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August 3, 2009

Q&A: Amerie

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In Spring 2002, Amerie Rodgers brought in the summertime with a Billboard Hot 100 hit, “Why Don’t We Fall In Love”, from her debut album on Columbia Records, “All I Have”. In 2005, she witnessed increased success with her album “Touch” and it’s lead single, “1 thing”, landing on the Hitch soundtrack, with remixes from Jay-Z, Eve, and Fabolous.

Now, on the heels of her newest release, “In Love And War”, the Grammy nominated singer, songwriter, producer and actress Amerie takes time out of her busy schedule to speak with me.

Hi, how are you doing?

Hi Andre! I’m good how are you?

Great. I want to thank you for your time.

Oh no, thank you for having me!

I’ll start off with this; back in 2004 I wrote on an envelope the address on the back of your “All I Have” album, and I sent you a graduation invite, a picture and a short letter.

Really?! I never knew that! Aw, that’s sweet!

Yeah yeah, I was a big fan since 2002 so…

Oh thank you so much, I’m sorry I couldn’t make it!

Haha, perfectly fine. I know you were probably very busy.

Well now I know though (laughs).

Let’s start off with your college career at Georgetown. Did you know you wanted to do music by then with your fine arts degree and everything in consideration?

Yeah I did. My fine arts was actually in art, not in music, but I knew I wanted to do music before I went to school. I still wanted to go to school because at that point, that’s what I’ve been doing; working so hard in academics all that time. I just wanted to finish what I started and I figured that while I was in college, I could figure out how to become a professional entertainer. I had to figure it out, but I always intended on going to school.

With your English/Fine Arts degree, did you ever dabble with theater?

No. Actually, funny enough, I was too scared (laughs).  To me acting in front of people was a lot scarier than singing, you know what I mean?

What is the message you want to leave with your fans after they finally hear “In Love And War”?

I just want to share with my fans what I’ve become so far as an artist and who I am, cause its always evolution; you constantly grow, so for me it’s just sharing that aspect of myself. I really hope my fans love it; I feel if they really love my first album they’ll love this one.  This album is like an extension of the first.  It still has of course my up-tempos and the high percussion that I’ve always had, but it’s definitely an extension of the first album. I think that’s a pretty good assessment of it.

Have you started writing for your next album already?

Not really, but I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve been tossing some ideas around in my head, you know sometimes you can’t help it (laughs). It just happens where you keep creating. I haven’t started gathering a lot of music, just a lot of ideas right now.

How was the process working with the producers this time around? Working with Teddy Riley this time around, that must have been awesome.

Oh yeah, and he was one of the few people I got in the studio with. Usually it seems like I go in, do my own thing, and then I kind of get sent tracks and communicate with the producer and we’ll go back and forth but it’s not like it’s actually in the studio. With Teddy, he was one of the few people I was in the studio with and actually creating.

It happened so fast because he knew where I wanted to go musically and he had some great ideas, With a song, sometimes I like to go in the booth and just see what comes off  the top of my head, you know? The song with me and him was pretty much was written like that on the first take.  So it happened really quickly with a really great chemistry; [I mean,] he’s a legend and it was a huge honor for me to work with him. It’s just really cool. Teddy’s a really great guy.

No doubt…

And he’s ageless too! I swear he looks younger now than he did 15 years ago, its so crazy! (laughs).

Yeah I saw him on the BET awards.

Yeah I was really happy for him up there, he loves to perform. He’s always performing anyway, constantly touring. He’s got a pretty hectic schedule but I was glad to see him involved in the whole… well it wasn’t the Michael Jackson thing, but a lot of the special performances. I thought that was really cool.

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At :53 seconds in your “Why R U” video, your seen wearing some peach/orange-ish looking heels with your leggings. What were those?

Oh I think they were Jimmy Choo’s.

Oh ok.

They were. Wait wait wait… with the peach leggings?

No, no you were wearing what looked like black and white leggings and the shoes were, orange’ish or like peach colored?

Oh ok. Is it the scene where I’m wearing blue and white leggings? With the guy dancing in the background?

Yup.

Oh, yeah those were Jimmy Choo’s, and the pants were Alexander McQueen.

Your big into fashion, aren’t you?

(Laughs) I love fashion. It doesn’t always have to be high designer either. It’s just how it looks, you know?

How it all comes together.

Yeah.

Tell us a bit about “The Heart Truth”. You were involved in a 2006 campaign for them.

