Nero: I've had a chance to listen to Unbelievable! and one of the better songs, I believe is "Mirror," with Tweet and Kelly Price. How did that song come together?
Keke: (Songwriter) Shep Crawford did the track; it was his song he wrote with Montel Jordan. And he submitted it to me and I loved it, so I did it, and Kelly agreed to do it and so did Tweet.
Nero: Had you ever worked with Kelly or Tweet before?
Keke: No, but I knew them from before.
Nero: It was really surprising to hear Tweet because she's been away from the spotlight for so long.
Keke: Mmm hmm, and I was like, 'I gotta have her on this,' 'cause we've hardly heard anything from her for awhile, and that's a way for people to hear her. Hell, I wanna hear her myself -- I'm a Tweet fan, I love Tweet.
Nero: Another thing I wanted to ask you about the album is the remakes.
Keke: There's three -- "Saturday Love," (originally by Cherrelle & Alexander O'Neal) "Love Under New Management" (a 1990 Miki Howard hit) and (the Eric Clapton tune) "Tears in Heaven."
Nero: So why did you decide to remake those particular songs?
Keke: Well, I did "Saturday Love" as a favor to my lawyer, 'cause he loves that song and my mother loves that song, and Ruben (Studdard, who duets with Keke on the remake) loves that song. Then "Love Under New Management," I'm in love under new management, so that was like the perfect song for me. personally. And then "Tears in Heaven" was just a song I've loved since I was a kid.
Nero: Ruben Studdard isn't someone who's done a lot duets in the past.
Keke: Yeah, but he definitely has what it takes. And the only reason I got stuck in the duet thing is because when I first came out with Avant, people put me in that category, but I really only did the song as a favor to him, plus I liked the song. And it ended up going No. 1 (on the R&B charts). And on my album, I put out "Nothing in This World," which was he and I again, and it ended up going No. 1 too. And so now I'm kinda like the duet girl, but I really am not. Ruben, he's not a duet person either, but he sure sounds good.
Nero: So if we could go back to "Love Under New Management" ... you have a special man in your life right now?
Keke: Yes, I do have a new man in my life. We got married on Feb. 14., Valentine's Day. We've been together though, we just (recently) decided to put it on paper, make it legal.
Nero: Oh, congratulations. Also in regard to the new album, at the end, the final track is "His Eye on the Sparrow," a Gospel song. You grew up singing Gospel, right?
Keke: Yeah, I still do, actually. At church Every Sunday that I'm home and I'm in town and I can go to church, I do.
Nero: Is recording more Gospel something you're interested in?
Keke: Absolutely, absolutely. I get no bigger thrill.
Nero: Is an entire Gospel album something that's a possibility for you in the future?
Keke: Yes, I would love to. I just gotta find the right people. It seems like with labels, they always want me to sing R&B. I don't know what it is. But maybe I just have to fund my own Gospel album and put it out.
Nero: Do you have a favorite song on Unbelievable!?
Keke: Yes, I do. It's called "(Travel the World) Love Uses Time," a song that I wrote and is dear to my heart. I want to let people out there know that if it's not real, don't waste your time. Love will use up time; I sat back and I watched 10 years of my life go by in a marriage that wasn't going anywhere. It was just stuck in the mud. Wheels just kept turnin' in the mud, you know? And "Love Uses Time," it just speaks about real love is not.
Nero: And speaking of spinning your wheels, you had a couple of labels that really did go anywhere: you were with (New Orleans-based) Cash Money for awhile and then with TVT and you made albums with both those labels. At the time, did you feel like you were just spinning your wheels? With TVT, they went bankrupt right before you were supposed to release your album. Did you feel like you were stuck in a rut?
Keke: I didn't feel like I was stuck in a rut, but my feelings were hurt that they would wait as soon as my album's about to come out to go bankrupt. And with Cash Money, you can't stop Mother Nature, you can't stop God's will and Hurricane Katrina came and washed everything away. I think we live and we learn and we experience things on purpose, for a reason. So I just take it as another stepping stone to get higher to where I wanna be.
Nero: Now you're with the Shanachie label; how are they treating you so far?
Keke: The last album I did with Shanachie (2010's Who Knew?), it was just records so that people could hear something else from me, because so many of my fans kept saying 'Keke come on, give us somethin'. So that was just thrown together and just put out real fast. This album was a little more thought out and thought about and put together.
Nero: So now you've got your second album out in two years; does it feel like your career is really on the right track now, especially since you had the two albums before that didn't get released? Do you feel like your career is headed in a good direction right now?
Keke: Yeah, I think it's headed in a positive direction; the only thing is this is bittersweet because some idiot leaked my album a couple of days before it dropped and it really kinda hurt my feelings. This is my livelihood, this is how I feed my family and when you do that, you just ruined it. Nobody wants to go and flip burgers for free; you're not even gonna find a pimp that's gonna be pimpin' for free. It's like, that's not fair and it really hurts.
Nero: Has this been an ongoing problem for you?
Keke: No, this is recent; so I guess that must mean I'm a hot commodity right now, that someone would have to do that, that they would feel like they need to do that. So I must be sought out. In a way it's bad, but in another way, it's a good problem, having it.