That Grape Juice caught up with Marsha Ambrosius earlier this week. The Grammy Award-nominated singer/songwriter will be releasing her highly-anticipated debut solo album, ‘Late Nights & Early Mornings’, on March 1st.
In this special 10 Questions segment, Ambrosius spoke candidly about her how she entered the industry, the truth about Floetry’s demise and her much-publicised video for ‘Far Away’. She even shared her thoughts on the controversy surrounding Lady GaGa’s ‘Born This Way’.
Check out the interview below:
Marsha Ambrosius Shouts Out That Grape Juice
Transcribed by: Bisi Kadejoh
Sam: Hey Marsha, how are you?
Marsha: Hey! I’m lovely. How are you?
Sam: I’m fine! Let’s begin…
It’s surreal to note that after more than 10 years on the scene this is your first solo release. Needless to say it’s been quite a journey. How would you sum your musical trip to this point?
Marsha: I signed my first publishing deal in 1997 after leaving The BRIT School and the first songs I registered with them were ‘Butterflies’, ‘If I Was a Bird’ and two others I believe.
I also had a single called ‘Is This Real’ through Micky D and W.E.A. where I started out with a an eight bar rap on there – my rap name was Ms. Parker – and I also sang. Lauryn Hill was my hero at the time.
From there going to The BRIT School and having an affiliation with Natalie Stewart of Floetry. We connected through basketball and going to the same school.
In the year 2000 I had written a song and registered a song called ‘Fantasise’, with my publishing and I was like “I really want to get a poet on this because said it really fits with the mood of the song” and that’s what began Floetry. We started performing that, and then the invitation to the United States was open so we took that free trip to Atlanta to perform there and the other free trip to Philadelphia with my friend Robert who was playing basketball in Philly and was like some of the promoters want to invite you to Philly.
When I got to Philly I got to meet one of the jazz producers through Jazzy Jeff’s company and then the Floetry demo was made. I think we recorded the album in like seven days and we got signed in December of 2000 and then the first album came out October of 2002. Then ‘Floacism’ 2003, then ‘Flo’Ology’ 2005 and then Natalie left the group the end of 2006 with last show being at a spot in Manchester.
From there executives at Interscope and Dr. Dre had seen me perform prior to the spilt of Floetry and [Dr. Dre] asked if he would be able to work with me. He took me under his wing got me in features with Game and Busta Rhymes.
I kind of then stayed afloat by keeping my name about as a songwriter and producer because ultimately my goal was to be Quincy Jones and I’ve managed to be able to do that for the past 13/14 years.
I signed with J Records at the end of 2009, recorded the album by March 2010, come May/June ‘Hope She Cheats On You With A Basketball Player’ happened to be on radio and that was because I was telling my friends stories about my bad breakup. It was a joke at and then I was like “oh my God it just came on the radio after a Nicki Minaj song or right before a Drake song” it was amongst all the mainstream artist on the radio. I had never had that before and I was like, “hmmm I might be on to something” and then I knew I had an album to deliver.
People couldn’t identify what was Marsha Ambrosuis was verses Marsha Floetry it was like they were two different people so during all that time and process I was really trying to connect the dots and connect that rapport back to fans. I had a new fanbase that came out of nowhere based of mainstream radio.
So, here we are coming up to March 1st 2011 and I have a real solid cohesive album coming out to tell that story from 1997 to 2011.
Sam: So the album is titled ‘Late Nights & Early Mornings’, what can expect from the project?
Marsha: Sonically it is as sincere, sensual and seductive as I have ever expressed before as if it was my first time expressing me wholly; 100% my thought process. There was no compromising; just all me and I got to work with the best of the best.
I worked with people I’ve built relationships with over years now. Dre & Vidal in particular who I’ve worked with since 2000 since doing the Floetry records and I’m getting to reunite with them on this album was only right as that was my beginning, that was my start. That’s what made me want to stay in Philadelphia because I connected with them so much.
From there Focus… who I built a rapport with through Dr. Dre and doing mixtapes together such as the ‘Yours Truly’ mixtape which were records that were going to sit there forever. We built a relationship and got to do this album together.
Just Blaze, who I’ve worked with prior to the album on Games’ stuff, did a Saigon record that was just released the other day that we did a while back. I also worked with Science, who I’ve been in awe of since he did a couple of beats for Jay-Z and Beyonce, and I was like “I love the way this guy produces, it would be wonderful to have him on the album”.