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Basically it’s just trying to bring more attention and awareness to women when it comes to heart disease. People usually think of breast cancer when it comes to women. I mean, breast cancer is very much a big issue when it comes to women and the fatality rate is huge, but a lot of people don’t understand heart disease is such a huge disease when it comes to women. It’s not just overweight men, but younger women are getting it now, dying of heart attack, strokes and heart related diseases, so its really just to bring that to the forefront, and that’s why they do it every year.

I know it’s always an issue in hip hop, but for sample clearance in R&B, what’s it like? “Why R U” sampled an ultra-magnetic MC’s song “Ego Trippin”.  What was the process in getting that cleared?

I don’t think it was too difficult actually. Whenever it comes to anything I’m always a little concerned about the samples. I do wanna make sure the song is cleared, especially when you fall in love with something and don’t wanna change anything, but management deals with that directly. But it wasn’t an arduous process, it was pretty quick I think.  I’m always concerned though, cause I always wanna make sure that everything can stay the way I fell in love with it, you know?

Exactly. How interested would you be in getting European remixers on your new single? I don’t know if you heard The newest Kelly Rowland track, “When Love Takes Over”, but David Guetta did an excellent job on that.

Hm, no I don’t. You mean like a dance mix, or what kind of mix?

Yeah it was kind of like a dance mix, actually it was her new single but David Guetta, who does a lot of disco production, took over that song and made it really European, but it was still hip, you know?

Oh yeah, I actually think right now we’re in the process of mixing “Why R U” into some dance mixes cause I love dance music too, so I always think it’s great to have dance mixes. There’s a couple songs on the album I love that are slower songs, in addition to “Why R U”, that I think would make excellent dance records.

Slow songs are always great with dance records, cause the tempo is already so open that it’s just really easy to put a great dance tempo under it so were definitely gonna be doing some of that.

Can’t wait to hear it.

Haha, thanks.

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How much of your music is from experience, and how much is from a creative, conceptual freedom?

Well a lot of it is from experience, things I’ve experienced in the past, pooling from different situations and relationships that I went through, and then also some of my closest friends have gone through- because as you know girls, we talk- so we’re able to have a really good inside view on whats going on with our friends. I definitely pulled that in, and really tried to focus on telling the story.

For me and for this album, it was very important that each song was a facet and one relationship. Whether you look at the album as being one entire relationship or you look at it as different pieces of different relationships, I wanted each song to have its own story so I didn’t want the lyrics to be too vague, I really wanted to paint a full picture.

If you could almost peek into a relationship that’s going through a tough time, if you could be a fly on the wall- bird’s eye view or whatever- and observe something very specific that was happening within that relationship, that was really important to me. So the lyrics for this album are important but especially important that they stay very specific. That was one of the big keys in writing this album.

Is there a song (on this record or any others) you ever wrote that while writing it, you had to “sleep on it” and come back to it?

Yeah I mean, there was a record called “Paint Me Over.” That song was intended for the “Touch” album but ended up being on “Because I Love It”. I knew I had the concept; I wanted it to be something about painting me over, basically meaning don’t change me, and Paint Me Over was definitely something I was set on. When I was writing it it just wasn’t…you know some songs come quickly, you sit there, BOOM! I wrote a record called “Dear John”, that happened in like, 15 minutes. Other things, you approach it and it’s like, it’s there but something is not totally there yet,  and for the life of me I could not get it to what I really wanted. I don’t like to continue to press on because I feel if the creative energy is there, it’s best when it’s actually not pushed.

I like when things come, so it wasn’t coming and then I tried it again a couple months later and it still didn’t. It ended up not coming till I was recording for “Because I love It” and it came really quick and really easy (in 20 minutes) after having the track for a couple years and just putting it aside. But when it was time, it just came out.

Sometimes it happens, you just can’t rush creativity.

Absolutely. That’s why it’s been on average 2-4 years between releases?

No wait, really? No.. let’s see there’s 2002…

2002, 2005…

So that’s 3, then 2007 and now.

I am trippin’ on the 4, more like 2-3 excuse me! (Laughs).

Oh ok (laughs). I was like, it hasn’t been that long, goodness gracious!

But you do seem quick!

Yeah the breaks usually happen cause something that’s going on. That’s not the creative thing, cause actually for each album I’ll record only sometimes. A lot of times there’s breaks because I do other things as well. I can’t just record back to back; I’ve never had a time where I just sat and just recorded every single day for the whole album, so if you smushed my recording day its kinda like two months in total or something.

There’s always something going on with the label, like switching or making moves. It was with my previous label, Sony; it was always something happening so there were these big breaks. The last break was in 2007, so I spent time negotiating with the new label (Def Jam) so that’s how it happened.

