Alicia Keys


Backstage interview with Alicia Keys

Soul Train: First of all, Alicia, how would you describe your sound?

Alicia Keys: Well, I would say that it's very soulful. It's a mixture of a lot of different sounds. I'm a classically trained pianist, so it has a classical zone in it. It has blues, jazz, R&B, hip-hop. It's a fusion of everything that I am, which is a lot.

ST: Who influenced you musically when you were growing up?

Alicia Keys: Everybody from Beethoven, Chopin, Donny Hathaway, Nina Simone, Biggie, Jay-Z, Tupac, Miles Davis -- all across the spectrum.

ST: Who are some of your favorite present-day artists?

Alicia Keys: Favorite present-days are Mary J., Erykah Badu, R. Kelly. I love a lot of artists -- Jill Scott, she's doin' her thing. A lot, a lot of 'em are really doing they thing.

ST: And your debut album is out in April, correct?

Alicia Keys: Actually, May 22 --

ST: May 22.

Alicia Keys: -- is going to be the official date, so look out for that.

ST: OK. And what's the title?

Alicia Keys: It's called "Songs in A Minor."

ST: And what's the first single, and when does it drop?

Alicia Keys: First single is a blazin' joint called "Fallin' ", and that should be out in April, the middle of April.

ST: Are you touring, or do you have plans to tour?

Alicia Keys: [Getting makeup applied] Sorry for actin' all girlie and stuff on the show, but [laughing]! Absolutely. That's what I'm based in, you know? My live show is a lot of fun. That's where my heart is, so we're doing a lot of shows in New York March 15. It's gonna be one March 29 we're going to be in London. You know, we're gonna be all over the world definitely. The live shows and the tour is gonna be all over the place.

ST: Any other projects you want to mention?

Alicia Keys: Well, just look out for Alicia Keys, Crucial Keys, the whole J Records, just comin' for you.

ST: And how about a hello for

Alicia Keys: What's the deal, How you doin'? Thanks for comin' through to see me.

ST: All right. Thanks a lot.


Interview: Alicia Keys

The Grammy winning RnB Diva was finally in Hong Kong! The mega debut ‘Fallin’’ made Alicia Keys the hottest singer-songwriter of her time. Seeing how she pushed the limits in ‘Diary Of Alicia Keys’, she is proving that she does not just sit in front of the piano and sing, she can dance, she can hype the crowd, she can do it all! As we here in Hong Kong have been catching up on her latest rumored romance with Usher, we bring you back to how she writes her diary and who she really is.
Alyson: Alicia, Alicia! You have no idea of how long I’ve been waiting for this moment, to see you in person!

Alicia: Thank you! Me too!

Alyson: You’re magnificent out there at the show. And I know that you were in Beijing, China, performing at the Great Wall… so how has the whole China, including Hong Kong, experience been?

Alicia: It’s unreal! And when I say it’s unreal, it’s really unreal! I just look around and I just can’t believe I’m here! I wake up in the morning and I look out the window, and I can’t believe I’m here, I’m like, “What are you doing here, Alicia? How did you get here? How did this happen??” So I just feel very excited and I feel really happy, and proud, and just to experience… first hand… places that I’ve only dreamed about, or heard about or read about, or learned about through other people’s words… to see it from my own eyes, it’s really really special, so I love it. I’m really happy.

Alyson: So did you get the learn any Chinese?

Alicia: They try to… (LOL) They try to make me say… they try to get me to say a couple of words! So far I only know “Ni Hao!” (“Hello” in Mandarin). Well I’m not so good at “Thank You”, I keep messing it up! “Sin sin”? “Sie Sie”!! (LOL) But when they get me in a room, and had me do these Ids for television, they’ll have me say it. I think I’m alright, I’m pretty good, if someone else says it first, I do pretty well. I’m gonna learn more though!

Was the Phil Collins song before the show intentional?

Alicia: Very intentional! Infact, when we were first starting the tour back in America, there was a… you know sometimes you run into funny energies… when you’re meeting the people, and you know you’re walking into a brand new situation everyday. You have your own team, but sometimes, you run into some strange people so… We were touring in America, and there’s a funny… just a very BAD vibe, it was like really bad! And I started singing, “I can feel it, calling in the air…” I said we need that song! We need that song! I need to hear that song everyday! I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life, and that all that matters, is this show, and nothing else! And that’s why I play that song. And when I was in Europe, we did a show with Phil Collins. He was on after. And we asked him if it was okay if we play that song, and he said “Yes”. So it’s all good!

New materials on the way?

Alicia: Funny enough, today I was in my dressing room, and I was… I’ve been messing around with this melody for a while, but today was the day when I came up with the music for it. So I was in my room, playing the different ways that I wanted it to go. So I think I’m gonna go home and work on that tonight. So that all happened here. I’m glad that I bring my studio with me. I travel with it, and I set it up, and record, and put it away and then go to the next city!

While writing your new music…

Alicia: I was speaking to Stevie Wonder one day, it was before we got together and performed together on MTV Music Awards. It was so cool to speak to him because he’s been in this for so long, and to speak to somebody who has experience and had been there before, when I’m just learning and figuring it out, and he said to me, “Just take your time. Just live your life and take your time. You don’t have to rush.” And you forget! Coz there’s so much going on, and you just wanna try and get things going. We forget to just take your time. So that’s what I think is the best way.

