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R&B Q&A: Angie Stone

Questions and Answers ...


Over the course of her music career, which began in the 1980s and then took off in the late '90s when her first solo album was released, honey-voiced Soul singer Angie Stone has established herself as one of the more talented and enduring vocalists around. She has a new single out, "Do What You Gotta Do," and is preparing to release her sixth studio album, Rich Girl Sept. 25 via SRR Records as the follow-up to her 2009 release, Unexpected. While she was doing promotional work in Los Angeles recently, about.com's R&B/Soul music critic, Mark Edward Nero, had a chance to speak with Angie about the new album.

Nero: I've had a chance to listen to Rich Girl a few times and it sounds different from your previous work.

Angie: The growth that you hear in the project is that I wanna bring you Angie Stone, but the next level. There's some nuances there from Mahogany Soul as well as from Black Diamond, and all of my other work. But I did revisit the Mahogany Soul feel for my approach on the album.

Nero: Back in the late '90s your work was soulful, but kind of a hip-hop Soul. Now it seems like a deeper, traditional Soul.

Angie: What you had was a younger Angie Stone. I've grown a lot since then.

Nero: Who are some of the producers and other artists that you worked with on the new album.

Angie: There is a young man named by the name of Demond Mickens, there is Mike City, there's a young man by the name of Co-T (Corey Tatum), there's my guitar player James (Owens) who did "Push 'N'Pull," "Alright" and "Proud of Me," of course there's me, there's Y'Anna Crawley and Tweet, my daughter's there and that's about the size of it.

Nero: Tweet is on your song "Sisters," right? That is a really, really great song. That's one of my favorites on the album; how did that song come together?

Angie: I did a song about brothers ("Brotha," on her 2001 album, Mahogany Soul) and I've wanted to do a song about sisters and I thought the timing was right, because so many of us need each other. If we don't band together, we're gonna fall apart. I came up with the concept and I started just humming the music, the melody. And a young guy by the name of Isaac Lewis was in the studio and I told him, 'Can you play this?' and as we went along we were sitting in the studio and I wanted to start a song about sisters and that's how it came about. I asked Y'Anna and Danetra (Moore), Tweet and my brother (Warren Jones) to help me out, and everybody grabbed a pen and wrote their verses.

Nero: "Real Music," the first track on the album is, I think, really well done. How did that track come together?

Angie: That was the last song I did. I wanted to open up with something different. I wanted a string ensemble, I wanted to sing to orchestral strings, and I just went on the mic and started singing; I didn't write any lyrics down. That's how that came about.

Nero: About how long did it take to put together?

Angie: About 15 minutes. Literally I went in and (begins singing) 'Music's in my heart and in my soul,' and I just built on that.

Nero: And also, the Malcolm-Jamal Warner interlude: that was kind of a surprise. Have you known Malcolm long?

Angie: I've known him for awhile. He's been a fan of mine and I of him for quite some time. He came into the studio and sat down, we kept messin' around with a bass line for awhile until we got one we liked, and I told him to do his thing, and he pretty much did it in one or two takes.

Nero: One of the really great things about the album is the lyrics are really, really good. You wrote the vast majority of the songs of the album, is that correct?

Angie: I did, I did. it was something I really wanted to do because on Mahogany Soul, a lot of the songs you guys love, I really put a lot of my heart and soul into the lyrics. I went back to the basics. I love "I Can't Take It," I love "Guilty," I love "Proud of Me," all these songs have strong, to-the-point lyrics. In the beginning, I used to write all of my own material, I'm the type of person that's a helper and everybody looks to me for an extension of self, so what I started loaning bits and pieces of myself to everyone else as a stepping stone to get into the industry, that's when you find the collaborations started to melt down my sound. And as a result, I had to shake off some of that and go back to the basics.

Nero: How many of these (15) songs are written about your own personal experiences?

Angie: The one that's not about me is "Right in Front of Me." Umm, and "First Time." And when I mean about me, I mean in some way, shape or form, to some degree, I'm all up in there.

Nero: I really like the song "Rich Girl" a lot. I think it's one of the few songs you didn't write, but the way you sing it is so personal and it comes from a perspective that's not usually told. I mean, the theme and the subject matter isn't uncommon, but the lyrics themselves in that perspective is not one that you usually hear in R&B, Soul or any other type of music, really.

Angie: Y'Anna Crawley wrote that and that's why the album is entitled Rich Girl, because the same thing that happened to you when you heard it is what happened to me. The other songs that get to me are "Guilty" and "I Can't Take It," those two songs really speak to me. People tell me they love different songs (on the album) and it's not a bad problem to have.

Nero: The album artwork is really nice: is that a painting, or is that photography?

Angie: That's me. That's photography, and there's no retouching done on it, believe it or not. I love that picture. I've lost a lot of weight, I wanted people to see the real Angie Stone, and my eyes -- I wanted people to see my eyes. I used to do a lot of pictures with my eyes closed, and this was brand new day for me. You see the joy of a 'rich girl' on that cover.

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