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As fairytales go, the last 12 months have been just that for Kelly Rowland. Characterised by increased global success, a US solo smash, and a spot on the X Factor UK‘s judging panel, the one-time caged songbird looks to be soaring to new heights.
With her third studio album ‘Here I Am’ arriving in stores this week, the 30 year old opened up to That Grape Juice about many a topic including her show-stopping BET performance, being an underdog, how her new management bests her former, first week sales, promo plans and much more.
No “what’s your favourite colour” questions here. We ask the questions you really want answers to. And answer them Rowland does.
Kelly Rowland Shouts Out That Grape Juice
Sam: Hey Kelly!
Kelly Rowland: Hey Sammy! How are you?
I’m wonderful… (laughs)
Ok, so the last time we spoke was little over a year ago. ‘Commander’ had just come out over here and you were really excited about the Dance album’s release. Fast forward a 12 months and ‘Here I Am’ is finally at release. What happened during that year?
Creativity happened! I was in the studio and was just trying different things, from Dance music to R&B to everything. I was enjoying certain records such as Chris Brown’s record, Rihanna’s record. I love the fact they still held on to their Urban roots, and added a new twist as well.
After that, I was like “dude, why am I trying to hold myself back for” you know what I mean? Everybody tries to lock you into a specific sound; and I remember thinking “nobody puts baby in a corner” (laughs) – especially when it comes to my sound. I feel like, as an artist, you should try different things and there’s nothing wrong with showing what you’ve been inspired by on the album. And that’s just what I’ve done.
You’ve said previously that the album has been a journey. What would you say has been the hardest part of this journey and how did you handle it?
Hmm. The hardest part of the journey would probably have to be putting everything together – in terms of syncing everything up, sequencing everything. Because you want to tell a story; I wanted the album to tell a story and for me it was making sure that ‘Commander’ and ‘Feeling Me Right Now’ can basically co-exist.
I was finally able to action that process while on a 6 hour plane ride. I listened to everything over and over and over again – which drove me crazy! But the cool thing about that whole process was I never got tired of listening to it and that’s when I knew it was locked down sonically.
It seems like the hard work has paid off. We’re finally here and the buzz for the record is immense. How would you describe the album – in terms of sound and as well as how it differs from your previous efforts?
This album is grown and sexy period! (Giggles) It’s SO ‘grown and sexy’. That really sums up the album. Did I say ‘grown and sexy’? (laughs). Put simply, I’ve just come in to my own…
We are loving ‘Turn It Up’. And I know a lot of the fans are gushing about ‘Feeling Me Right Now’. What are your favourite tracks from the LP?
My favorite track off the album, (thinking) hmm that’s hard. Oh that’s so hard! I love ‘Keep It Between Us’. It’s such an intimate sexy record and it was fun so recording it.
Speaking of new tracks, there has been a lot of talk about the Hitboy produced ‘Lay It On Me’ being the next single. Can you confirm whether that’s true? And if so when will we be seeing its accompanying video?
‘Lay It On Me’ is indeed the next single! The video process has been hellish just because I’m back and forth from filming the X-Factor in the UK and coming back to the US to do promo. And if I don’t do promo, everybody is going to complain. Yet, if I don’t have a video everybody is going to complain (laughs). So it’s just a matter of making sure everything is scheduled properly. But we’re still trying to find time, because everything is so locked down with promo right now.
There’s been a lot of murmuring about a European version of ‘Here I Am’? Can you shed any light on this? If true, when can we expect a release? What can we expect in terms of sound, and the like?
Absolutely. I’m actually starting the recording process for the international record – which will be out in November. So yeah, that is true. And I’m going in with different producers too.
Interesting. So will the European edition have some of the tracks from ‘Here I Am’; is it still going to be called ‘Here I Am’?
Oh absolutely, absolutely. There will be more bonus tracks on the international record; which is exactly what I wanted, because there’s some songs that didn’t go on to the US version of the album that will go on to the international version. There will, as said, also be newly recorded tracks included too!
