Avant Interview

Label:MO-B Entertainment/EMI
Next Project:Avant (Q4, '08)
Twitter:Avant on Twitter
Website:Avant's Website

After releasing four successful albums and ten hit records, R&B singer Avant has left his home at Geffen Records for the greener pastures of Capitol Records.  The move will mark the third recording home for the native of Cleveland, Ohio, who started his singing career with the now-defunct Magic Johnson Music.

Following the release of his last studio album, “Director,” Avant joined the cast of the traveling musical “Love In The Nick of Tyme,” which co-stars actor Morris Chestnut.  In addition to possibly reprising his role in the play in 2008, the 29-year old will also unleash his first album off Capitol sometime next summer.

In an exclusive interview with DJBooth’s DJZ,” Avant steps inside the booth to discuss the reason behind his label swap, what non-monetary incentives make a contract worth signing, and why he turned down the opportunity to be a part of the newly-formed super-group TGT.

Listen to the Interview

    Download Download Interview (MP3)
    iTunes Subscribe to the iTunes Podcast

Avant Interview Transcription

DJ Booth:  What’s goin’ on ya’ll?  It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a singer from the Midwest city of Cleveland, Ohio, who just recently left his recording contract at Geffen Records after seven years and has opted to go with Capitol.  Please welcome my neighbor to the east, Avant – how you doin’?

Avant:  What up, man?  I’m happy to hear from you, man, and all of my fans out there.  I love you all.  What’s going down, baby?

DJ Booth:  What’s going down is that I’m hearing so much about what you have coming up in 2008, but since it’s not yet 2008 let’s recap – what have you been up to in 2007?

Avant:  I had to do the release thing from Geffen Records.  I’ve been in the play as well, with Morris Cheastnut, called “Love In the Nick of Tyme.”  [I’m] also in a movie called “First Sunday.”  Just a lot of different things goin’ on for myself and now I’m signin’ up with Capitol Records.  I’m just ready to give them all the most.

DJ Booth:  You walked away from Geffen and you signed with Capitol.  What was in the fine print that made you take this leap of faith?

Avant:  Comin’ from Geffen Records, there’s a lot of different things goin’ on.  I can’t be mad at them [because] they gave me ten hit records, but by the same token I felt that I wasn’t being used properly.  What took me so long was that I was tryin’ to get a company that was gonna focus on me.  This time I think I nailed that down.

DJ Booth:  That’s good, because a lot of artists, they sign bad contracts and unfortunately they’re forced to be there for the remainder of their contract…

Avant:  With me comin’ in, through Magic Johnson, the belief wasn’t there from MCA at first; me comin’ through a basketball superstar.  At that time there were a lot of players that had record labels and a lot of them didn’t do very well.  Magic, he definitely had a true artist, but I just never got the belief from the company to catapult me to the next level.  This time, I picked the right company that had the belief in me as an artist.  I came out in 2000 – a lot of artists came out around that period of time.  But I’m ready, I’m fresh.  It’s like a new day for me.  R&B is comin’ back really strong and I got the love ballads to show.  Definitely some hip hop vibes as well.  It’s gonna be a real good look.

DJ Booth:  Artists are usually lumped into the same discussion as actors or athletes regarding the size and substance of their contracts, so explain the difference in the contract process from that of the movie or sports business, and how much less money is offered to artists up front.

Avant:  In the music game, especially for myself, it’s a little different because I’ve already got a rapport, I’ve got records.  When you come and negotiate with me, you’ve got to come right, because I’ve already proved my point.  Capitol came right and I made that happen.  But in the movie game, it’s as whole ‘nother level.  Sure you gotta build a rapport, but it’s much more money.  I don’t know much about the basketball game, but I know that LeBron James is holdin’ it down real tough in Cleveland – he’s definitely paid a lot of money.  I don’t think in the beginning it’s about the money necessarily; it’s about proving yourself.  If you prove yourself, then you should get the paper.

DJ Booth:  Certainly.  If artists in the position you’re in were able to make whatever contract demands that they wanted, outside of monetary gain, what incentives would you include in your paperwork?  So when you’re at the table, what do you say that you want?