Canei [Finch], who did ‘I Hope She Cheats On You…’ and ‘Lose Myself With You Me’, co- wrote with Sterling [Simms] since he wrote ‘Far Away’. Alicia Keys co-wrote ‘With You’, Lauryn Hill wrote ‘Lose Myself’ and I got to do a Portishead’s cover ‘Sour Times’. It’s really everything I’ve ever wanted to do for myself on an album.
Sam: There are countless stories as to why the group you rose to prominence in, Floetry, broke up. What exactly happened?
Marsha: It was because of personal reasons. All I can really say is it really is what it is. I guess being in the industry for that amount of time 3 albums in and not really 21/22 when we got over here, you go in to who you are and being two completely different people.
She wanted different things out of her career so when she left the group it was for personal reasons. As grown women you have to be grown and respect that so it was no love lost but just moving on.
Sam: Do you stay in touch with the Floacist?
Marsha: No. We haven’t spoken since 2007.
Sam: The video for your latest single ‘Far Away’ generated a lot of buzz for addressing the very serious issue of homophobia. Is homophobia an issue you feel present in the music industry, particularly Hip-Hop and R&B?
Marsha: Thanks. It’s everywhere haters hate at the end of the day. Sterling Simms and myself wrote the record and he had just lost a family member whereas I was missing grandmother who had just passed away. I also fell in to a traumatic time with my boyfriend at the time we were breaking up and I had a friend who attempted to commit suicide. The song content defiantly touches on that.
The concept wasn’t about me trying to break barriers or do something out of the ordinary; I was just speaking on what the song was speaking about. When people saw it they overlooked it because you hear what you want to hear and you see what you want to see.
I think with myself, I’ve always been one to push the envelope and I didn’t want to take the easy way out and make a standard R&B video standing in the rain heartbroken. Those videos have been made. A million people have done that video. I just didn’t want to do video that you can just replace the face and it could be anyone’s video because that’s becoming very standard and it’s very rare.
Nowadays people do get a chance to deliver a message they first try and make their stamp and brand themselves as artists. I want to convey messages of love through music that has always been my thing and I think with ‘Far Away’ it was a perfect opportunity to do so.
Sam: There are several successful openly gay Pop artists such as Adam Lambert and Ricky Martin. Do you think that people are ready to embrace an openly gay Urban artist?
Marsha: I have no idea. I mean it’s still something that is shunned upon regardless if it’s out in the open or hidden or whatever. I can’t even say it’s just the Urban industry; it’s the world.
You know I have many gay friends in the industry who have then come back to me and been like “why does it take a straight woman to tell our story?” I couldn’t tell you. I’m just telling you like it is.
It’s not uncommon for people who’ve gone through these situations. I think if it did take that for me to open the door, a line of communication to be spoken about, then so be it and if it is being spoken about then that’s all I could ever ask.
Sam: Lady GaGa has recently been accused by some of using gay culture as a gimmick to sell records. What are your thoughts regarding those claims?
Marsha: Nothing is a gimmick. This is the music industry it’s all entertainment at the end of the day. Gimmicks are what other people make your stamp to defy you with and there’s no way when your doing something, especially when your conveying a message as important as that than to sell yourself as what exactly are you selling. You might as well be a spokesperson for a product for that you sell at a grocery store.
It’s music. If you’re able to deliver messages through that then so be it because you do have people who are watching and listening, so be careful what you say and do to deliver that to an audience.
I don’t know. That is just who she is an artist. Whether it is right or wrong someone will have something to say about what she is doing.
Sam: The BRITs aired this week here in the UK and despite the wins for acts such as Tinie Tempah, there is still a distinct lack of recognition for Urban music. Are things such as this the reason why you as a BRIT school graduate left for the US?
Marsha: I wouldn’t say that’s the reason why, because I just actually just took a free flight to Atlanta and Philadelphia and it kind of just worked out. It wasn’t really a decision as it was more so an invitation. I didn’t have a plan to go elsewhere and make it anywhere that’s just what happened in my story.
As far as The BRITs not representing urban music as much as they should, I don’t think that there has ever been that big a market for it [in the UK] and when there was there was it was evident that there were only like 2 or 3 people doing it verses the states you have a million people doing. I think it’s the size difference.
What The BRITs have to understand and acknowledge is that everyone is looking for a trend or the next best thing and what is being noted is how much of an influence UK artist have on the United States. I wish it was recognized a little bit more.
Sam: When the dust has settled how would Marsha Ambrosius like to be remembered?
Marsha: That I’m completely honest.
Sam: Marsha Ambrosius, many thanks for your time and we hope to speak to you again soon.
Marsha: Thank you.