writing sessions via Google hangouts. When we felt we had enough songs, Aaron reached out to several musicians he knew to begin laying tracks. He secured some major musicians in the industry such as Luke Sullivant (Kelly Clarkson's guitarist), Matt Gilder (Chris Tomlin's keyboard player), Jacob Lowery (Michael McDonald's bass player), Chris Bevins ( Phillips, Craig and Dean's keyboard player) and Jorge Lopez on drums. I flew to Nashville to lay my vocals. Upon completion I headed to the airport because I was scheduled to meet with one of my clients in Oahu, Hawaii the next day. When I arrived at my gate, American Airlines informed us they were having mechanical issues and the flight would be delayed until the next day. Unfortunately that would cause me to miss my meeting in Hawaii so I took that as a sign to fly to Sacramento instead and finish up some vocal tracks. I booked a flight directly from Nashville to Sacramento to finish the vocals with Derek on "Beautiful" and "Reign Within Me". I then I flew to Houston to finish the remaining songs with Shawn George.
While in Houston, Shawn asked if we could write a song together. I still had a day left before I had to fly out so I said, "Let's do it". At the time I was under so much pressure; fighting for my marriage, fighting for my children, fighting for the right to record the way I wanted with whom I wanted. The song took on a shape of its own fairly quickly. I began to think about all the obstacles I was hitting in that season and yet the Holy Spirit continued to be in my corner encouraging me to continue until the end. Within an hour we had written, "The Fight In Me" which was released August 2019.
I am currently working on my next project, "Lord Let Your Kingdom Come" to be released October 2020. I received the song in a dream Sunday, July 5, 2020. I kept hearing in my dream, "Lord let your kingdom come, your will be done, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, oh oh oh oh, oh oh oh oh, oh oh oh oh, oh oh oh." I woke up to record the song in my phone. As I replayed the song I remembered Romans 8:26 - 27, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God." This encouraged my soul because in such a time of uncertainty and unrest where there seems to be trouble on every side, the Lord is reminding me that even when I don't know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit is interceding for me with wordless groans according to the Father's will.
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