Recently, BE Entertained Magazine got to pick the brain of one of the most phenomenal talents in the music industry, Miss Kelly Price. It was not only an honor to converse with such an icon, but also a pleasure to experience her warmth and grace and to hear, first hand, her concepts of how she sees the world and the industry and how she fits into them. Her humor and humility are surly what have landed her such an illustrious career filled with growth and longevity. Kelly Price is truly a jewel, beautiful and precious in every way.
BE Magazine: Five albums into the game, can you tell us how the process has differed from one to the next?
Kelly Price: You know what; it literally has been an evolution, even though I have my own personal process when it comes to making music, there actually were different teams of people that I worked with in terms of executives, just about every single time I did a project because the people behind the desk are ever changing. I’ve watched the industry change, I myself have changed; and because I’m not just a singer, but also a song writer, what I record reflects whatever is going on with me, so that’s probably been the greatest change that I’ve watched take place. Even though there has been a consistency in the type of music that I record, the biggest change throughout the five albums is Kelly herself. Like you said we’re five albums in, but it’s been 12 years since the first album came out, it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, but it has, and 12 years makes a big difference in a person. I’m 12 years older, hopefully I’m 12 years wiser at least, (jokingly) it would be great to be 25 years wiser ‘cause you don’t ever want to turn away wisdom when you can get it. I look at myself and I’m so not the Kelly that I was 12 years ago, and I’m grateful for that for many reasons. You want to grow, you want to get better, and you want to do more. I feel like I’m a better song writer today than I was 12 years ago. I feel like, although the ability that I have today was inside of me 12 years ago there was some more life that had to be lived in order for me to express what I express today, not just thematically, in the music, but I feel like there’s a place inside of a real singer where the emotion comes from. Anybody can just sing a song, but I liken it to when I listen to artists that start off as kids who do their first record when their 12 or 13 or 14 years old, you can tell the shift. They get a couple of albums in, you can tell when they’ve had their first kiss, you know when they’ve stepped off into womanhood or manhood. You can tell, it’s not just about what they’re saying in their songs, but what they’re emoting when they’re singing. For me, I feel that, I can put out some things emotionally when I sing today that I absolutely couldn’t do 12 yrs ago, be it by experiences that I’ve had or learning how to process the one’s that I had back then; I couldn’t process them then, but now I can.
BEMag: You’ve worked with about every big name that the public loves to hear, from R. Kelly to Ron Isley to Whitney and Mariah. How has it been working with so many prominent people?
KellyP: Amazing…amazing…amazing! I am just as much a fan as I am a recording artist. I love that I am a fan I have high expectations of the people that I listen to. I want them to wow me and overwhelm me; I still want to feel that. Even though, I work alongside of them now, it’s been an amazing thing to have started out in the background and singing and working in the studio. Literally each one of those people I started out in the background with, whether I was writing for them, singing background for them, or working doing arrangements. The first day that I met Ron Isley I was his vocal producer, which was the craziest most surreal thing in the world. I was working out of Daddy’s House Studios, which are the Bad Boy Studios, and Puffy was working on the song “Floating On Your Love” for Ronald Isley. He said “I need you to write this remix for me” and I’m like “ok, no problem”, I got it done and I’m walking out the door and he’s like “you got to cut this song on him” and I’m like “I can’t cut no song on Ronald Isley.” (laughing) He looked at me and he said “you have to ‘cause I’m not a singer, so you have to go in here with him ‘cause when he needs to have certain things explained you can explain it” and that was an incredible honor, first of all, to know that he trusted me that much. It was the most amazing thing, and situations just like that have happened, that’s how I’ve stepped into certain situations just kind of being ready and willing to step up to the plate no matter how nervous I was on the inside, no was not an option. I always give this speech “this is what you said you wanted to do, do it!” It’s incredible, the most incredible part to me is the respect that I’ve received from people that I’ve looked at and respected my whole life, to have them say to me “you’re one of the best that’s ever done it”. Ron Isley would look at me in my face and tell me “your name is going on the list” he said this to me almost immediately after we met. He said “when they call the list of greats years from now your name will be on that list. When they talk about Aretha they will talk about you when they talk about Gladys they will talk about you.” I would just sit there, eyes all watery, just looking nuts. I couldn’t believe that this man was saying this to me; that’s been the most incredible part, to be among an elite group of singers and musicians and trailblazers who look at what I do and say to me “What I do is what you do, you do what I do” “you remind me of me when I was your age” and “that’s how it was when I was your age” and “you’re going to be around a long time”. That says a lot because fads come in, fads go out, and the music industry evolves, things happen, people change, and people like Ron Isley are still here and that says that they know something that a lot of people don’t.
