Amerie Interview

Label:Feeniix Rising Ent.
Next Project:In Love & War
Twitter:Amerie on Twitter
Website:Amerie's Website

Since the adage “All’s fair In Love & War” was coined circa 1579, the arts of both warfare and romance have become considerably more complex and treacherous—fortunately, Amerie is here to do for the latter what Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, and other philosophers of power have done for the former.  On her forthcoming fourth studio album (and Def Jam debut), the R&B songstress will share her hard-won insights into matters of the heart with listeners everywhere, exploring the many and varied emotional conflicts that can make or break romantic relationships.

With the LP’s first and second singles, reader-approved post-breakup jam “Why R U” and club cut “Heard’ Em All,” the singer gave fans a tantalizing glimpse of the many topics and musical styles she would bring to bear on her latest full-length.  Featuring an innovative mix of soul, rock (think Led Zep, not System of a Down), and hip-hop influences courtesy of such big-name beatsmiths as Teddy Riley, Sean Garrett & Eric Hudson, and M-Phazes, In Love and War is scheduled to hit store shelves and online retailers November 3rd.

In an exclusive interview with DJZ,’ Amerie steps into the Booth to discuss the process of blending disparate sounds and styles into a cohesive set, the importance of thematically-appropriate album art, and why Z and the rest of the male gender need to pick up the Sex and The City boxed set right now.

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Amerie Interview Transcription

DJ Booth:  What’s goin’ on, everybody?  It’s your boy, ‘Z,’ doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a Grammy-nominated veteran R&B singer whose Def Jam debut, In Love & War, is set for release this fall.  Please welcome Amerie—how are you?

Amerie:  Hey, I’m great, Z!  What’s up?  Thanks for having me!

DJ Booth:  It’s my pleasure!  Thank you for joining me inside the DJ Booth.  In Love & War, your fourth studio album, but the first since ‘05’s Touch, set for a wide release here in the United States.  Is the feeling the same this time around, or is it different?

Amerie:  It’s a little different.  Every time, I always feel like it’s kind of brand new.  I just released my last album, Because I Love It, overseas, and that was in… 2007, I believe?

DJ Booth:  Yes.

Amerie:  So it felt kind of different then as well.  But this time, I guess with it being a new label and everything, it definitely feels like a different energy, a new energy, and I’m really excited.  And it’s great, because I’m working with some awesome people, and everyone’s very passionate about what they’re doing and very creative.  This is what I love to do, so I’m just really happy, [I’m at] a great place right now.

DJ Booth:  You sound happy, which is the most important thing.  You mentioned you parted ways with Sony, you’re now on Def Jam—what led you to your new label home?

Amerie:  For the most part, just feeling like, with all the changes that the previous label was going through… It’s so important for a label to be really, really behind a project.  As artists, we do what we do, we might have great ideas about different things, but ultimately the music speaks for itself.  At the same time, you really want a label to go all in with you, to make everything as successful as it could be.  I just felt like the company was going through too many changes structurally to really get that.  So, after a couple years of thinking about it, I decided that’s what I wanted to do, and I’d also been talking to L.A. Reid at the time, and I just kind of went from one to the other.

DJ Booth:  In addition to Def Jam, you’re also releasing this album with your entertainment company, Phoenix Rising.  I did a little research—in mythology, a phoenix was a sacred bird which symbolized hope and rebirth.  So, do you believe that this new album represents a sort of rebirth for you?

Amerie:  I wouldn’t say that it’s a rebirth… I don’t really see it that way.  I mean, the mantra of the company is definitely that art never dies, and creativity lives forever.  As far as this album is concerned, my thing with In Love & War was just wanting to create a project that spoke of a less idealized sense of love and relationships, and more like things that people really go through, usually.  I mean, no relationship is perfect and no human being is perfect, but I really wanted to speak about going through hard times, coming out of it, getting closer for it, or going through hard times and realizing that that’s not the [right] situation.  But every song is like a facet of a relationship, or a perspective [on] a potential relationship.

DJ Booth:  I read that you actually mapped out the sound of In Love & War before you sat down to work with any producers.  Do your best travel agent impersonation for me, and detail where the album takes us from start to finish, if you will.

