Finding love at times can be a feat, especially if you’re in the entertainment industry. But there are some successful exceptions. Whitney Keaton and Raphael Smith’s relationship began before their professional journey and ripened as they both separately followed their dreams as professional singers.
While they weren’t always working side-by-side, in 2010 just a week before they said ‘I do’ an unexpected pregnancy would grant these two a new journey and challenge: “I was working with Estelle since the beginning of that year and that was the same time that Alicia [Keys] was pregnant. An opportunity presented itself where Estelle needed another singer and since Alicia’s tour got cut short, Whitney was available to go on tour with me.”
Many couples couldn’t imagine working with their significant other 24/7 but this couple relishes on how “blessed” and “spoiled” they are to have this opportunity. As we prep for Valentine’s Day, let’s revel in Whitney and Raphael’s love story. The couple talks balancing work and marriage, their new joint project, and out how to win tickets to see them live!
All photos courtesy of RaiiWK
How’d you two meet?
RAII: I attended the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and at the end of my freshman year, I was invited to join a local gospel recording group, “Cynthia Turner & Heartspeak”. Whitney was already a member of the group and that is how we met.
Was it an initial attraction or did one play hard to get?
RAII: It was not an initial attraction. In fact, the very first time we met was at the CD release party of the first project that the group had recently completed. From my perspective, Whitney seemed very distant and unapproachable. As the group prepared to promote the CD, there were various rehearsals, sessions and performances, and it was during that time that we realized we liked a lot of the same artists. A natural friendship begin and we continued to find mutual respect for each other’s musicality.
WK: It wasn’t an initial attraction. During one of our first trips to Nashville for a performance, him and I talked the entire way. I remember us laughing, singing, discussing music, and mutually enjoying the fact that we had so much in common musically. Over the course of time, while traveling, rehearsing, studio session etc., a friendship and respect for each other as musicians and vocalists grew fast.
How long were you friends before you started dating and how long did you date before you decide to get married?
WK: We met in 2002, started dating August of 2006, got in engaged August of 2009, and married August 21, 2010.
At your wedding you two chose to enter your reception singing, why did you choose that entrance sans the normal way?
WK: It wasn’t officially chosen yet. We talked about the “idea” of singing that song a few months before the wedding but never followed through with it. So, the day of the wedding I wasn’t thinking about that song. I just took it as we weren’t going to sing it and I was totally cool with that. My soon to be husband on the other hand had other plans. So, the ceremony ended and we’re at the reception hall. The bridal party is lining up to be introduced into the ballroom filled with our guests and he comes to me asking if we were going to sing “Spend My Life”. I said, ‘what?! Are you kidding me.’ He says, ‘I burned a cd with the instrumental on it already.’ I said, ‘we didn’t practice, we never confirmed so I assumed we weren’t doing it.’ He said, ‘I know but I think it’ll be good.’ I said, ‘Well if you’re at peace with it then ok, let’s do it, I’ll follow your lead.’ That’s all he needed, he already sent the mp3 to the DJ, the hostess introduced us and we did it. I was nervous as heck because I couldn’t remember the words right up until they opened the double door for me to walk out and start my verse! [Laughs]
Being that you are both in the industry, when you first began dating what was the hardest adjustment you had to make?
WK: The hardest adjustment for me was him leaving to move to New York 3 months after we started dating! I cried so much. I felt like I had lost my new bestfriend.
RAII: I moved to NY about 3 months after we started dating. So the hardest adjustment at that point was having a long distance relationship. We had been friends for so long and were accustomed to spending a lot of time together when we lived in the same city, so to finally start dating and then have to be separated was definitely not how we preferred to start our relationship, but we understood the bigger picture. There were times that I would be flying back in the country, she would be flying out of the country, and we would literally meet at the airport for a few minutes to spend time with each other before separating again for months at a time.
When you work together do you inform the crew and star(s) that you’re married?
