R&B artist Amerie has confidence and a new album
When Amerie's debut single, "Why Don't We Fall in Love," burst on the airwaves like a gardenia-scented breeze in summer 2002, most listeners...
For The Associated Press
NEW YORK — When Amerie's debut single, "Why Don't We Fall in Love," burst on the airwaves like a gardenia-scented breeze in summer 2002, most listeners had no problem doing exactly what the leggy songbird proposed.
But after a winning guest vocal on LL Cool J's 2003 single "Paradise," Amerie disappeared from the music scene. Now the 25-year-old is coming back strong with the go-go flavored "1 Thing," arguably the hottest song from a female since Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love" (both songs were produced by Rich Harrison).
In between photo shoots, The Associated Press chatted with the surprisingly petite Georgetown University graduate about her sound and her strength.
Q: It's been a few years since your debut album. What have you been up to?
A: I was working on a BET show called "The Center." It got the best ratings in its time slot. The full name is "The Student Center" and it deals with how to get a college scholarship, how to have a great prom, etc. So we did that for three months and after that I did a movie with Katie Holmes called "First Daughter," which was directed by Forest Whitaker. It was a blessing to work with such a great director. He's an actor as well, so he knew how to get the best out of me and teach me. I worked on the film for about three months, and after that I started working on ["Touch," her new album].
Q: Your first single, "Why Don't We Fall in Love," introduced the Rich Harrison sound. Since then he's worked with Beyoncé and J.Lo. How do you feel about the comparisons?
A: Rich and I started working together five years ago in a basement. And we created the sound together. We've both worked with other people but there is something that's different when we get together, because it's our sound. It's like, Timbaland can work with other artists but there's still some Aaliyah in there. Rodney Jerkins can work with another artist, but somehow you're getting that whole Brandy vibe.
Q: How did you and Rich meet?
A: Through a mutual acquaintance. I'd been looking for a producer and was on a quest to get my demo together. And he was looking for a female singer, but he hadn't found someone he wanted to sign to his production company. So we spoke on the phone and our first meeting was at a McDonald's. By the third song we recorded, we found our vibe.
Q: The sound you and Rich created is very influenced by go-go music. Does that come from growing up in D.C.?
A: Rich was in a go-go band. And I'm a military brat, so I grew up everywhere. But I went to Georgetown University in D.C. and stayed there for a couple years after I graduated. So that's been home for me.
Q: When did you start singing?
A: I used to sing all the time, but it wasn't until high school that I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life. Before then, I wanted to be an archaeologist, a lawyer or a writer. Now, my younger sister is going to be a lawyer. [When we were young], I was the one with the Mona Lisa [print] hanging up on my wall and the encyclopedias lined up against the wall. And she was the one with the messy room and posters of singers everywhere. She was the one listening to music and on the phone constantly. I was the one playing with the atlas.
Q: As a child, did you feel that you weren't accepted by some of your peers because of your mixed ethnicity [her dad is African American, her mother Korean]?
A: We grew up in a military environment and we were around black kids, white kids, Asian kids and mixed kids. So we didn't really feel that or get asked what we considered ourselves. But if we did, we always said we were both Korean and black. The black culture is a very inclusive culture and the Asian culture is the same way. It was never a struggle. Of course, growing up you get comments from other kids and your friends sometimes. What kid doesn't get teased? Kids will latch on to anything that makes you different. My parents were very strong in bringing us up as both black and Asian. So we didn't have to question ourselves and be defined by others.
Q: How does "Touch" differ from "All I Have"?
A: This album was a lot about growing. As a person, I grew a lot. But it was also a struggle to get the album finished. I worked with Rich and other producers as well. Most of that time, with a couple of exceptions, I approached it the way rappers do their albums. It was usually me, the engineer, and my business partner and manager Lenny [Nicholson] in the studio. And I did what I wanted to do. A lot of times with a female artist, you have people telling you what to do. But I never accept that. Over the last five years, I've learned about what I like. [Sony, her record label] has never gotten involved creatively as far as my image, the videos or the actual music. So I appreciate that freedom. I'm in a different headspace, so everything feels different. There's an undercurrent of self-confidence and strength. And I'm really proud of the album because I know how much work it took to get it finished.
Q: What were the obstacles you faced in finishing the album?
A: [Sony] feared the sophomore jinx. We both wanted it to be perfect. But what I thought was right and what they thought were two different things. What they thought was hot to me was very wack. I did "1 Thing" last April, and the label wasn't feeling it. They needed a sure thing — something that sounds like what's already on the radio. "1 Thing" is a go-go track and it's not like anything that's out there. But everyone [outside the label] I played it for got it. So ... we leaked "1 Thing" to radio. People started catching on and the label saw that people liked it. I was so tired during that process. I wanted to give up and do something completely different. But I had to make sure not to doubt myself.