First published on 27 Jul 2012. Updated on 7 Aug 2012.
Do you ever get sick of playing your hugely popular but older material?
I like to make sure I can incorporate what they’re familiar with but then give them something new too, because there are several projects that I have out, independently, and I like to share new stuff. I know that people love to hear the classics. But ‘classics’ makes me feel a bit old.
Rewind, you’re only in your early thirties.
I’m still the same girl. But it’s actually a lot more fun now, surprisingly, than when I was younger. It was warm up and education before. You start in pre-school and you take it in steps; you learn everything that’s required but when you’re growing so fast and you’re successful, it’s all a blur and it’s hard to process. But once you do it over and over again, it’s a breeze – second nature – but then there’s a point when you become a real adult – a real woman. It’s like, ‘wow, I arrived at my artistry, finally!’
So your performance has grown with age?
Sometimes there’s a bit of artistry lacking from younger artists. The same holds true for child actors; they don’t necessarily know what it is they’re trying to convey. And now I have my own studio. My brother built it for me. I learnt to work all the equipment and you can really create a playground for what you are doing. You get to experience, mess up, create without anybody watching, and with no budget or clocks running. That’s been the most awakening and rewarding thing. It’s about having a field to practice on as an athlete or a studio to create at as an artist. And you don’t have to drive back home at night when you’ve been working for 48-hours straight.
You’re crossing genres big time on this album.
I’ve always crossed genres, but sometimes it’s just been for remixes or other artists or soundtracks. The reggaeton came from going to Trinidad for something called Carnival. I was inspired by that experience and took it to Junior Sanchez and asked him to give me a beat like that so he made the beat off of me beat boxing and I did the same thing with ‘Rear View Mirror’. It doesn’t feel right without a Caribbean artist on it, so I asked Sean Paul who the hottest female in Jamaica is right now and he told me Spice. I went down there to meet her and we hung out and debuted it at one of the festivals out there with no video, no radio promotion, and people responded to it.
Is the R’n’B/hip hop meets dance music trend just a phase?
There’s always going to be clubs then spin good mash-up music. In the urban world it’s just been present as dance remixes but now you are allowed to have a regular song like that on your album because people have crossed so many genres; pop has evolved. It’s just evolution. I think people are more conscious of where music can take them and what feels good and what gets the party started. And it’s usually up-tempo music that makes people feel elevated.
It’s almost impossible for people to understand what being in the spotlight as a teenager is like.
You have to check yourself. This is a blessing and I might not have made it through any situation; you take the bad and the ugly and look at the positive side of everything. When you have your mind and your heart in the right place, everything else that’s superficial doesn’t matter. Artists are crazy people, naturally, but then when you start getting addicted to things man made like money and fame you’re going to lose yourself. I don’t want to lose myself.
I was ‘successful’ young, but to me I have not had my yet. I’m hungry for that. I want to move people. And those are the kind of performances that I like to see, like Prince. He’ll make me cry; he’ll make me curse; he’ll make me laugh; he’ll make me dance.
You’ve collaborated with Ginuwine, Lil’ Wayne and Left Eye to name just a few. What was a highlight for you?
I don’t know if I should call it collaboration, but it was really strange because I never met him and he had already passed. That was Tupac Shakur. We were on the same label and at the time I was the only r’n’b artist on a rap and rock label, Interscope. He was on Death Row which was under Interscope and they asked me to be the voice on a remix album. It was an honour for me but it was a little strange. I didn’t want to offend any of his fans by jumping on one of his tracks.
And the ladies?
As far as females go, I would definitely say Left Eye was really cool to work with.
What about working with Missy Elliott on ‘Lady Marmalade’?
Working with the girls on ‘Lady Marmalade’ was really fun. It was my first experience of what it would feel like to be in a girl group. All the pressure was off and we could just have some fun. Everyone was in their own lane, we all brought something different to the table, and we hung out.
Have you always sung?
I grew up in a house full of musicians. There was always a band over and I would always pick up an instrument and play. I would always try to sing too – in the privacy of my own room. I wouldn’t let my parents know that I could sing because I was involved in so many other activities like ballet and violin and I felt that if they knew, they would force me in to what they wanted me to do with the singing. I kept it a secret for fourteen years of my life. It was my friends that encouraged me to start recording.