KELLY ROLLAND: FULFILLING HER DESTINY
Being a member of a groundbreaking, world-conquering female supergroup without being the outfit`s official “front-woman” can certainly have its downside.
For proof, merely refer to the ongoing bitterness still publicly held by one-time Supreme Mary Wilson towards her erstwhile colleague Diana Ross. Or even the infighting that arguably led to the eventual downfall of both TLC and The Spice Girls. Nevertheless, in the case of the world`s biggest-ever selling girl group - Destiny`s Child - former member Kelly Rowland`s solo career, and indeed general persona, seems genuinely unaffected by the aftermath of any such internal petty jealousies and resentment (which, in this case, seemingly never existed anyway).
In fact, not only is 26-year-old Kelly generally acknowledged on a personal level as one of the most sunny-natured stars in today`s music business, but her recording career away from former band-mates (iconic lead-singer Beyonce Knowles and gospel-raised Michelle Williams) continues to go from strength to strength in the international market.
Indeed, while her 10-year-plus tenure with Destiny`s Child (which ended with 2006`s 'Destiny Fulfilled' farewell tour) saw her impressively help her group sell over 60 million records worldwide, Atlanta-born, Houston-raised Kelly`s work away from her girls (with whom she retains close friendships) has already seen her score a global Number One in duet with St. Louis rapper Nelly on the Grammy-winning 'Dilemma'; plus her debut album - 2003`s 'Simply Deep' - sell over 2.5 million worldwide. Meanwhile, this week`s release of 'Ms.Kelly Deluxe Edition' (a repacked, reworked and spiced-up version of her 2007-released US Top 10 sophomore LP 'Ms. Kelly') already boasts two Top Five UK pop smashes - the bass-bumping, Eve-featuring 'Like This'; plus the exciting, bhangra-infused Freemasons remix of 'Work'; while featuring production/songwriting input from such current American urban studio dons as Polow Da Don (Fergie; Usher); Scott Storch (Mario; Chris Brown); and Rockwilder (Janet Jackson; Kelis).
Back in London to promote her current single - a flawless, summery update of Bobby Womack`s Seventies soul classic 'Daylight' - an ever-glamorous, bubbly Ms. Rowland enjoys a breezy, yet revealing, chat with `B&S`.
Her latest single being a cover of Bobby Womack`s 'Daylight' and featuring Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes
“Because I love the fact that Gym Class Heroes` music and sound is something different and eclectic, I figured me and Travis together would be an unusual typea duo. And I`m really happy I trusted my instincts. Because it turned out to be a really cool, different type of collaboration. To me Travis is like a rapper-slash-poet-slash-rocker, and our combination really worked! And, as far as the song goes, I wasn`t afraid of doing a cover at ALL! You know, someone once told me that, if you`re gonna do a song over, you gotta do right and give it some different flavour. And I definitely feel that Travis and I ACCOMPLISHED that.”
The thinking behind repackaging her 2007-released 'Ms.Kelly' LP into its new 'Deluxe Edition'
“The repackaged album has some hot remixes on it that a lotta people haven`t heard. Plus I felt I wanted to give the album a second life, because it didn`t get the exposure that I wanted it to first time round. I was like `This is a great album. So whatever it takes - if it`s me having to go from country to country or city to city, or whatever it might be, to get the word out there - then that`s what I`m gonna DO! Because I BELIEVE in it!`!”
What she wanted to achieve musically with 'Ms.Kelly'
“I wanted to make a feel-good album that recalled the days when you could just enjoy a whole record from start to finish. So, whether it be on up-tempo songs like (the Eve-featuring first single) 'Like This' or an emotive ballad like 'This Is Love', I wanted the whole album to feel good for your SOUL!”
How 'Ms.Kelly' represents a progression from her 2003 debut LP 'Simply Deep'
“I feel like this album is very personal and that I matured a LOT. You know, with time comes ageing and growth and change. And you either embrace it and not be afraid of it, or you turn away and sometimes end up stunting your growth. Without taking anything away from Destiny`s Child - I wouldn`t be HERE if it wasn`t for the group - this time I did want people to know me as Kelly Rowland the INDIVIDUAL, as opposed to Kelly Rowland of Destiny`s Child. I felt there was nothing wrong with them seeing a side of Kelly that they hadn`t seen before - a more sexy, more vulnerable side. Which is why I decided to name the album 'Ms. Kelly'. Whereas on 'Simply Deep' I was a little nervous of how people might interpret that vulnerable side of me.”
How she feels about her tracks being remixed
“I love it! I feel like remixes bring a second life to a song. I`m actually amazed at the ear of a producer who can hear an original track and then bring a totally fresh remix on top of that. Like with The Freemasons, I remember my A&R telling me what a great job they`d done with Beyonce`s remixes and that we should give `em a try. So we did, and what they did with `Work` was definitely pure magic! While with `Daylight`, even when I was in the studio recording it, it already felt right for a remix! As soon as I`d finished it I was like `Oh my God, there`s gonna be some hot dance mixes for this record!`. And I was even singing it fast to myself, because I was hearing the beats in my ears already! So I`m just really happy that we got Joey Negro to deliver a really hot club mix.”
