That Grape Juice were fortunate enough to speak with R&B star Amerie a few weeks ago. Currently readying her first domestic release in 4 years ‘In Love & War’ on new label Island Def Jam, the ‘1 Thing’ singer chats with us about the album, why she left Columbia Records, whether or not she feels underrated, album sales, reports about her almost being dropped by Def Jam and so much more. As ever, we don’t shy away from the questions you really want answers to. Enjoy.
Interview by: Sam // Transcribed by: Zay (of EarStyle.net)
Sam: Hey Amerie, how are you?
Amerie: I’m good. How are you Sam?
Sam: I’m great, thank you.
Let me start off by saying ‘Welcome back!’ It’s been a minute since you were on the music scene. How does it feel to be back?
Amerie: It feels good, but it doesn’t feel like that long to me. I guess it’s because when I released ‘Because I Love It’ overseas it was back in 2007. Time goes by so fast.
Sam: Indeed it does. Your new album, ‘In Love & War’ is set for release in August. What inspired the album’s title?
Amerie: Now it’s in September (8th). Well the album is all about the turbulent times in a relationship. The ups & downs and all of that. It’s pretty much about the different facets of a relationship that enables it to grow or kind of cause it to die out. It’s also how the things that happen in war can be very similar to what happens with love as well.
Sam: That’s cool. The record was initially called “Make Ups to Break Ups”? Why the change?
Amerie: Well it was ‘Breakups To Makeups’ (Laughs). I was doing one record called ‘Love & War’, and in the song I was saying that how “In Love & War does not matter who’s wrong or right, in Love &
War you can lose everything you had in one night”. I was like this actually sums up the concept of the album as well. There was something strong about it that felt like that was the right title of the album.
Sam: As evidenced by the first single ‘Why R U’, it’s evident you’ve taken it back to ‘old school Amerie’ from your first album “All I Have”. Was this a conscious decision?
Amerie: In creating everything, some of it was conscious in knowing what sound I wanted. I wanted a fusion of Hip-Hop, Soul, and Rock. I will say this album is a direct extension of my first album. A lot of people who heard it said it does remind them of the first album. Not that it sounds like the first album, but this is the album that would directly follow that album. So it’s definitely an extension of the first album and even with “1 Thing”, not the Go-Go, but the Rock /Soul and elements of the 70s. The record really is a fusion of Hip-Hop, Rock, and Soul. Though, I usually have that on every album in some capacity
Sam: While many of your fans love the old sound, I am among those who latched onto Amerie from the ‘Because I Love’ It album and it’s retro feel with tracks like ‘Crush’ and ‘Crazy Wonderful’. Is there something for us on there as well?
Amerie: As far as those who really like ‘Crush’ and ‘Crazy Wonderful’? Well those songs had an uplifting sound to them. There’s definitely that. With ‘Because I Love It’, I wanted to incorporate the Hip-Hop & Soul, but also 80’s New Wave. There’s none of that on this album, because I feel as though I already got that out my system. If anything the Hip-Hop samples are there from the 80s, but it’s not the New Wave.
Sam: Who can we expect in the way of collaborations and Producers? Your own input?
Amerie: Well, I wrote the entire album, but a couple others helped co-write as well. I worked with Teddy Riley. He’s incredible, he’s amazing. I worked with Warryn Campbell, I worked with Eric Hudson. I worked with Trey Songz, he’s featured. The Buchanans and Fabolous. There might be a couple of other features for the project, but they may not be on the album or not. I had a really good time. I worked with really talented people and I was able to accomplish the sound that I really wanted for this album.
Sam: A lot of fans wanted to know if you worked with Salaam Remi as well as Rich Harrison?
Amerie: Well Salaam and I met and went over some stuff, but we never got to finish what we were going to do. Maybe next time around we will work together. Rich and I didn’t get to get in the studio this time around. He’s focusing on his projects, his group (Rich Girl) and a male singer. I’m actually not signed to him I am signed to myself. Feenix Rise entertainment. He’s kind of focusing on his in-house stuff.
Sam: Ok. What’s one of your favourite tracks on the album and why?
Amerie: One of my favourite tracks is “Why R U”. To me it just captures a moment in a relationship where you are really exasperating the fact that you are really into the person that you are with. It’s not necessarily a good relationship, but it’s just a magical record. It’s the same way I felt about ‘Why Don’t We Fall In Love’. After I heard it when it was done and it was playing in my car for the first time, I just felt like wow if I can pick a record that I wanted people to hear from me first it would be this. This is really emotionally and sonically so much of who I am. Whether it was a single or not I felt like this is what people needed to hear from me first. There’s a record called ‘Higher’ that I really feel is very important. It’s basically a Rock-Soul record. Another one is ‘Tell Me U Love Me’ that I Did with Teddy Riley.