BEMag: How has it been to watch your family grow over the course of your career?
KellyP: Very scary, very surreal. You ask that question, and it’s so funny, my son is in the other room packing, he’s moving out for college, I have watched the time fly by. I have markers of my career that I mark by my children’s age and the stage in life they were. The night of my first album release party at “Tattoo” in New York was the night before my son’s 6th birthday and I remember having my kids there with me and I did a performance and after doing press we bought out a huge birthday cake and celebrated my son’s birthday with my album release. He was six, and he’s now on his way to college, and it’s been extremely emotional, it’s a part of that thing when I say that 12 years ago I couldn’t sing a song like I sing today. The technical ability was there but the experience of life that would need to be there to put it out there into the wind, the energy and emotion would not have been there. Life; I try not to be general because I know that people want answers, but who I am is a result of life, and that’s as honest as I can be, it’s literally been life and living it. I want people to know that when I come off the stage and I’m back in a pair of sweats, or a tank top and some sneakers, or some Timberlands and some Jeans, I go home and do what every working mother does. I yell at my kids when they leave dishes in the sink. I have a life, at home, that I’ve chose to be, a normal, regular, for as much as it can be, everyday life, and not allow what this industry can do to people to filter into my home, as much as possible. I need to know that when I’m at home, that Kelly Price crap doesn’t work here. I’m Mom, as a matter of fact, I’m Mommy, (jokingly) I don’t even have a name. You don’t even know my name. I told my son ‘cause he turned 18 a couple weeks ago, and he was joking, he said “Kelly” I said “my name is ‘Mommy’.” (laughing) That’s that good stuff that kept us from going off the deep end, you know, even when we tried it we wouldn’t go too far.
BEMag: Speaking about transitions, we’ve seen you go from someone who wouldn’t traditionally think they would have a career in entertainment, to slimming down and being a poster child for being a different kind of beautiful, as you were always beautiful, how does it feel?
KellyP: I think I’m more under the microscope than I was then because then it was “let’s see if the ‘big girl’ does it”, and I did it. Then when I started to lose weight, everyone wanted to think that it was the pressure of the industry forcing me to do it or that my career was at stack; that was, actually, the last thing that I was concerned about because once you show people that you can do it. They said it was never supposed to happen. [Actually] The health scare with my mother in law and losing my mother in law to breast cancer opened my eyes, and again growing up and realizing what a gift it was being able to use what came natural to me and work in this field, and live life better than I’ve ever lived before; to have this golden opportunity and throw it away because I couldn’t discipline myself to live a better quality of life. For me it’s never been about being skinny, by all standards, in the industry, I am still too big. I still hear it, and I have to let it roll right off of my back because it gets frustrating. I live, depending on how disciplined I am, I live between a size 14 and a size 16. Depending on who’s doing the interview they’ll decide whether or not “she’s too big”. What I am is, healthy enough to run up a flight of stairs and not feel like I’m about to have a heart attack when I get to the landing and that is good enough for me. I don’t have diabetes, I don’t have hypertension, and I don’t have high blood pressure. When I go for my annual every year they say the same thing “you are in great health.” And, of course, when they look at the European scale they say “well you could stand to lose 50 lbs.” and I look at them and I smile and say to myself “I am still 100 lbs. lighter than I was before.” As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not telling me that losing 50 or 60 lbs is going to be the difference between me having diabetes, high blood pressure, or having a heart attack or any of these other obesity related diseases, I’m good.
BEMag: I know that you’ve been acting, writing, and you definitely have a new banger and female anthem with “Tired”, but can you tell us where you’re taking the Kelly Price movement?
