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About.com Interview: Avant

Q&A with the R&B Singer

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About.com Interview: Avant
© Verve Forecast.
Updated January 31, 2011
In late January 2011, R&B singer Avant was in Los Angeles to perform as part of the "Voices for the Cure" music series, which raises funds for the cancer awareness and research foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Avant, who's had several family members be affected by cancer, performed in L.A. on Jan. 26. And the day before, he spoke with about.com R&B critic Mark Edward Nero about his music career and his latest album, The Letter, which was released in December 2010.

Nero: How long have you been involved with the Susan G. Komen foundation, is this a new relationship?
Avant: Yeah, it's a new relationship, but I've been respectin' her and understandin' her for so many years. Just wanted to make sure it was the right time to enter in and show my love, as well.
Nero: Where do you live regularly?
Avant: Oh, I'm from Ohio, I'm with all the cold weather. I'm definitely enjoying this weather out here. I'm wearin' a t-shirt, some jeans, I've got some Chucks on, I'm feelin' really good right now.
Nero: You're originally from the Cleveland area, right?
Avant: I'm from Cleveland, Ohio. I still stay around that area, I stay on the outskirts of Cleveland now. But you know, I'm hometown born and bred, and that's where I get a lot of my inspiration, from there.
Nero: So even after all your success, you never decided to up and leave like LeBron James did?
Avant: (Laughs.) That's so funny. Actually, I frequent a couple of cities; you can always have a little hideout spot, you can't just close up shop. But I'm in Cleveland, yeah. But I've got a couple of little hideout spots.
Nero: The first thing I wanted to ask you about your new album, The Letter is you're on a different label now. Formerly, you were on Capitol Records, but now you're on Verve Forecast, and I just wanted to ask you how that happened.
Avant: Well you know, it was just a movement. The deal was up with Capitol and this new label is a great business and I felt like they're about more than just a single, they're about a body of work. So that's what really turned me on to them. It's all about getting some great records out there.
Nero: Another thing I noticed with The Letter is that you don't have any duets or guest singers on this album. On albums past, you had at least one or two guests, and this time it's just Avant, all the way through, all 11 songs.
Avant: What I tried to do basically is, it's been three-and-a-half years since I've been on the scene, so I just wanted to make sure the people know who I was and was into who I was before I go back to the features and all of those other things. I wanted to make sure the people were still in tune to what I do.
Nero: Do you write all, or most, of your own lyrics for your songs?
Avant: Yes, I do. I've been doin' it since the beginning of my career.
Nero: One of the things that I think separates you from a lot of the R&B artists out there -- and a lot of the artists period -- is that you have a real knack for writing. You're kind of a storyteller on some of your songs, your songs have a narrative where it tells a story; how did you get this knack for writing such good songs that are intricate and that tell stories?
Avant: Well it's a great question you ask, 'cause when I was younger, comin' up in the game, I used to walk to school and I used to listen to hip-hop records, y'know? And I used to listen to the good hip-hop, even if it was dark, like Scarface. I would listen to those records and I would like the way they set it up, it was like a story. It was like a true story, and you got the beginning, the middle and the end. And once I got to school, I had mentally killed like 17 people (laughter), but the nature was, I understood the story, and that's the approach that I decided to take when I got into the music game. I wanted to create that whole story aspect, but a more subtle vibe to it.
Nero: You mentioned that when you were growing up, you listened to Scarface of the Geto Boys; who else did you listen to? Not only R&B-wise but hip-hop and any other music genres. Who were some of the artists you respected when you were growing up?
Avant: NWA, you know what I mean? And uh, KRS-One. I was really young, I shouldn't have been listenin' to that stuff, but hey - I was makin' it happen. And the stories were so wonderfully told. And I think that's what the kids are missin' nowadays. It's cool to be an emcee, it's cool to do your thing but metaphorically, it was much more clever (back then). You feel me? I think that's what the kids are missin' now, and that's what I'm tryin' to bring back to 'em: storytellin.'
Nero: So why did you decide to become a singer as opposed to an emcee?
Avant: I had a few people tell me I had a nice voice, so I said 'Hey -- let me do my thing in this R&B thing'. And you know, comin' up in the '90s, R&B was in, it was the thing to do. Hip-Hop was still tryin' to make a transition, so it had some time to go, you feel me? R&B was full-fledged in the door.
Nero: Regarding modern-day R&B, contemporary R&B, are there any artists that you like, that you're into at all?
Avant: It's a lot of R&B artists out here that's doin' well. You got Jazmine Sullivan, I like here record, you know what I'm sayin, and several more. But the nature of it all is can really focus on what I'm doin' as an artist.
Nero: So what do you of the current direction of R&B? Your style is more traditional, but a lot of the R&B today is more centered around production and producers and Auto-Tune and things like that.
Avant: I think it's all about a transition. Everything has to be in a transition. We're tryin' to do somethin' here, tryin' to do something there, which is fine, but my thing is, try to talk about things that go on today, in the present, and give them great stories that not only you respect, but your mom can respect, your grandmother can respect, and also your younger kids. That's the most important part is finding that happy medium and make everyone excited and happy about it.
Nero: My last question: are you going to be touring in support of the album?
Avant: We're settin' up a tour right now. It's more just getting the right dates and the right people and tour support. We're still workin' on it.
Nero: Alright Avant, thanks for your time.

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