In this exclusive interview, the 27 year old star opens up to That Grape Juice about several issues including her Gospel critics, the constant comparisons to her band mates Beyonce and Kelly as well as serving up the ‘Unexpected’ with her new record. A great, revealing read if I must say so myself. Enjoy 🙂
Sam: Michelle, how are you?
Michelle: I’m doing great, fabulous. How are you?
Sam: I’m fine. It really is an honour to finally be able speak with you!
Michelle: Yes, it’s an honour to be able to speak with you. I just want to say Sam that I thank YOU for your love and support towards myself and, actually, all three of the ladies (of Destiny’s Child). Individually, I just want to thank you for being so supportive from day one, I really appreciate it.
Sam: Aww. You’re welcome
With the single ‘We Break The Dawn’ having been released recently, there’s no doubt that you’ve been very busy as of late. Tell me a little about what you’ve been up to.
Michelle: Well, I’ve preparing for the release of my new album, which is titled ‘Unexpected’. Like you said, the single is titled ‘We Break The Dawn’; I shot the video for that last week. Y’all should be seeing the video by May 12th.
Sam: That’s great. What was the experience like (filming the video), how was the day?
Michelle: I loved it. We had a ball. Everything worked out so smoothly; no drama, everyone on the set did what they were supposed to do. We really had a lot of fun. I learned so much about myself, that I could do more than I thought I could do. I think this will shock a lot of people. Michelle can do more than what we know of her to do. When you’re in a group, sometimes, you’re not always able to do what you want to do. But that works out, because as a group, everyone has to be a team player. There are different references and things like that that I’ve looked at and held for a few years (while in Destiny’s Child) thinking ‘when I get the chance, I’m gonna do that’. So all that I’ve wanted to do is now coming to pass.
Sam: That’s great. Where are you actually situated at the moment?
Michelle: I’m actually home right now, just outside of Chicago, Illinois.
Sam: So this is like one of your days off, I’m assuming?
Michelle: Yeah, kind of.
Sam: Good good. You did mention before that your new album is titled ‘Unexpected’ (due on August 12th). The album has a distinct Pop/Dance sounding direction and obviously your new image is a lot more edgy, a lot more current too. This isn’t something many people anticipated from you. Was this deliberate or something that organically happened?
Michelle: Well I found that I wanted to do something that would set myself apart from what people have seen (of me) in the last eight years. I’ve always wondered ‘what would my hair be like short’. Now I’ve got the chance to do that; you know,, create some individuality.
Sam: Tell me a little about what we can expect to hear on the album, in terms of its sound, concept, producers etc. I know it’s a lot in one question, but as much as you can detail on the album would be great.
Michelle: Yes, yes. This album…oh my goodness. You know what I do? Purposely, I won’t listen to my album for a few days because I want to make sure that in another three or four days, I still like it. I’m telling you, when I put that album on, it’s like my first time hearing it. Honestly, sometimes I forget that I’m listening to myself singing and I’m getting into it so much – the words, the everything. Rico Love, who produced the bulk of my album, is an AMAZING writer; he gets you sucked in, so much so, you think you’re actually there in the moment. Sometimes I forget that I’m the one singing on the album; I’ll get to thinking about things that I’ve gone through (that’s related to a song), people that I know etc. I think it’s a great thing; this album makes you feel good. I don’t care what you’ve gone through in your day or your life, this album makes you forget about all your problems and makes you focus on your future and makes you happy. With all that’s going on in the world, I mean even here in the United States with the recession, this album really helps you escape from all of that for a little while.
Sam: Great. I’m assuming that the album is completed?
Michelle: The album is done.
Sam: Have any personal favourites emerged from record, if so what are they and why?
Michelle: Wow, that’s a hard question. You know what, I’m so satisfied with the project; there isn’t one song I have to skip or that I cringe when hearing. In terms of favourites, of course my single ‘We Break The Dawn’, ‘Hello Heartbreak’. There’s a song called ‘Lucky Girl’; it’s just so cute. Everyone that has heard that song loves it, men, and women. This album is for everybody, it’s for men too, not just the ladies. There’s one more song I love called ‘The Greatest’; that’s the song that, when I listen to it, I forget that it’s me singing it – it’s such a beautiful song.
Sam: There’s quite a buzz about ‘Stop This Car’ among fans, general listeners…
Michelle: Yes, ‘Stop This Car’, that’s an awesome track. Stargate really did their thing on the song…
Sam: It is a personal favourite of mine. The feedback on the track has been amazing. People want to know if it’ll be a future single.
Michelle: It’s definitely a contender for a single
Sam: Judging by the material heard thus far, the album has a distinct up-tempo, dance-heavy heavy sound. Will the record feature any ballads, as many feel your voice really excels on such tracks also?