Avant:  I want someone to believe in me, ‘cause at the end of the day I don’t care how much up front money you get – if they don’t push your product, then it’s gonna be null and void.  What I need is someone that will look at me and he say, “Oh, he’s a superstar; I wanna give him all the different avenues.”  If it sells, I can say that I gave that to him.  For me, it’s more than money; it’s opportunity.

DJ Booth:  So you’re all about trust and respect – no need for a private jet, endless supply of Patron, or stock in Google?

Avant:  [laughter] At the end of the day, the private jet ain’t gonna get me to where I need.  Once I get there,  if they ain’t set up nothing for me, then I’m just in the city with a private jet.  As long as they settin’ up everything and makin’ everything beautiful, I’ll take the private jet and the Patron.

DJ Booth:  I couldn’t agree more.  I’ve been told that you have a new single, it’s going to be available in March, and the album’s going to follow next summer – are there tentative titles for either the single or the album?

Avant:  Right now, I don’t wanna give you too much.  Z, I see how you do.

DJ Booth:  You’ve gotta give me something.

Avant:  I’m workin’ on stuff.  I don’t know exactly what the single’s going to be.  I got a lot of good records right now…

DJ Booth:  Let’s talk about a few of them, then – come on.

Avant:  I got a record called “French Pedicure.”  It’s just talking about a woman’s toes, you know what I mean?  I got a record called, “Yes,” ‘cause that’s all I wanna hear you say!  I got a record called, “Break your Back,” you know, in a good way. [laughter]  I got a lot of different flavor on this album.  Where I’m tryin’ to go with this album is to cater to what my people want me to do; definitely tryin’ to bring that sexy vibe back to a lot of my listeners.

DJ Booth:  It’s interesting you said you bring that “sexy vibe,” because I was gonna say: each of your previous four albums have shown not only maturation, but, as one of my ex-girlfriends would like to say, “Allowed people to get their grown and sexy on.”  So, is this project going to be any different from the four previous?

Avant:  I wouldn’t say a lot different, but it’s definitely gonna be different.  I hate that you had to quote your ex-girlfriend – that sounds kinda horrible – but I have to stay consistent on what my people like.  First off; you don’t wanna lose your fan base.  You wanna gain more.  But dealin’ with a new producer from Baltimore, it’s definitely a plus, because he gives me a whole different vibe of writing.  Just keep your ears open – that’s what I’m tellin’ all my fans.  Babies out there, all my homies: y’all keep your ears open, ‘cause your man’s comin’ with some fire, baby!

DJ Booth:  You mentioned earlier, you also are part of the cast for David E. Talbert’s musical, “Love in the Nick of Tyme.”  First question, how did you get the role?  Second, because you’re willing to reenact this role in ‘08, how is you time going to be spread?

Avant:  Basically, I was on down time, gettin’ released from the label and also shoppin’, tryin’ to find another label.  I didn’t want to just sit, you know what I mean?  I wanted to be workin’.  I hooked up with my man, Dave E. Talbert, and it was a beautiful situation.  He was like, “Yo, I got Morris Chestnut that’s going to be in this play as well.”  The play had so many flavors to it.  I came from the Cleveland School of Arts, so I was kinda familiar with some of the stuff that goes on, but this was my first play.  I didn’t want it to be the normal play; I didn’t wanna play that cat that was in love with the girl, but then I do her bad.  So I played the opposite of that dude – I played somebody who comes in the salon, he’s pro-black, his whole thing is peace and blessings.  I sold my man, David E, on that, so he allowed me to expand on the character.  A lot of the stuff that you might see in the play, I had a lot to do with.

DJ Booth:  And you’re going to be reenacting your role in the play this year?

Avant:  They want me to, and it might be a good look for me; a lot of people didn’t get to see the play.  We were out for six months, and then they actually all wanted to come back and do it again.  I’m gonna keep everybody on the wing of the plane – I don’t know.

DJ Booth:  Let’s say you choose to come back.  With that and the heavy promotional work that goes into releasing an album, would you be worried that you’d be taking on too much at one time?