Amerie:  Well, hm… I’m still putting together the tracklisting. [laughs] All steps are tentative and possibly not in the right order.  But we go through the lustful stage, which is a period of time where you may see someone that is able to bring something to the table that has never been brought before, hence the title “Heard ‘Em All.”  And we also go through the bumpy, bumpy terrain of relationships, and that’s “Why R U?”, which is pretty much about all the tumultuous times of dealing with someone you know is probably not good for you.  There’s quite a lot of turbulence, because 80 percent of our trip is like that.  So, just buckle your seatbelt!  [laughs]

DJ Booth:  [laughs] That was a great tour!

Amerie:  Thanks—it was quick!

DJ Booth:  Well, you know what?  Everybody will get the full tour when they pick up the album, so you don’t wanna give ‘em too much.

Amerie:  Exactly.  But, you know, everyone will be able to relate to it.  Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship or a semi-relationship, or a relationship in their head has been through these things.

DJ Booth:  The lead single off the project, “Why R U?”, has a very distinct hip-hop vibe.  Should listeners expect more or less of this sound on the project as a whole?

Amerie:  There’s definitely more.  This album, sonically, is a fusion of hip-hop, soul, and rock—less alternative rock and more soulful rock ‘n’ roll, like late-‘60s, ‘70s era, when it was still very bluesy, that whole approach, the music of that time.  It’s a great blend.  There’s definitely more samples in there.  I love hip-hop, so I had to incorporate that.  That’s a major part of the album.

DJ Booth:  When you incorporate a wide variety of genres, do you question whether or not the continuity of the album will be hurt by that, or does it seem to mesh very well?

Amerie:  That’s the thing that’s important.  That’s why… not even this album but all my albums, I pretty much know where I wanna go sonically before I start.  Usually what I do, and it was the case with this album especially, is, in the beginning, I figure out what I want, through meetings with different people that I know, that I kind of hear something that they do that I feel could definitely be incorporated into the sound of the album.  We talk, we meet, and then people just start sending tracks.  I’m kind of a hermit artist in that I do like to work in my own zone sometimes, most of the time, because I feel like I can think clearly that way, and really give myself a chance to really think everything through, and be connected to whatever’s inside without someone having it first, and then kind of spread out from there.  After I figured that part out, then I started to see more producers, and sometimes actually go in with producers in different studios, and actually start creating things together.  To make sure that your album doesn’t sound like a potpourri of tracks or a soundtrack or some kind of a compilation CD, and it could be, like, different artists, that’s hard.  To be really consistent, it was very important to make sure that I knew where I wanted to go—you know, meander off the path sometimes and explore different things and new vibes, but not forgetting where you’re trying to go in the first place.

DJ Booth:  Let’s discuss the vision a little more.  I saw the video for “Why R U?”, and I saw your promo photos, and it gives off this graphic-novel perception.  When you discussed with your people the best way to market the image that you wanted for this album, what did you come up with, exactly?

Amerie:  I never tell them how I want them to market me, and putting the spin on things.  I leave it up to them to do it; they’re the experts at it.  I definitely know how I want things to look.  When it came time to decide what I wanted to do image-wise, for the packaging, I really had one photographer in mind.  There was one person I really wanted to work with, and that’s Tim Brett-Day, who actually did the shoot.  I really wanted to work with him because his work is just so exciting.  So there’s a lot of balancing what’s real and what’s not real, what’s fantasy and what’s reality.  I wanted the packaging and the whole artwork for the project to not just be like Studio Expressions shots.  I didn’t want them to be like regular beauty photos, because I just don’t find that very interesting, myself.  So it was really, to me, like, “What do I want to do?”  And I wanted to do something different, I wanted to do something that could convey the pain of being in a relationship and going through an up and down of Love & War, I guess, and happiness and misery, and feeling good and feeling in the depths of despair.