Michelle: ‘The Greatest’ is a power ballad. I have a song on there called ‘Too Young For Love’, which is definitely another power ballad. So yeah, you’ll be able to slow it down a little bit too.
Sam: We need to talk about the fact that this is your first solo foray into the secular market, having already released two Gospel albums (‘Heart To Yours’ and ‘Do You Know’). What’s your response to the naysayers and critics that will undoubtedly have something to say about you now releasing a secular record?
Michelle: Screw the naysayers. The critics, that’s cool. Naysayers, I can’t get with, because everybody is going to do something you don’t agree with. If I had to worry about what everybody didn’t agree with, I wouldn’t be doing nothing right now, you wouldn’t be doing nothing right now. I mean I love all types of music. Before my Gospel albums, I was an R&B artist. I never proclaimed to be a Gospel artist. There are so many people that were before me, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke and even my favourite singer of all-time Whitney Houston, they’ve all done Gospel. Yet they all maintained being an R&B artist. Now, it seems like after me, everybody’s doing a Gospel album, which is great, it’s cool – do your thing. I love all types of music and I don’t want to be pigeon-holed. Me doing this music, I know what I’m doing; and if anything that I do takes me away from God, I won’t do it. Scripture says ‘Let nothing separate you from the love of God’…
Michelle: ..so this ain’t separating me. In fact, being in this industry has made me much closer God, because there are times when I feel by myself and it’s just me and God. I know what I’m doing. God is with me. This album, this project, God is in this. It’s worked out so smoothly. If there are doors He doesn’t want me to go through, He won’t open them, nor will He let me walk through them. I don’t mind if God shuts the door, that’s protection for me. To the naysayers, keep naysaying.
Sam: (laughs). On the topic of Christianity, do you still regularly attend church?
Michelle: Yes, I do. If I’m home on a Sunday, then I will attend service.
Sam: That’s cool. While your new sound, image etc are radically different to what people expected, it’s your performance of ‘Do You Know’ on the Destiny’s Fulfilled tour that really caught people off guard. I remember being at the London stop of the show and people were in awe saying ‘is that Michelle?’ Did you see performing this song on the tour as a coming out of sorts or…
Michelle: I didn’t really see it as a ‘coming out’. It’s definitely a song that is dear to my heart, so I guess it showed. I will say, on that ‘Destiny Fulfilled’ album I think I was just coming into my own. I was comfortable, I was settled, I was like ‘ok, I know this, I got this’.
Sam: I know a lot of people took on the same view. Being in the biggest selling female group of all time, the main comparisons are often to each other. What do you feel separates you all individually?
Michelle: We all have our own style and our own taste in music and how we want to express that; and people need to respect that. I may just want to express my music standing in front of a microphone. Beyonce, on the other hand, she likes to come in upside down (in reference to Beyonce’s 2003 MTV VMA performance). I mean, who knows, I might get the chance to get on a trapeze and spring across Radio City Music Hall. We like to express ourselves differently. I will never be Beyonce Knowles, Beyonce Knowles will never be Michelle Williams, Kelendria Rowland will never be Michelle Williams and I will never be Kelly. I’m Michelle Williams, my mama calls me T; I’m gonna be me. What some people fail to see is that, as three ladies coming out of such amazing group success, we are all (continuing to be) successful in our solo endeavours. Before now, that was unheard of. With every group, there’s no reason why each member can’t be out there doing their own thing.
Sam: You’ve been in the industry for more than eight years, in which you’ve experienced both the highs and the lows. What have been you most fulfilling moment with your fame and most discouraging?
Michelle: The most fulfilling? Wow. The fact that I have been able to travel the world. Before the age of 25, I can say that I’ve visited pretty much everywhere. Also, meeting so many beautiful people. I mean, from London to Dubai to Australia, (as well as) back home here in the States. What’s most fulfilling is knowing that, by (listening to) our music, people’s lives have been changed. You have people that have listened to ‘Survivor’ that have decided not to end their life and that they are standing here today doing well.
The most discouraging is when you want the whole world to understand and like you and they just won’t. Also it’s the assumptions and judgements that are made before someone knows you that are disappointing. Anything else, I’m like ‘it’s a business, dust your shoulders off’.
Sam: The industry has changed radically, even when compared to a few years ago. What is your advice to the potential stars of tomorrow to be successful in the industry?
Michelle: Well considering that labels now have slashed budgets, you’re not getting all this money (funding), you’ve got to love it. When I came in, you had to love it, but now you r-e-a-l-l-y have to love it to make it in the industry. To be sustained, to be happy, you’ve got to love what you do. If you don’t get the level of success that you wish, any level of success today is still great success. You sell some records, people know your name. That alone is satisfying.