Sam: Ok so, your move from Columbia Records to Def Jam has been much documented, with many of your fans citing the handling of your last record ‘Because I Love It’ as the main reason for that. For the record, what was the reason for the move?
Amerie: It wasn’t really the handling of my last record, because it was much more than that. It was just the overall…a lot. You just need to mature. First of all, I really enjoyed working with the Columbia. Even now I am still cool with some of the people that I became friends with, but on a business level I felt like it wasn’t the best match. Then when I released ‘Because I Love It’ overseas it was supposed to have a slightly different tracklist for the States, but I could just feel all the changes going on and creatively with the label it was really hard to have something creative and have it be done right as far as marketing etc. It didn’t go the best way. I hesitated releasing the album State Side, because I was thinking about leaving for two years actually. Then I decided that I really wanted to make a change and it was a matter of negotiating out of that into Island Def Jam. LA and I have been talking back and forth for years about doing stuff so I was most interested in making the switch to Def Jam. That’s when I said “Ok, I’m definitely going to let the label know that I want to leave”. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t make an announcement or anything that I switched labels, because I just wanted to work on my project and then it would be time to let it know then. It wasn’t a bad thing at all, it was really good. I think everyone’s happy.
Sam: How are you settling in to Def Jam & how are you taking to the new surroundings?
Amerie: I think it’s great. The people are really great and I am a people person and I go on vibes a lot. It’s really important for me to gel with the people around me and they are really awesome. Not only are they really great personally, but they are also great at what they do. I feel very confident and comfortable with creating and then feeling like once I create and hand the bundle over it will be in good hands. I’m signed to Def Jam through a company that I co-founded which
is called Feenix Rising. That’s really wonderful to have my company be through a situation as well. It feels really good. I can say I am really excited. Everyone is really passionate.
Sam: We can’t shy away from the reports which surfaced on Billboard a few weeks back which insinuated there were creative differences between yourself and LA Reid prior to the finalisation of this new project, which had your place at the label in question. Would it be possible to shed some light on this?
Amerie: There was a Billboard report? What was it? (Laughs)
Sam: The report claims LA Reid said your place at the label was in question even before “Why R U” was released. Is there any truth to that?
Amerie: I didn’t even hear about that. Not to my knowledge. (Laughs). I don’t even know where that came from.
Sam: We’re in a very different climate in the industry. How important would you say sales are to you, bearing in mind both creative and the business side of it?
Amerie: Well you really want to do “Well”. With me I just want people to hear my music and really get it. I’m always saying if it were up to me I would just like pass it out to everybody for free. Just enjoy it, because I really enjoy making it. Of course, the label does not want to do that (laughs). That wouldn’t be cool, because it does take money to create the music. For me though, I just want people to enjoy the music. It’s always the music first. That’s why it’s important to have people around that are great at what they do with promotions and marketing. I get in to that. I am definitely aware of what’s going on. We have artists that are signed to us that I have to think about how we are going to market and promote them. When it comes to myself I like to stay in creative mode as much as I can.
Sam: For all your success, some of your fans feel that you don’t get the respect you deserve, do you feel underrated?
Amerie: I don’t know. When I meet different people, like when I meet different producers…like I met Teddy Riley…he totally understands my style and said all these things about what I created and my contributions to music and I was kind of floored. I feel like when you have someone like Teddy Riley who is a freaking legend and genius and they recognize what you do…and I was talking to Questlove and he was breaking down what I do. I was like wow, ‘cause he got what I was trying to do. It was so cool, because he understood where I was going with certain things. I didn’t know that people understood some things. I’m floored when I get that, so in that respect I feel like I do get my respect. When it comes to masses it’s a little different, but I feel happy with where I am.
Sam: Ok so director Mark Cross let it slip on twitter that u would be appearing in his new film titled “We Are The Champions” alongside Forest Whittaker. Can u please give us more insight on this?
Amerie: (Laughs) Well Mark is represented by Feenix Rising. We represent him as his management. Mark was totally excited and I never like to speak on things too soon. I will say that it’s early right now. That’s what I will say about his comments (laughs).
Sam: Jay-Z has recently caused quite a stir with his latest offering “Death of Auto Tune”. What’s your take on the use of autotune in the industry today?