You’re gonna do a movie soon! How’s that like?

Alicia: It’s a lot like music to me! Because it’s very… you try to find the most honest part of you, as related to what you’re trying to betray to people. And I feel like that’s what I wanna do. And I act the way that I… the same way that I wanna do in music, and really making emotion to come across. That’s definitely the same affect that I wanna have on film. That’s why I haven’t been rushing to do anything, I wanna take it slow, and when it’s right, it’s right. However long it takes. I want to be fantastic, and it will be.


Alicia Keys chat

As one of the artists providing exclusive content to iTunes, Alicia Keys showed her support for the launch into the UK, Germany and France, by giving a surprise performance at the invite-only media event on June 15th 2004.

The intimate performance, in front of only a couple of hundred press and guests,kicked off with a bit of fun and a tribute to the late great Ray Charles, with Alicia singing "You know the night time is the right time.... to listen to iTunes." She followed this with a taster of an exclusive version of the gorgeously powerful and spine-tingling, 'If I Ain’t Got You' that she's placed on iTunes "and nowhere else".

But an up close and personal performance by the one and only AK would not be complete without a pitch-perfect crowd-pleasing, lump-in-throat-generating finale of 'I Keep On Fallin'which was, of course, outstanding, with the cosy setting contrasting delightfully with the sheer power and soul of her voice, showing off the incredible talent that makes Alicia Keys stand out from the rest.

We caught up with Alicia to find out her thoughts on iTunes, piracy and record shops.

Naturally, the first topic that comes up when discussing the paid legal music download option is illegal downloads, and whether, with all the free music available, those people downloading free music will use paid for services such as iTunes. The selling point is quality.

"I think people will pay and are paying for quality - for what is good and what they really love," says Alicia. "I think when an album is cohesive and it comes together, you want to hear that whole album, the whole vibe, you don't want to hear just one song, you want to hear what made that person get to that song and where they are going from there. So for great albums it's going to work."

"And that's good, because it puts you under pressure to come up with a great album, and will stop albums being released with only a few good songs on them."

"I like music because... it makes you feel! Alicia Keys

Alicia went on to suggest the irony of the fact that, the raw deal consumers have received from record companies in the past actually created piracy and has meant a lack of sympathy when those same record companies lose out.

"Many times the consumer is treated like an unknowing person, like they don't deserve to get quality thing, and it's like,'as long as there's a couple of good songs on there who cares?," comments Alicia, shaking her head. "But we're not idiots. We want good music and we want to hear a whole album packed with good music, and we don't want to pay $17 and hear crap, so I think, in a lot of ways, it's that which started the whole piracy thing, because people had been taken advantage of."

Piracy is, indeed, an issue for artists such as Alicia who, on one hand can sympathise with the vengeful consumer, but on the other hand thinks consumers take the paid donwload option to support their favourite artists.

"Piracy is a big problem, which has developed into something that can really take away an artists ability to create music. Eventually, if it continues, I feel like it would end up with some of our favourite artists and people we like the most being unable to create music, because it's being virtually stolen," she says.

But Alicia thinks that good quality legal download services will go some way to reducing illegal download figures.

"iTunes I think helps to combat the problem by making it so easy to get the music you want, while still supporting your artists as well," smiles Alicia.

Clearly it's a win-win, although record companies have been reluctant to join iTunes and other download services.

"I think that's because they fear change," says Alicia. "But in actuality it becomes more fair for the consumer and enables everybody to get involved. So it's a good change."

So why did Alicia pick iTunes and not any of the other legal download services?

"iTunes has been put together with a lot of thought, and has been put together with the intention to really allow the consumer to get the most from their dollar and expose them to different styles of music. There's a lot of download music sites, but they're not all good, and aren't all reliable, and if there's one that cares about what they're doing and cares about quality, it's this one. And with the different features available, that makes it even more exciting."

"What I like about iTunes, for me, is the way I can go back and listen to the tunes that I love. And I like that you can get exclusive things on it that you won't really find anywhere else." An example of which Alicia performed to the suits in the audience at the launch event.

Now, with all this talk of downloading and computers, what about the humble record shop. Will downloading music at home ever fully replace going into a record store and having a good wander round?

"Not for me," Alicia declares. "I like being able to go to a record store and check things out, look for that one you really can't find, or going to a section you never usually go to and saying, well let me pick out one that looks interesting, there's nothing like going out and experiencing it, so this is not an excuse to stay stuck behind your computer and never come out ever again. Get out and breathe some fresh air, but if you want to do something quick, it's a great option."

"It was difficult for me before to figure out which CDs I would bring on the road, they take up so much space it got too heavy," she smiles. "Now I'm able to inport the CDs I like into my computer and download legally for family and people."

And as for the diary of Alicia Keys for 2004 - well she's finished her Verizon Ladies First Tour with Beyonce and Missy Elliott and is back in the UK at the end of June in London and Manchester.

"I love coming to the UK and the way the concert has evolved is through the roof. I can't wait to be here again." And we can't wait to have such a fantastic talent on our shores again.

By Cheryl Rickman


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