Sam: In terms of the new record, what are your hopes? Obviously the industry is currently very unstable…
Michelle: My hopes for the record? I just pray that I make music that everybody will want to purchase. I’m not gonna sit up here and lie and say that I don’t want to sell a million records – I want to sell three million! I’m humble, but I’m not going to say ‘well I don’t mind selling one or two records’ (laughs). I want number one records, number one singles. My hopes are that I can tour, I want to tour around the world with this album. I want to sing my songs.
Sam: Moving on from the music side of things, you starred in the Broadway version of the Color Purple as Shug Avery for nearly a year. Will you be starring reprising your role in the upcoming film adaptation (which Fantasia has signed on to do)?
Michelle: I haven’t been approached yet. I don’t know, it’s not something I’m chasing right now because my album is out.
Sam: Ok. Should the opportunity present itself, would it be something you’d consider?
Sam: I did see that you received rave reviews for your performance as Shug Avery.
Michelle: Thank you. I was excited about that.
Sam: You’re part owner of a female basketball team…
Michelle: Yes, the Chicago Skies…
Sam: Do you have any other ventures outside of music that you are currently pursuing or wish to in the future?
Michelle: Absolutely. I am currently working on a bath and body line, that people will be seeing one way or the other. I am working on that now. Actually, a lot of them are hand-made products that I am creating.
Sam: I did actually see that you gave the site a shout-out a few months ago (on your MySpace blog). Do you go on websites, blogs etc to see what they are saying about Michelle Williams as well as general music news?
Michelle: I will admit that ‘yes I do’ – especially since I have an album coming out. I want to know what the headlines are saying; I don’t necessarily want to know the comments, but I definitely like to know what news Sam posted today. So I do frequent a lot of the more positive websites and I love ThatGrapeJuice.net!
Sam: Thank you very much. It’s much appreciated. We love Michelle too.
If you weren’t famous, if you weren’t Michelle Williams from Destiny’s Child, what do you feel you would be doing now?
Michelle: I’d probably be working in the field of Law. Probably a lawyer.
Sam: Ok. A few of our readers wanted to know if you are dating anybody at the moment. The name Henry Simmons came up quite a few times, is there any truth to that?
Michelle: Actually there is absolutely no truth to the Henry Simmons rumours. In a way, I’d wish these rumours would stop popping up because it’s messing up my opportunities…
Michelle: Me and Henry Simmons have never even been out on a date. I think he attends the same church as me.
Sam: In terms of the future, do you have aspirations to start your own family, get married and things of that nature?
Michelle: Absolutely. I was talking to a friend about that; she said she didn’t have that fantasy growing up as a little girl, but I did. I do have those dreams and aspirations. You have to share what you have with somebody else. I’m the type of person that wants that in my life. Some people don’t have to have it…but I do.
Sam: (laughs) On a typical day off what do you do?
Michelle: I am such a homebody. I’d be at home watching TV; I’d be out with my family, somewhere at a restaurant. Just regular stuff. Like, I’m at home now and have been cleaning up, taking out the garbage – doing those things I don’t get to do, but enjoy doing. As I said earlier, I recently started doing a bath and body line. Doing that is very therapeutic to me.
Sam: Aside from your own project that you have coming out, which I’m sure you’re excited about – as are we, are there any other releases/artists that you are currently listening to and/or anticipating?
Michelle: Wow. Of course I’ve got to say my girl Solange Knowles. Her single ‘I Decided’ is in my head. Before you know it, I found myself singing (sings “I Decided”). I love Emily King, I know her album is out already – I think she is great. I’ve got to give the UK some love with Estelle, she is absolutely the business – I love her. As far as guys out now, I love what Kanye’s done and what he has out. I love so much music, it’s crazy.
Sam: Favourite Destiny’s Child song?
Michelle: Erm, ‘Free’ from the ‘Destiny Fulfilled’ album.
Sam: Favourite Kelly Rowland song?
Sam: Favourite Beyonce song?
Michelle: ‘Me, Myself & I’
Sam: Speaking of Beyonce, how was the wedding?
Michelle: I have..
Sam: (Laughs!) Ok. Speaking on the record, ‘Unexpected’ has an International sound, will we be seeing you in the UK/Europe anytime soon?
Michelle: I will be in the UK at the end of May. I will be coming to London. I’m so excited; I can’t wait to get my Topshop on. Love Topshop…
Sam: Just like my sisters (laughs). As we’re about to round up, do have any message for your fans?
Michelle: Of course; my fans, you guys know that I love you very very very much. I thank God every day because I feel good knowing that y’all love the project that I have delivered. I’m so thankful that y’all have embraced the project with such open arms.
Sam: Michelle, thank you so much for your time…
Michelle: Thank you Sam. Thank you for the support. Much success to That Grape Juice.