Amerie: I think it’s really cool when a few people do it, but I’ve been saying that for the last year or two years now. First of all, I can’t say that it’s not good and this and that. Honestly, who am I to tell anyone what to do? Everyone can do what they want to do. That’s the purpose of living, to make your own choices. My personal preference is that I like when people who do use, use it well. It’s like a party and someone else should bring some other dishes and someone else should bring some other dishes…etc. I just don’t think that everyone should do the same thing, but it’s a
great example of how the music business is. Everyone wants to do the same thing for selling a “product”. They feel as though, “this is the way to do it”. “Hey did you get the memo? AutoTune is the way to do it now!” That’s not really true, but that’s how people feel. I just never understood the idea of people following someone. Even when I was little I never liked to follow the crowd. I did what I wanted to do when I wanted to, so I never felt any peer pressure. However, I think it’s a really cool thing. When T-Pain does it it’s cool and when Wayne did it, it was cool, but hey everyone does not have to do it. I think it’s good when people figure out different ways to express themselves.
Sam: If you could collaborate with one of the following: Beyonce, Rihanna, or Ciara…who would it be and why?
Amerie: I’ve been saying for a while I think it would be cool for girls to come together on the same record. I think it would be really cool to kind of mix it all up. Even with me, Beyonce, Rihanna, and Ciara, we all have very distinct and different sounds so it would be really interesting.
Sam: it really would be. What do you want your legacy to be as a recording artist?
Amerie: You know that has never crossed my mind. I have never answered that for myself. When one starts to think of legacy and stuff like that, you start to put too much weight into how other people perceive you. Even the people who leave the greatest legacy as far as in contributing something huge as far as music, television, or film the honest thing is when generations pass people forget. I think there’s a story in the Bible…what you do for here to create a certain reputation on Earth, it’s a futile thing, because in a hundred years people will forget you. Even if they do remember what you have done it will be a passing comment so the important thing is what you can do for other people that will really make a difference in their life. Things like spreading love and spreading joy, but as far as leaving a legacy as far as music I don’t really think about it like that. It’s putting too much emphasis on something that will pass away.
Sam: You are amazingly talented, educated, and a beautiful young woman…
Sam:…are you dating anyone at the moment?
Amerie: I am usually very private about that. I never talk about it actually. If people really want to find out it’s not hard for them to find that kind of thing out, but I don’t like talking about it, because I want to keep something kind of normal in my life.
Sam: Who is the rudest celebrity that you have encountered?
Amerie: Thankfully I haven’t met any rude celebrities. I always feel like if you want to ask someone that, the best person to ask is someone who is not a celebrity. Celebrities tend to be on their best behaviour when you meet them, but you don’t really know.
Sam: Many of your UK fans want to know: Will we be seeing you over here anytime soon?
Amerie: Yes! I am so excited, because I just met with the International department (at the label) and we were just discussing a European run maybe two weeks ago. I think that’s actually being planned out now. They are looking at the calendar and everything, but I can not wait to go. Everyone knows that I love the UK and I love London. The International department at Def Jam knows that too so they are just trying to plan the best time, so I am really looking forward to it. I already know my favourite places to stay and where I want to go eat.
Sam: What about tour plans domestically in the US?
Amerie: That’s being planned out too. Usually I let my management and my touring agent do all that stuff and then we talk about. I don’t know, but they plan it out and map it out and then I’m like “I’ll be there”. (Laughs).
Sam: Mariah’s new single “Obsessed” premiered this week? Have you heard it what do you think of it?
Amerie: I have not heard it yet, but I knew it was coming out.
Sam: Ok. Give us 3 reasons why in this recession we should buy “In Love & War”?
Amerie: Well honestly I feel like I would love for everyone to pick up my album, because I just feel like it’s something I want to share with everyone. I think everyone will love it, but with times like this I feel like music is a great way to escape your personal issues. It’s a great form of entertainment. No, we (entertainers) are not curing Cancer or anything, this I know. However, if there was no form of entertainment on this planet, why would you even want to live? The purpose is joy and I feel like music is a great way to bring joy to people. When you are going through problems in a relationship I don’t know about everyone else, but I like to wallow in it and I want to hear a song about being depressed in a relationship. Music is universal thing energy wise. It takes you on a cruise. I just think it’s healthy to listen to great music.
Sam: Do you have a message for your fans?
Amerie: I want to say thanks for their support. My fans are really awesome. Sometimes they can be so energized I am like wow. It amazes me that my music can affect someone that way. It makes me feel great. They are so gracious and so sweet. I can never say no to an autograph unless someone is pulling me away. I answer their questions on Twitter probably in a private way like Direct Messaging. I just love my fans they are awesome.
Sam: Amerie, thank you very much for your time. It’s very much appreciated.
Amerie: No problem. Thank you.
What do you think of our interview with Amerie?