KellyP: While tapering down the promotion of the gospel album, and the book that I wrote and released around the time that I did the album, I’ve written a couple books. I’ve written a few manuscripts. When people ask me what do you do for a living or I have to fill out what I do. I always say, first and foremost, I am a writer. I love to write. I have notebooks full of stuff. I have folders filled with ideas, manuscripts, books, more than one book that is already written. I wrote a story about my life, I’ve started working on a fictional series that is loosely based on my own life, there’s a lot it’s just all about timing; deciding when the time is right to let certain things out and put certain things out. I relocated to the west coast because really if you want to do it “like that” you have to either be in New York or in LA. I grew up in New York, and I didn’t want to go back home, so I decided that California was the place that I needed to be if I wanted to go hard in pursuing the writer thing as far as manuscripts and those sorts of things and being in on the screen not just as a singer, but doing acting more. Music, for me, will always be here, I need to branch out more to have my music used for scores and television commercials. I feel like showing the half I haven’t been able to show or tell the half that God has given me, in terms of creativity, and I want to maximize that. I want for people for the next five years to think, every time they look up, “dang she does that too?” Yes I do. (laughing) I’m ready, I’m like a loaded canon, I’m ready to start firing off these balls, and letting them hit and just obliterate everything in the path. I’m so ready to go, but I’m excited and it begins, the new journey begins with “Kelly” the album “Tired” the single. I feel like you can’t make a change or anything until you get tired enough to do it. First we say we’re tired. For everyone who say “oh you’re perpetuating all this negativity, “no I’m not”. You got to say “stop”, then you got to stop, and then you got to go do something different, but if you don’t ever recognize that there is an issue to begin with than you just keep going over the same old issue, so get tired enough and then move on to the next thing. This album is definitely a journey, we started with tired, we addressed certain things specifically in other songs, and then we talk about getting up, keeping it moving, and not stopping. We got some upbeat “club bangers” on there too, by the time you’re finished being tired and talking about each one of your issues it’s time to say (singing) “come on, get movin’, and you don’t stop.” That’s where we’re at with it, so I’m ready to go. I’m ready to take anybody who’s ready to go with me, (jokingly) so strap up your sandals old school disciple style, put on a loose robe and some sandals so when we get through the desert you don’t be too hot and pass out, just let’s roll. That’s where we at. (laughing)
BEMag: Last question, I would be remised if I didn’t ask “what’s up with the Queen Project with Tamia and Deborah Cox we got a small taste of it and it was amazing?
KellyP: (excited) Didn’t it sound good?! We knew that the eyes of the world were watching, and we wanted to make sure that we put our best foot forward. We went in with a limited time window and unfortunately we missed our window of time, and I say unfortunately and I mean unfortunately we missed our window of time because we finished the record. The album is done; I have 12 songs recorded by Kelly Price, Tamia, and Deborah Cox sitting on my computer right now. When we started the project I was already more than 80% done with this album, my own album, when Shep Crawford approached me about doing the project, so I shelved my project to be a part of the “Queen Project”. Deborah had just signed her contract for Broadway, which her obligation for Broadway picks up this fall and it is an, if I’m not mistaken, 17 month or 2 year contract. Between her Broadway obligation and me going back to Warren Campbell who I partnered with for this project and saying “listen, this Queen’s Project is something that seems really interesting and if you’re ok we’ve partnered with this project so maybe we should put my record on hold, which we did, and we got the music done, but the most difficult part was trying to merge three different worlds into one. There was no way of having a project like that without having one complete entity. The old people that I know would say “anything with more than one head is deformed”, so bringing the whole thing together seemed to be a little more of a challenge. That’s not even about the ladies so much as we’ve gotten together and recorded this music, and now you’ve got 3 manager, you’ve got 3 entourages, you’ve got 3 lawyers or sets of lawyers, you’ve got 3 sets of everything, 3 different schedules, and we all have kids that range in age from 2 to 18, among the 3 of us we have 7 children, so it’s not like they’re even on the same schedule. (jokingly) It’s not like we can say “they’re all going down for a nap at 3, let’s jump on the horn and do a conference call.” So it proved itself, from that end, to be more difficult. Getting the music done was a no brainer, and the music was absolutely incredible, so if there’s not a “Queen Project” today or tomorrow, know and tell yourself that there are 12 songs somewhere sitting in a computer. (laughing)
BEMag: (jokingly) That needs to BE heard! (laughing)
KellyP: That needs to BE heard, and mayBE one day we will BE able to make that happen. The one thing that I will say is that when you talk about producers like Shep Crawford and Warren Campbell, who are the only two producers that we worked with, and you talk about voices like Tamia and Deborah Cox, and I’m in there with them, it’s timeless. So you know, fingers, toes crossed, and all that good stuff.
BEMag: You can Follow Kelly Price on Twitter @KellyPrice4Real
CHECK OUT SOME OF KELLY’S HITS FROM THE PAST:
KELLY PRICE TIDBITS:
1998- ‘Soul of a Woman’ – 2 x’s Platinum
2000 – ‘Mirror Mirror’ – Platinum
2003 – ‘One Family- A Christmas Album’ – Gold
2003- ‘Priceless’ – Gold
2006- ‘This Is Who I Am’ – Gold #1 Gospel Album in the World
‘Inscriptions of My Heart’ – 2005
Tyler Perry’s ‘Why Did I Get Married’ – stage play – Sheila
HBO “Soul Food – Cameo
“Bringing Down the House’ – Cameo