Hey, how are you?
Are you getting ready for Christmas?
Uh. Sort of, but not really. I’m not ready for anything right now.
So, they have you doing press this week. No Christmas time off?
Yeah, I’ve been doing press relentlessly.
How was Europe?
Exhausting. I was doing a bunch of press and the whole shabang. (laughs) It was good and productive.
I tried catching up with you last week but you disappeared doing the Chris Rock show.
Oh, yeah, I know.
When is it going to air?
It aired three times already.
Really. I’m glad someone told me about it. (sarcastically)
Don’t feel bad. I missed it too. (laughs)
Well, since I didn’t see the Chris Rock show, was it you and a group or were you doing it alone?
It was just me and my dancers.
I heard you were going to put together a band. Have you done that yet or is it still in the works?
I’m in the midst of doing that now, yeah. We start going on tour in February.
Is it going to be the whole ensemble: guitar, bass, keys, and drummer?
I have two keyboards, bass. I wasn’t going to get a guitar player, but I have one now and a drummer, but it’s going to be an all girl band.
What inspires you to write songs?
From regular situations and life, but honestly it really depends on the mood that I’m in. I always have music going through my head, but I don’t always feel like writing.
Do you have a melody that runs through your head or do you write poems?
It’s more of a feeling.
How did you hook up with your producers, the Neptunes?
One of my best friends, Courtney, introduced me to a girl who lived around the way and who was working with them at the time, and we hooked up that way. I went down to the studio one day and we just clicked.
Did you write in the studio or did you bring material in?
That day when I met them?
No, later on? (laughs)
Oh. (laughs) No, we all did it together.
Did the process in the studio come naturally or was it a lot more work than you thought it’d be?
Singing comes easy to me, but recording is another story. I’m more of a live performer. Recording was something new to me, so I had to get in the swing of that.
When did you wrap the album up?
It has actually been done for a really long time. (laughs) It hasn’t been a year, but we started January 3rd of ’99 and we finished at the end of February.
Does it feel weird sitting on a record that long?
Yes, actually. It’s like you have lived with the music for a while and I’m ready to start my next album. It’s crazy.
It’s always weird to me that an artist will have an album done for a year and it just gets released.
Yeah, I know. You just kind of live with it and do what you can with it.
Music isn’t something new to you; the bio says you played violin since you were little. Do you still play?
I can, but I haven’t.
Do you play anything else?
I played saxophone for like four years.
Did having a background in music help in the studio.
Well, I wasn’t really thinking about that. I played violin for fourteen years, so I wasn’t trying to do that. (laughs) I can do that anytime.
So you more or less just went in and sang?
(laughs) Yeah, something like that. It would have been nice if it was that simple.
Were there some things that you didn’t expect when you went into the studio?
It’s hard to explain, but you are really laying something down on wax and it’s permanent. It does all kinds of things to the mind. It got to the point where it was almost done and we were mixing it and I was going crazy. I was like, ‘Let’s change this,’ and ‘Let’s change that.’ Your ears start to get warped for a minute and you just have to step away from it. You start to hear shit different. It’s crazy. You just have to step away from it. You don’t realize what it’s like hearing yourself played back over and over again. You just want to go back and do it over and over again.
Were there things about being signed to a record label that you never expected you’d have to do, like all the press?
It is insane. All of this is really something you know happens, but you just don’t know the extent to which it happens. It is a lot. You see the benefits, but it’s a twenty-four hour a day job.
I know, because every time I do an interview there is always someone right behind me waiting to be next.
Listen, always. (laughs, speaking slowly with emphasis) Always. (laughs)
I always hear people who want to be artists and they are like, ‘It’d be so great to be signed,’ but they fail to realize that you don’t just jump on stage sing and hang out at MTV. There’s a hell of a lot more than that.
You are only on stage thirty-five percent of the time, and the rest of the time you are politicking, and then you are trying to convince people who you’d never talk to any other time how great your record is. It’s just insane. It’s a lot of work. (laughs)
Then the publicists, managers, lawyers. I think people forget it’s a business.