Its always business stuff that makes it take so long, cause I just want to go go go!

If it were up to you, how long do you think it would take to release new material?

I feel like I could do one every year, year and a half. Of course I’m not factoring in needing to rest between touring and all that stuff. I think a year and a half is good, but you don’t wanna do a bunch of albums with only a year and a half in between. I would still want to have a chance to live and let things marinate, cause I really like to bring in different situations into the material. You can’t do that if your just living on the road all the time because then the source and the material is not all that fresh, you know what I mean?

Definitely.

You really gotta live whether you’re a writer, an author, a singer… I think its really important to just live. To live real life in order to have that show up in your material. I think it definitely makes a difference.

Amerie, what I like about your work and what you do different from all the pop divas out right now, is that you put a lot of the elements of classic Hip Hop into your production, integrating it with live drumming and what not.

Oh yeah, I love it! (Laughs).

No doubt. So my question is:  would you ever work with a hip hop producer like, DJ Premier (who’s already worked with Christina Aguilera)?

Yeah. We actually got together..

Really?

We didn’t push anything, but we got together for the “Because I Love It” album. We met and we were tossing some ideas around and some samples, we just never finished. Same with Salaam Remi; we did the same thing. We’re always gonna do something, cause he’s just great. We definitely talked about it, both of them. We had some ideas, trying to figure out what we wanna do. but definitely.

When my business manager was working with Nas while at Sony, I would be listening to some beats he’d play for me and sometimes he would skip over stuff since some were for me and some were for Nas. I’d be like, “wait a minute I want that one!” and he’d say “well I don’t know”, and I was like “awww come on!”.  I was always wanting Nas’ beats. (laughs)

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That reminds me; were you a fan of Tears For Fears before that song came out?

I always loved 80′s music, and I always loved that song. I thought it was really cool doing that record cause I was a big fan of them and I loved that record when I was growing up. I love 80′s music period! That’s why I did “Because I Love It”, since it had mostly R&B, Soul, and 80′s new wave. When I said I wanted to do that in 2006, people were like, “what?!” and now everyone does it all the time, but I love it.

I think everyone loves 80′s music, and everyone always has. Right now everything is very electro-dance, and that’s great, but whenever something starts to permeate the entire scene that sort of becomes. I’ll put it this way:

When I start getting demos and all the demos I’m getting are starting to sound like “that”, that’s when I know people are ready for something different, because before I would get something like that and it would stick out; now it’s so mainstream. I think we’re on the cusp of something else.

I agree with you there.

Doesn’t mean I don’t like it, because I do, but things can’t stay stagnant, everything has to continue to change and I’m sure its gonna change, and probably in 15 years, it’ll be right back again, because things go full circle, you know?

You, Beyonce, and Ciara are in a dance battle. Who gets 1st & 2nd place?

Um… I don’t know because we all dance differently. I have to say though, Ciara can dance her butt off! That girl can dance. It just different kinds of dance, like asking a jazz and a ballet dancer who would win, so I don’t really know. Interesting question though.

On a couple songs, like “All Roads” and the outro on “All I Have”, you have gospel influences in your music. You spoke in previous interviews about wanting to collaborate with bands like Coldplay and The Killers. Ever thought about recording a cut with Mary Mary?

I like Mary Mary, I actually worked with one of the sisters’ husbands (Warryn Campbell) on the album, really awesome. I’m open to anything; what I love is hearing gospel songs that are a little more subtle, about everyday life, and aren’t preachy.

I like records like that, that are spiritual and uplifting and actually can apply to people regardless of what religion they are. I think Mary Mary is a lot like that. they have very spiritual uplifting music, about what people are going through on their day to day. So I think that would be really cool!

Lastly, will you have a tour for this release to promote the album?

Definitely. I don’t really know when that will be since that’s more of a management/agency question, but I do know I’ll be doing a lot of promo. Global promo, that’s kinda whats next on the horizon. That’s what I know is happening in the near future. Other than that, it’s like, “tell me where to be!” I definitely will be touring a lot overseas, that’s something I love and theres a few places I haven’t been to yet that I want to go to.

Well whatever your future endeavors are, I wanna wish you the best of luck and thank you for your time Amerie.

Thank you so much, I appreciate it! And thanks for being such a great supporter of my music; I really appreciate it and I hope you love the album when it comes out, I think you will. I really, really think you will.

I think so too! I like what I’ve heard so far. Thank you Amerie.

Talk to you later, bye.

Bye.

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Amerie’s 4th studio album, “In Love And War”, is slated for release August 11th.

posted by: Andre Sanchez
to a friend
labels: Music,Q&A

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