You’re saying it wasn’t right for the market?
Songs like “Energy” take a lot longer [to build up buzz]. Unfortunately, labels like their returns quickly. They believe in “right now,” in tempos and things that can move up the charts quickly.

So what type of artist do you want to become?
If you look at my iTunes, there’s a lot of R&B and a lot less hip-hop. Even though I love it! I’m born and raised in Georgia, so I have a lot of appreciation for hip-hop, but I want to be able to show the emotional side of me.

 

Kanye or Wayne would never touch my ass offstage, I’ll tell you that much.

 

But you grew up on soul.me: want or wanted?
My dad used to sing in a quartet. He loved everything: adult contemporary, anything smooth. He’d listen to the quartets. My musical influences, without a doubt, come from my dad. No one really pursued music, though. I’m the first. I’m the black sheep. I did go to college—I had to. But I didn’t take business or political science or anything.

How long were you there for?
Three years, up to my junior year. Emory University. Theater.

That seems like it suits you.
Yeah, it’s creative, and it was something I grew up doing, that I figured I was as good as anyone else at.

Were you writing at the time for people?
Oh, yeah. I was writing right after high school. When I graduated is when I started placing my credits.

Wow, so you were in college, cashing checks?
My very first check was for Ruben Studdard’s first album, like $25,000. And my family was like, “What the hell is this? This is what you’ve been doing? Who the hell brings home a check like this?” They’re thinking $2,500 here and there, whatever. It was crazy.

Did you blow it?
No! I’m very frugal. Very.

What’s the last thing you bought?
Some stuff from Wal-Mart for the bus, I guess.

[Laughs.]
I’m serious!

You grew up fairly well-off, right?
Yeah, pretty well-off. Middle-class. All-black neighborhood.

Most R&B singers come into the game like, “Yeah, I’m hood.” Like, “I’m representing all the black women in the hood who have a story to tell.” You don’t exactly embody that.
I do! Because I was in, and of, and around it. I lived in Decatur, Georgia. You’re not far from the hood anywhere in Decatur, Georgia. My parents placed a huge importance on education, though, and that’s where I come from. I mean, my parents’ parents and their parents, they’re not rich by any means. My parents worked very hard and they instilled that in us. Even though we were around the hood, we didn’t go to school in the hood. They shipped us off for an hour to get to school every day. It was just that important for us to maintain the life that they had created.

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