Kelly`s little-known upbringing in Atlanta, Georgia and - later - Houston, Texas
“It`s so funny, because I barely remember Atlanta! It`s so long ago; I was so young… I just remember growing up with a lotta my great aunts. Who for me, as well as being wise, were also the COOLEST old women I`d ever met, because they all loved Michael Jackson and Prince! I grew up in church a lot, I loved to sing gospel… My mom was a very strong woman, who raised my brother and me by herself. And then moving to Houston became like a fresh start for my mom and I, because she was going through so much. My father had left us when I was around seven, and I remember her being very sad at that time. So Houston was almost like a new beginning, because so much HAPPENED for me there! Like meeting Beyonce, having her as a best friend, us growing up together in a group… all played a huge role in why I loved Houston so much.”
The early beginnings of Destiny`s Child
“I first met Beyonce when I was 12 at auditions for the group. At the time she and I had a mutual friend. So I went to the audition; I made it into the group… And the next thing I knew we were basically performing together all over Houston, and Mathew Knowles (Beyonce`s dad and Destiny`s Child`s manager) was shopping us a deal literally EVERYWHERE! I remember we used to call him Mr. Kinko, which was a coffee place and a mail-centre where he`d send off all our pictures, bios and put packages together to send to every record label! You know, he`d always be up there making sure all our stuff was sent out so he could get us our record deal. And I guess our biggest inspirations early on were The Supremes - who showed us the glamour, the hair and all the little moves - and The Spice Girls, who showed us how a girl-group could be business-women. So I guess we basically took what we admired, and made it our own.”
How she looks back on Destiny`s Child`s record-breaking success
“It`s a blessing. When you look back on it you almost have to pinch yourself sometimes, because it`s almost unreal. Because I think the things we`ve been able to do - whether they be individually or collectively - have been like a dream that`s amazingly come to life right before our eyes. The only real down moment probably came when two of the original members (LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett) left in 1999 (they issued an unexpected lawsuit accusing Mathew Knowles of being overly controlling). Which really was the worst feeling. You know, you think you`ll be growing up with these ladies for pretty much your whole life - and then suddenly you`ve lost your best friends.”
Kelly`s decision to go solo in 2002
“Being solo I got a chance to try things Beyonce and Michelle wouldn`t have wanted to try. Whereas in Destiny`s Child we could only express ourselves one way - as Destiny`s Child - individually we`re talking about three different personalities and three different styles. Beyonce definitely brought some serious sass, as well as being a great leader; Michelle brought humour; while I feel I brought an intimate, more PERSONAL feeling - which was my personality. And though, while doing my first solo record, I did find things a little scary - I`d been so comfortable within a group setting - what I realise now is, the more you do different things and try different things out, the more you discover yourself as an artist.”
Her massive international fan-base
“Above anything else, as an artist I`m flattered because I feel everybody here in Europe, Australia and generally outside of the States is open to so many different types of music. Because that makes you feel, as a singer and writer, that you do have musical freedom. Which to me is so important. Because, while in the States we do have SOME people that are well-rounded with music, in general they tend to put you in a box over there where you`re either urban, rock or whatever. And what I particularly like about over here is that, in the UK especially, you get the chance to listen to many different things on the radio - from a 10-year-old track, to something just released, to some beats some kids have just put together in their bedroom. You know, everybody has like a great musical ear and the appreciation for music is very well-rounded.”
Kelly`s career outside of being a recording artist
“For me acting in (2003 horror movie) 'Freddie vs. Jason' was just a shot. You know, when I was asked to come in and audition for the part, they basically asked me how I felt about horror films - and I was like `I`m TERRIFIED!`! But I tried out for it, they felt I`d be perfect for the role - and it WORKED! Which I was happy about. Then, when I got to play (Sixties Motown legend) Martha Reeves on television in 'American Dreams', my mom - being a true old Motown head - was SO excited! And, though I haven`t had a chance to meet Martha in person yet, hopefully I`ll get a chance soon. Then, as far as endorsements go (Kelly has appeared as celebrity spokesperson for L`Oreal US `s 'Dark And Lovely' hair product), it becomes especially fun when you really believe in the product yourself and you want people to get the same results as you. Whether it`s hair product, skin product, or whatever it might be.”
Current and future plans in general
“Hopefully there`s a solo tour in the pipeline for later this year. Plus I also want to start the recording process for my third album. So, to just kinda get an idea of what I want, I`m gonna go listen to some old albums as well as spending a lotta time over here in Europe as well. Because I do like the sound of the UK garage beats and the different way that the DJs spin in the clubs here. Like I remember the first time I came over here and I heard (Shanks & Bigfoot`s 1999 UK chart-topper) 'Sweet Like Chocolate Boy'! I liked it so much I actually bought the record and took it home! Because to me it was a just a brilliant track - though my friend looked at me like I was crazy! And, as far as Destiny`s Child goes, right now there`s no reunion planned, but we`re still very close. So, never say never! Anything can happen!”
The album 'Ms.Kelly Deluxe Edition' and single 'Daylight' are both out now. The single 'Broken' follows August 4, all through Music World Music/Columbia
Words PETE LEWIS