Are there any tracks title you can share with us, because I’ve been hearing whispers about tracks such as ‘King of Kings’ and ‘Take Everything’ with Pitbull…
Not yet. I’m still making those decisions even now. I don’t want to tell everybody something then it changes… you know how everybody will be.
We briefly caught up at this year’s BET Awards in LA and I remember relaying how much people LOVED your performance. Though we always knew, there were some who didn’t know Kelly could kill it like that. Did you feel you had something to prove?
I just felt like turning it up some notches. It’s just that simple. And not only that, but just the energy from the BET Awards, and just being on that stage – period. (I sat back and said to myself) “Here’s the time to show out’. And for me, it was even more significant because it was a case of dreaming of it. I literally was dreaming of performing on that stage and I literally dreamed of murdering it, and I couldn’t let my dreams kill me up (laughs).
And kill it you did! Everyone was going crazy, so congratulations.
One of the things that people have spoken about a lot is that you’ve changed management. Everyone kind of looked at it like Kelly Rowland’s Janet Jackson’s ‘Control moment’. How would you say your new management differ to previous teams?
Hmm. That’s a GREAT question. For me…. oh wow (laughs)
I would probably have to say, with respect to old management, I just feel like everybody is just, really, really, REALLY ‘Team Kelly’ and that’s all I’ll say about that.
Actually you know what …
For me, what I’ve learned this time around is that preparation is key. And one thing I’ve done with this record is definitely prepare for everything. My team prepared for everything, my management has prepared for everything. When I came on board to the new label, studios prepared for everything, the new folks over at Universal are prepared for everything. So it’s preparation. When preparation meets purpose, it’s something huge that takes place. Something big happens.
A lot of people bill you as immensely talented, and as now having your coming out moment. Does it ever bother you that, despite this, you don’t always get the props you arguably deserve?
You know what, it’s not so much that it bothers me. It just means that you show people who you are. I think that it’s really important that you show people who you are and not worry about what other folks say. Because people are always going to have something to say – whether it’s negative or positive. And, for me, what’s “coming out” has always been in there.
A lot of fans are keen to know what your next promotional stops will be; in the way of shows, TV performances?
I had no idea there were so many record execs on board (laughs).
People are just curious, Kelly (laughs)…
No… understood, understood. I just think that everybody just gets wrapped up in first week’s sales, but we’re not in that climate anymore of first week sales. It’s about the major goals; the major goal is, of course, about being Platinum, double, and triple Platinum and selling as many records as you can. It’s making the long-term plans, which is exactly what my team has done. So when it comes to me having a release in July, there are a lot of shows off-air, which return in September and beyond. As of right now, they are ‘black’ and I’m sure nobody has an idea what ‘black’ is. ‘Black’ is the term for when TV shows are down. I can say that I will be doing Jay Leno next week on the 29th (July). There’s more to come, though, for sure!
Thanks for clarifying that.
No problem… Hey Sam, you know what, I just want everybody to know I have a really great team, doing a really great job making sure everything is in place. And they’ve got to trust me and be respectful of that.
I hear you.
Congrats on landing the X-Factor gig! Does that mean we’ll see you perform this year?
Yes you will (excited)
Speaking of performances; you recently reunited with creative director Frank Gatson. How did that come about and what does that mean for your videos and performances moving forward?
Oh Frank Gatson, will be involved with everything I do! Performances, videos, everything! Because he just brings out the best me – he really, really does. Frank possesses such a special gift and when it comes to working with him, he just brings out the best. I just love him and he is incredibly talented.
And is there anything else you want your fans to know?
I love them and appreciate all the love, all the tweets, all the friends requests, all the call in’s, radio support. They go hard! The fact they have showed me so much love…I mean they’re the reason why ‘Motivation’ is so successful and everything is falling into place. It’s because of them, and I appreciate that. I could not exist without them and I love them so much. I really do.
And final question; how does Kelly Rowland the solo artist want to be remembered when the dust has settled?
As a true entertainer.
Kelly Rowland, thank you for your time.
Thank you babe.
Kelly Rowland’s ‘Here I Am’ hits stores in the US on July 26th. Click here to buy.