DJ Booth:  Well, let me tell you, it is utterly refreshing to hear an artist who actually put some thought behind the image that they wanted to accompany their music, ‘cause far too often I ask that question, and the only response I get is, “Oh, you know, it looked good.  It looked cool.”  Give me something better, you know?  The concept, Amerie, of In Love & War is quite complex.  Are you someone who believes that you need to go through a war of sorts within your relationship in order to know whether or not you truly love the person?

Amerie:  I don’t think you have to go through a war or a battle—and I don’t wanna say just one battle, ‘cause I guess you go through many—but I don’t think you need to get so close to the breaking point to realize that you do love someone.  What I can say is that, if you do go through that, you definitely know if you love the person or not.  If you’re still hanging around, it must be for some reason, because it has to be worth it!

DJ Booth:  Absolutely.  Let’s stick on the love topic.  Another track on the album is the Teddy Riley-produced “Tell Me You Love Me.”  I am no love doctor whatsoever, but, if you need to tell someone to tell you that they love you, is that not a signal that maybe the relationship’s not workin’ out?

Amerie:  That’s the thing about it; it’s true. “Tell Me You Love Me” is about bein’ in that pain where you are so desperate ‘cause you’re in love, you’re so desperate for any inkling or any kind of positive anything from that other person, you are just that determined to make them love you, or just show you that this relationship is real.  Even though people might not actually explicitly say so, they do that all the time.  Like, guys will always kinda lay their cards out there, and women kind of do the same thing, but I always feel like the big difference between men and women is that you can eventually win over a woman, but I don’t think men can be won over.  They are a lot more aggressive, and they’re more dominant when it comes to certain things, so if you really, truly, really truly, truly have a man, then you’ll know it in the beginning.  But a woman can be totally disinterested, and if you wear her down long enough and you’re persistent enough, you might actually win her over.  I don’t think men are that way.

DJ Booth:  I have not conducted a study to back that research, but I will say, without a doubt, you’re onto something.

Amerie:  See, that’s why I never really liked the whole Mr. Big/Carrie relationship on Sex and the City.  I never bought it, ‘cause I was like, “No guy is gonna be actin’ like that for seven years, and all of the sudden you’re the love of his life.”

DJ Booth:  I have never seen the show, but I’m gonna believe you.

Amerie:  [laughs] You’ve never seen, not even one episode?

DJ Booth:  I know that Sarah Jessica-Parker’s in it, but other than that I know nothing about the show.

Amerie:  You have to watch the show. Your homework assignment is to get all the DVDs and watch them in order, and then get the DVD of the movie, to prepare you for the movie that’s about to come out.

DJ Booth:  Do you really feel like if I watch this and I watch it closely, not just as a casual observer, I will be able to improve my relationship knowledge?  Is that what this show can actually do for me?

Amerie:  No.  ‘Cause I thought Carrie was playin’ herself all of those episodes, I did not buy it at all.  So I don’t think you’ll improve your relationship knowledge, but what I can tell you is that, the guys I talk to about the show, they seem very fascinated by the conversations that women have amongst [themselves].  It will give you a sneak peek into our conversations, I can say that much.  So that much will probably be interesting enough for you to check it out.

DJ Booth:  Okay, so you’d say that what takes place on the show is pretty realistic, then?

Amerie:  Some of it is definitely exaggerated, but it’s the closest thing to female locker-room talk, I guess. [laughs]

DJ Booth:  Okay.  I’ll make sure to stop by my nearest Blockbuster, pick up Season One, and then we’ll have to reconvene this conversation, let’s say eight or nine weeks after your album drops, and we’ll talk all about it.

Amerie:  Definitely, definitely.

DJ Booth:  Everybody looks forward to that, as well as the brand new album, In Love & War, out this fall.  Give everybody a website, a MySpace page, a Twitter account, so they can find out all about you.

Amerie:  My MySpace is, my Twitter is, and I do have a website called that I’m actually in the process right now of building up.  So it’s not finished yet, it’s not complete yet, everything on there is old right now, but I’m looking at different mock-ups and everything.  So that will be something to check out too, lots of information on there as well.

DJ Booth:  Wonderful!  Well, again, I thank you for takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth, and the best of luck.

Amerie:  Thanks, Z!  I appreciate the support!

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