Avant:  No.  I’m a hard worker – that’s what I love to do.  More than likely, I will come back, ‘cause I did enjoy the play and the crew.  I love the entertainment game; I love to make people cry, I love to make people laugh.  I love to just be around people in general.  It won’t be in the way, because it can’t do nothing but help you promote your album as well.  I will be the start of a lot of cats tryin’ to multi-task.

DJ Booth:  You’re set to also go on tour with the recently-formed super group, TGT, which includes Tyrese, Ginuwine, and Tank.  If you could form a formidable singing trio, who would you choose to complete your group?

Avant:  Whoa, I don’t know!  There’s a lot of cats I hear with talent, doin’ their thing right now, but I don’t think I’d wanna be in a group because everybody’s got their own head, and I got my own issues, you know what I mean?  We shouldn’t have to bump heads with our situation.  Ask my man G, for real, ‘cause me and Ginuwine, he came to me with the idea of me bein’ in that group, and I turned it down, ‘cause I felt it’s a lot.  Not sayin’ that I’ll be the problem.  But when we bump heads, we don’t need to be on stage disagreein’ on stuff like that.  I just felt like it was best for me not to even try.  But big ups to them, because I know they’re very talented and I know they can bring across some good music.  As a matter of fact, I’m tryin’ to work on some joints for ‘em right now, you dig?

DJ Booth:  I’ve got to be honest with you; I was doing some research and I was thinking, what group would I like to see you a part of?  I came up with this: You, Babyface, and R. Kelly.  Since you hail from Cleveland, Babyface is from Indiana and Kells is from my hometown of Chicago, your group could be “BAR,” and your first LP can be called, “It’s Cold in the Wintertime, Baby.”  What do you think?

Avant:  [laughter] You’re creative, I can tell you that!  At the end of the day, I would definitely tell everybody that Z is very creative.

DJ Booth:  Do you think that you could see yourself working with Babyface or R. Kelly?

Avant:  Definitely, I can work with anybody.  It all depends on if they’re ready to work with me.  You’re very creative, though.

DJ Booth:  Well, thank you.  If about a year from now I hear that you guys are really gonna start up “BAR,” and the first LP is “It’s Cold in the Wintertime, Baby,” I’m gonna call you and demand fifteen percent.

Avant:  I feel you, my man!  It would definitely be a mega joint.  You got three writers in the room that do what they do to bring across hit records.  So it would definitely be something crazy.

DJ Booth:  You mentioned earlier in our interview, your debut album dropped in 2000.  We’re less than a month away from 2008 – so you’ve been doin’ this for a long time.  In the eight years since you’ve been full-force in the music industry, what is one thing that bothers you the most?

Avant:  Oh, man, a lot of the time people that have nothing to do with music try to critique your work, and they have no idea what’s goin’ on in your life and why you wrote certain songs.  That’s the only thing that really bothers me, ‘cause I have a fan base that requests these types of songs.  The only people that tour and do it well really can understand what the fan base really wants from you.

DJ Booth:  Understandable.  Same question, but flip it around: in eight years, what is one thing that every day when you wake up has made you want to come back to doing this?

Avant:  It’s definitely bein’ out on tour, and seein’ the reaction of people and how they love your songs.  When all I do is walk around and come up with this stuff in my head, and then put it down on paper and then you go in the studio and drop it, and then all of a sudden millions of fans are like, “Oh, I love that joint, man – how did you come up with that?” I find it kinda neat that people ask questions about it!

DJ Booth:  Well, you’re certainly and always have been in a unique position to do big things and influence big groups of people.  Avant, give everybody your website or your Myspace page so they can find out more about this upcoming project you have dropping next year.

Avant:  Yeah, just hit me up on avant.com, baby, and you can find a lot of information about what’s goin’ on with me. 

DJ Booth:  I appreciate your time and thank you for joining me inside the DJ Booth, and I wish you nothing but the best of luck this upcoming year.

Avant:  Yo, good looking.  Everybody out there, keep your love up for my man Z, ‘cause he’s doin’ it real heavy, all right?

Best of DJBooth