Does it bother you that all these articles coming out about you are based on one song, “Caught Out There”, and how angry it is?
No, because I realize that it’s not going to last, ya know? You can’t just talk about that one song. I have thirteen other songs.
I know, because my favorites are “Ghetto Children” and “Suspended”.
Really. Thank you.
I think they are trying to do the same thing to you as they did to Alanis, so I guess once someone actually realizes there is so much more to you than one song, you’ll happen just like Alanis did.
Exactly. I mean, one song doesn’t set a whole platform for who you are.
I think people just latch onto one song.
I know. That is why you’ve gotta keep hitting them with new things. I’m not mundane and my life isn’t, so it wouldn’t be like me to release something like I just did.
How much has becoming a recording artist changed your life?
(pauses) It depends. People around me behave differently. I am happier because I’m doing what I want to do. It is very give and take with everything. There are really great things and there are the other things. Then there is a lot of shit that just comes with the territory. It’s a job and I realize that, but I love my work.
That’s always good.
(laughs) It is, it really is.
A lot of readers always want advice about becoming an artist. What would you tell someone if they asked?
I hate those kinds of questions because I don’t know what to say. I really don’t have an answer and I wish I did. I think what is meant for you, just put yourself in that place. I don’t have a ‘Step one, you do this, and step two, you do that.’ I don’t live my life like that so I can’t tell someone else to.
Have you made plans for the next single and video?
Yeah, it’s going to be “Get Along With You”. I’m doing the video in January.
What is the street date?
It’s going to be out on Valentine’s Day.
Cool. Have you even thought of or written any new music?
I haven’t had time. I have been working on stuff, but it’s nothing really crazy. I’m doing stuff with a French producer right now. He’s like a DJ and producer, and I’m doing stuff with Nerd. Little things, only because I’m just so busy with all my own stuff.
What are the tour plans? Have you been doing radio shows?
I’ve been doing tons of radio shows. I don’t want to hear another thing about a radio show, okay? (laughs) I’ve done a million radio shows and I’m pretty much done. I’m going to do some spot dates until I live for a European tour in January, and then I have a thirty city tour in the states.
So that will be a band tour?
So when are you going to take time off for the holiday?
Probably the 24th.
Sounds like us here. What are your New Year’s plans?
You know what? I’m so irritated about that. My friend fucked that all up. I don’t even want to talk about it. She just totally fucked it up.
Are you just going to stay in New York?
I just don’t want to talk about it, okay? It’s just totally fucked up. (laughs) You just can’t leave plan making in someone else’s hands. I wasn’t even supposed to be here.
Well, I really appreciate the time.
And enjoy your holidays.
Thanks a lot, really, and you have a great holiday too. You have a good time.
I’ll be home. I’m not going out. I’m afraid everyone is just going to get stupid on New Year’s.
That is the best bet, really, but that is exactly what I said. I think if anything goes wrong it is going to be because of stupidity, not because of any earth shattering thing. I think it’ll just be a bunch of idiots acting like it’s the end of the world.
It’ll be a bunch of idiots running free.
I don’t want to deal with that.
Oh, God, I know.
And I have people saying, ‘You’ve gotta be in New York City for New Year’s,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, right.’
That’s the last place you want to be. Where are you from?
Well, I’m from Harlem, so you know. I was supposed to be going to an island somewhere to chill, but I don’t know.
Well that would have been fun; at least you wouldn’t have to deal with snow.
Oh please, don’t talk about snow. Damn you for saying that. (laughs)
I know we’ll get our share.
Listen, I hate snow. Snow in New York is just filth. Filth. Have you seen snow in the city?
Nope. I usually only come during the warm times.
Oh my God. Just imagine two seconds and then voom, a taxicab goes right over it, and then a million others go over it and it’s like dirt. It’s just filth within seconds. Then the whole city is just gray and slushy.
It’s actually quite beautiful upstate when it snows. I don’t want to rub it in.
Oh sure, thanks. I’m glad to hear it. (laughs)
+ charlie craine