Nero: So this will make what number solo album for you?
Isley: Wow, I think this'll be the eighth or ninth album.
Nero: For your longtime fans out there, what can they expect from Mr. I?
Isley: They can expect the greatest things that we (The Isley Brothers) did, especially in the early years: the fast songs like "Who's That Lady," "Fight the Power" and so on; the slow songs, "Hello It's Me," "Summer Breeze," all that, all those type of things; and the slow romantic songs like "In Between the Sheets." It's 11 songs, and I did a song with Aretha Franklin, we did a duet together. I did something with T.I., which we thought was the single, and we didn't get a chance to do the video 'cause he was sent away (to prison), so that'll happen a couple of records down. But they're really gonna get the best of The Isley Brothers.
Nero: Is this the first time you've worked with Aretha on a song?
Isley: This is the first time, and we've been friends since 1962. We'd been talking about doing an album all those years. I did two singles with her: one for her album and one for mine. It was a great feeling, we had so much fun in the studio, and we talk every day or every other day.
Nero: Since you two have been friends so long but you had never recorded together, how did you finally manage to connect and put a song out together?
Isley: I was talking to her on the phone and she said while I'm doing this album I'd better include a space for her, and then we started laughing about it. And then I went out to Detroit (where she lives) and we picked the song that we were gonna do and we just did it. I picked one that I thought was fine for us (Carole King's 1971 classic "You've Got a Friend") and she picked (Barbra Streisand's 1973 hit) "The Way We Were" for her album, and we did those two songs.
Nero: As you alluded to, you've been around -- you and The Isley Brothers have been around -- since the 1950s ...
Isley: 1959 with the record "Shout," that was basically the beginning.
Nero: ... since that time a lot of artists have come and gone, but you've managed to stay relevant. How've you managed to do that, stay relevant over the decades?
Isley: Just faith in God and y'know, I found out what we were doing right, and y'know a love for the music business, the competitiveness to be number one, to always be first. (And) change of style, to be able to adapt to the music, whatever's out, and to be able to sing anything and everything. And at the same time, enjoy what you're doing, you know?
Nero: Absolutely. So who were some of the producers you worked with on Mr. I?
Isley: I worked with Greg Curtis, Jon Nettlesbey, they did several songs. I worked with Tricky (Stewart), he did two songs. I worked with Tank, he wrote one of the songs. And basically just myself. (Isley's one of the album's executive producers, along with L.A. Reid and Marcus King.) Oh, and I worked with a fella named Kajun too.
Nero: So will the album be a return to that, like you said, that classic Isley Brothers sound? 'Cause I know when you were doing a lot of work with R. Kelly, you kind of changed your image up a little bit with the whole "Mr. Biggs" thing.
Isley: It'll have some of that Mr. Biggs and all that type of thing. We have songs on the album that's going to refer to that. We tried to cover all the spectrums, all the things that I did that I can do well.
Nero: Okay, so it's sort of a mixture between the older and newer styles.
Nero: You mentioned Aretha Franklin and R. Kelly and Kajun and some of the artists that you've worked with; is there anyone that you haven't had a chance to work with yet in your career that you would like to in the future?
Isley: Well you know, Alicia Keys, we had talked about doing some things together. At one time I had talked to Beyonce and her father, we had talked about doing some things together. I did a song with Lauryn Hill, a Burt Bacharach song ("Close To You"). I think it's one of the better duets I've ever done. I don't know if it's gonna be on this album or one of the albums down the road, but if they can work out certain things with her record company, it'll be on this album.
Nero: Yeah, I've heard that song; it's actually floating around the Internet. I wasn't sure if that was just something that a producer spliced together, because you originally recorded that song for your (2003) Burt Bacharach solo album (Here I Am, a collection of Bacharach cover songs).
Isley: Yeah and then I did it again with her.
Nero: So that's a legit song that's not just something that somebody spliced together, then?
Isley: No, no, that's a legit song.
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