WK: Us being married has been the artists’ preference or whomever is the head of the opportunity. It’s usually, ‘Are you and RAII available to…,’ we’ve never had to keep it on the hush. Alicia Keys wanted to add my husband to the team. Her management team asked me if I felt like it would be a good idea if he worked with me and I said yeah. As far as the crew goes, there’s always someone pulling us to the side separately saying something like, “have you ever thought about dating because your chemistry is crazy!” When we tell them we’re married, they’re so excited, shocked, and happy.
RAII: More recently, people find out about it before we tell them. It’s usually a good icebreaker in new settings.
How do you deal with distance if you’re both on tour or doing shows with different artist?
WK: FaceTime, email, and surprising each other by flying in to spend time.
RAII: Before we started touring together, there were a few instances where our separate tours ended up in the same city or country for a day or so and we definitely would take advantage of those moments.
Favorite star you’ve worked with and whom would you love to work with?
RAII: I’ve learned so much from everyone I’ve worked with. I really appreciate Queen Esther Marrow and Alicia Keys for seeing potential in me and encouraging my artistry and talents.
WK: I don’t have one favorite. I enjoyed working with Alicia Keys, Carole King, Bonnie Raitt, Angelique Kidjo, Sade, Janelle Monae and Justin Timberlake. I would have loved to work with Whitney Houston. I would like to work with pretty much all of these artists with writing, creating, arranging, producing etc.
Favorite duet you two perform and why?
WK: “You’re All I Need To Get By” because it represents love after the wedding celebration.
RAII: “No Worries” is the first single from our upcoming project and we wrote this song during a very difficult time in our lives when we were unemployed for 7 months. It is a song of hope, perseverance, inner-strength, and faith. It resonates so strongly with us every time we perform it.
What’s the best and worst thing about being a couple in the industry?
WK: The best thing about being a married couple in the industry is the fact that we are experiencing all that comes with this journey, side by side. The fact that this journey teaches you about yourself and you are right there witnessing the growth in each other. You are right there to understand, be in the moment, explore, and enjoy life doing what you love to do, together. In the amount of time we’ve done this together, it’s been nothing but a beneficial experience.
RAII: The best thing about being married in the industry is knowing that through the challenges and the triumphs, I have my best friend to go through it all with me. We can encourage each other, we can challenge each other for the better, we can protect and support one another and there is a mutual understanding of just how much pressure comes with the territory. It is a challenge to make sure that our career does not become more of a priority than our marriage. Acknowledging and embracing the priority of marriage has been instrumental to the balance that keeps us united and connected while we pursue our career.
Are you working on a collab album together?
RAII: We’ve been working on a joint project for about 2 years. Now that tour is over, we should have more time to dedicate to completing it. Some songs feature Whitney, some feature me, and some feature the both of us. God willing, the project will be available this year.
WK: We’re excited about a joint project, A Time For Everything. It’s a conceptual project where each song represents a moment or stage within a relationship or a person’s life.
What’s your future plans in the industry?
RAII – I hope to contribute timeless and meaningful music that soothes the soul and uplifts the spirit. We intend to release music and put on concerts that will truly inspire people and that will cause them to reflect on their life and their choices. I realize how powerful the gift of music is and my desire is to use that influence in a way that adds value to this world.
WK- Right now we are maximizing this time off from tour life to focus on RAIIWK and all that entails. We’re currently in the studio finishing up the vocals and music on the project and working on ways to effectively share and build with our supporters.
Flip the page to find out how to win tickets to their show!
This Saturday (Feb. 15), The Smiths (RAIIWK) will be performing in New York at The Cutting Room. On the eve of Valentine’s Day we’re giving you the opportunity to surprise your significant other with the perfect date night at no cost to you. We’re giving away tickets for you and a guest to enjoy the sounds of RAIIWK as they serenade you for the night.
Entering is extremely simple, just tag us in a picture of you and your significant other with the #RAIIWK.
Must be following: @VIBEVixen, @WhitneyKeaton, and @RAIIMusic
Page must be public (we can’t see private pages)
Must use hashtag #RAIIWK