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That Grape Juice Interviews Keri Hilson

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Last week That Grape Juice caught up with R&B star Keri Hilson. The talented singer-songwriter spoke candidly about many a topic, including the slow start of her ‘In A Perfect World’ project, going from underperforming singles to hit singles, an album re-release, being labelled ‘cocky’, Michael Jackson and much much more. As ever, we don’t shy away from the questions you *really* want answers to. A great read, I must say icon wink That Grape Juice Interviews Keri Hilson Enjoy.
Interview by: Sam // Transcribed by: Wendi Bekoe

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Sam: Hey Keri, how are you?

Keri: Very good, thank you.

Sam: You’re currently out on tour with Ne-Yo here in the UK. How has that been so far?

Keri: So far, so great! I’ve got to say the crowds over here have been receiving me very well and of course Ne-Yo. He’s got loyal fans, but I never would have guessed I have as many as I have. I see people singing my lyrics, and every night I can see the fruits of my labour.

Sam: That’s awesome. Congratulations on the success of ‘In a Perfect World.’ Personally I find it to be one of the most consistent R&B efforts I’ve heard in a long while.

With that said, were you a bit worried about some of the initial singles not necessarily sky-rocketing as you’d perhaps hoped – namely ‘Energy’ and ‘Return The Favour’?

c91d8af7f4106d47a8170a8b119a6193 That Grape Juice Interviews Keri HilsonKeri: I am always pleased with anything – any time my video plays on the TV, any time it plays on the radio, everything counts. I think of it as really paying your dues, and eventually awareness of you will grow, and now we’re at a very good place. So I think everything in due time.

Sam: Was going with ‘Turning Me On’ a conscious effort? It has a markedly different sound to anything else you’ve previously released or that was on the album.

Keri: Absolutely! I mean, there’s another side of me. I’m from Decatur, Georgia and that is a predominantly black neighbourhood with a lot of lower-class and some middle-class neighbourhoods. I guess that is the song that probably properly describes the type of girl I am, in relation to where I’m from. So yeah, it was definitely a conscious effort to make sure that I stay close to home on some records.

Sam: I like to describe this album as one of those where almost every song could be a single. What are the next singles we can expect to hear from the album?

Keri: After ‘Knock You Down’ here (in Europe) it is ‘Energy.’ In the States we’re going with ‘Slow Dance.’

Sam: I love ‘Slow Dance’. Will you be shooting the video for it any time soon?

Keri: I’ve already shot it! Paul Hunter directed it.

Sam: What can we expect from the video? I’ve seen the live performances of the song, they’re very…sensual (laughs).

Keri: Yeah. It is a bit of that, but it’s a bit toned down for the video, because you got so much censoring, I can’t do everything I do on stage (laughs). So when people come out they’re probably still gonna be a bit surprised to see it live, after seeing the video. But I’m very pleased with the video. I love the colours and it’s reminiscent of the whole late 70s early 80s era in music.

Sam: There have been some murmurings about a re-release of ‘In a Perfect World’, is that something we can expect anytime soon?

Keri: Yeah, by the end of this year I’d love to throw on some tracks that I wanted on there initially. And of course I’ll also be recording a couple new tracks with Timbaland and with Polo (Da Don), so yeah, look forward to a re-release.

Sam: Cool. A lot of your fans wanted to know if unreleased tracks like ‘Love Ya’ and ‘Cover’s Blown’ will be on the album.

Keri: ‘Cover’s Blown’ – I didn’t even know that leaked actually, I didn’t know you guys knew that record! (Laughs) That was a demo of just an idea we laid down one night, we never even finished it, so it’s possible. ‘Love Ya’ is one of my all-time favourite songs, so hopefully that will be on the re-release.

Sam: Have you started thinking about your next record?

Keri: I have not yet, other than like titles for it….

Sam: I love the honesty…

Keri: (laughs) I definitely already have the photo shoot ideas in mind, but I really just wanna make sure we ride this album until the wheels fall off. I wanna make sure we capitalize off this moment with my debut album and make it as big a project as we possibly can, and make sure my exposure is at maximum capacity. I really want to be able to live life between albums and allow myself to be inspired by relationships and all the things about life.

Sam: You’re an artist and a songwriter – which would you *honestly* say you prefer the most?

Keri: Honestly speaking – both. But I will say that songwriting for me was actually my plan B. Of course performing, being on stage, recording, and doing everything I’m able to do now was always my bigger dream. I have to say I didn’t even know songwriting existed until late in my teens, but before I was even double digits I was performing and was heavy into that life, so I’m living the dream every single day – I’m all smiles.

Sam: What do you think is more important – the music video or the live performance, and why?

Keri: I think the live performance. First of all more people are now able to see it with You Tube, 73d4a95cd4d09a1951961af4fcab834e That Grape Juice Interviews Keri Hilsonand also people want to know if what you do on record you can do live. I take pride in the fact that I don’t lip-sync, my mic is on, unless in some maybe extreme case that I just do not have a voice. Even then I’ve gotten through a 15-minute with a crazy sinus infection and no voice. But sometimes you have to play it by ear, and sometimes your back is against the wall and you’re forced to have a backing track. We’re only human, we’re not robots.

