Destiny's Child Almost Reunion: Michelle Williams on Recruiting Beyonce, Kelly Rowland for 'Say Yes' (Exclusive)

Beyonce Michelle Willams Kelly Rowland 2014 L
Erik Umphery

Speaking to THR, the gospel singer reveals details of "Journey to Freedom," her "urban inspiration record" due out in September, and addresses the cancellation of the "Jesus Christ Superstar" arena tour.

Michelle Williams sent longtime fans into a tizzy on Monday with the debut of her new single, "Say Yes," but diehards had already heard the track a few weeks earlier when an unofficial version leaked. Blame former Destiny's Child groupmates Beyonce Knowles and Kelly Rowland, who, by virtue of appearing in the song's video, all but ensured that curiosity would kill the the secret.

"We heard all this commotion going on while we were filming," Williams tells The Hollywood Reporter of the late May shoot. "We filmed at somebody's house and they probably got excited and called their cousins and friends and, next thing you know, the whole town was on one street. ... I woke up to the news of the song being leaked, and I just hate when that happens because it was an unmastered version. At the same time, I was overwhelmed by the support. I know things happen for a reason. I don't want anyone to think I'm pissed. I'm not."

Helmed by versatile producer Harmony Samuels (Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Chris Brown, Jennifer Hudson), "Say Yes" is an ode to his Nigerian roots. Says Williams of its origin: "It is a song that came from Africa more than a hundred years ago. I don't think anyone knows who wrote it or who started singing that chorus. When the song leaked last week, so many people from Africa and Nigeria were trying to let me know where it came from."

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As for how her gal pals got involved in facilitating an unofficial Destiny's Child reunion? Rowland and Knowles fell in love with Williams' version of the song. "They received an advance copy of the album and called saying, 'We love 'When Jesus Says Yes' … there has to be a Destiny's Child mix of the song,'" Williams recalls. "Kelly did it and Beyonce got right in the studio and did her part. I kept it a secret because I didn't want anyone to know until it was time."

Being back on set with her two best friends, she adds, was amazing. "It was so much fun," says Williams. "It was like we were little kids again. I have their back and they have mine. They have showed themselves to be loyal to me time after time. They have proven they are my sisters time and time again."

"Say Yes" is the first song released from Williams' forthcoming fourth album, Journey To Freedom, due out in September. "This is an urban inspiration record, so sonically it's very urban with pop infusion in there," she says. "I made sure that every genre of music I have ever done is represented on there."

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At the same time, Williams is hoping this collection will reconnect her with some of the fans who failed to follow her to the gospel charts. As Williams sees it: "Destiny's Child had millions of fans but the second I did 'gospel,' they were, like, 'We love you but I don't know ...' My message is that I'm here to inspire and to encourage and give hope. Whatever you want to do, you can do. I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but I've been there. I have been down in a dark place, and I want to tell people my story of how I got to that dark place and how I'm free from it now."

Indeed, the singer recently had to take in some bad news herself: the abrupt cancellation of the Jesus Christ Superstar arena tour, in which she was set to play Mary Magdalene. Still, her attitude is decidedly positive. "I'll be honest and say this frees me up to work my album for the summer," she says. "I know there were sacrifices made for the tour. I couldn't take certain offers that came my way, so now we're able to capture some of those opportunities again."

Twitter: @THR_Earshot