Sam: That’s totally understandable. So if you could sum up the current state of the industry in three words, what would they be?

Keri: Lighter… upbeat, and…hmm… I don’t know… I’m thinking of another… because I feel music is in a great place, so I don’t know of one word to describe that, but it’s in a really good place.

Sam: Do you feel any pressure moving ahead to silence those who say Keri Hilson can only score a hit with a collaboration… a “collaboration artist only”?

Keri: Absolutely, absolutely. Which is why I want to make sure my next single everywhere – from ‘Energy’ to ‘Slow Dance’ – for those that don’t have my album, they understand what type of artist I am, and who I am. I want these records to define Keri Hilson, and I feel that the album does that. Even the features that we have do not overshadow me, and I’ve been told over and over that it’s like the perfect placement. People of course put their foot in it, but they don’t outshine who Keri Hilson is on the album. But there are lots of people that do not have the album, so definitely I want to silence those (laughs).

Sam: What’s your take on those who say that Ms Keri is “cocky”?

Keri: Cocky?! Definitely not. I will say I’m very candid. I have to say that those people who say that clearly don’t know me. People that do know me and have worked with me know that I don’t take myself too seriously. I’m just a person who is in love with music. At the same time it was not handed to me on a silver platter, I worked very hard for everything that is coming my way. It’s been a 12-year journey for me, so if they think I’m cocky they might not understand my journey and how hard I had to fight for this. Nothing’s easy. Shout out to anyone trying to pursue whatever it is, it’s gonna be a fight, and I think if you understood that about my story then you absolutely would not consider me cocky. Confident and happy and blissful and blessed and thankful – all of those things I am!

Sam: Great! So tell us a little known fact about Ms Keri Baby.

Keri: A little known fact (laughs)?. I grew up an athlete! I grew up an athlete with a tenacious spirit. I excelled in swimming. I won county and I won state, then I competed for the state of Georgia in the junior nationals when I was 14 years old. Then basketball – I played in high school. I was two years Best Offensive, senior year I was MVP, two years Captain. I come from that world, so if ever it’s a cockiness people see or sense, it’s really not that. But I am competitive; I do have a competitive drive. Not against any of my peers or people that would be considered competition, I don’t think at all about the competition. I’m competitive within myself. c01080b445da948f54161bfa4053d2b7 That Grape Juice Interviews Keri HilsonI’m that type of performer.

Sam: A lot of your fans want to know about your current writing projects, whether you are writing for anyone at the moment – particularly for Mary J Blige’s next album, and if you’ll be featured on ‘Shock Value II’.

Keri: I’ll definitely be featured on ‘Shock Value II’, I can guarantee that. I don’t know whether my schedule will have me able to work on Mary J or Usher or Britney’s next projects. Of course some may know I did write ‘Gimme More’ and ‘Break the Ice’ for Britney, but I wasn’t able to work on this album because I was touring, so we just have to see. I mean, as long as I’m an artist, I definitely want to be writing and keeping my creative juices flowing for other artists.

Sam: Are you still a part of writing group The Clutch?

Keri: Um… somewhat. I’m kind of the resident artist there (laughs). I’m the member that they never see. But I’m always representing The Clutch.

Sam: A lot of the fans also wanted to know with ‘Return the Favor’ there was an initial draft of the track that had the hook “If you kiss me then I’ll kiss you back” – why was it changed?

Keri: I don’t know! I changed the hook from what you hear, and it was really like a Timbaland call. He was like “No… I think I like the other one better.” It was a creative call and no one was supposed to hear the other one and know the difference (laughs).

Sam: Ok. Michael Jackson tragically passed away recently, and it shocked and rocked the world. Where were you when you heard the news?

Keri: I was in LA where it all happened. I was headed to rehearsals and the crazy thing is we were rehearsing at the very same spot, literally right in the rehearsal room, right next to Michael Jackson’s band, where he would drop in every now and then.

Sam: Did you see him?

Keri: I never saw him, but a couple of my dancers and my choreographer laid eyes on him. As far as they knew he looked very healthy. It’s very unfortunate.

Sam: What are your thoughts moving ahead on the whole Michael Jackson legacy, and saga, etc?

Keri: Well… you know… I don’t know. Moving ahead I hope that all the scandal will be outweighed by how great of a person, philanthropist and performer he was. He is yet to be matched as far as the energy he emulates from the stage. There will never be another Michael Jackson, absolutely not.

Sam: Ok, a quick game. Best looking – Kanye, Ne-Yo or Lil Wayne?

Keri: Um…Ne-Yo.

Sam: Female in the industry with the best weave?

Keri: (Laughs!!!) I don’t know. Halle when she decides to do it – when she does it, she does it right (laughs!).

Sam: Finally what is your advice for up-coming stars?

Keri: Like I mentioned before, it’s not gonna be an easy road, but God rewards diligence. It may not happen when you want it to, but keep honing your craft and push forward.

Sam: Ms. Keri Baby! Thank you for your time.

Keri: Thanks Sam.

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Keri’s awesome album ‘In A Perfect World…’ is available in stores and on iTunes now!

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