Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1074

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Kristinia DeBarge: Elle DeBarge

Kristinia DeBarge
Kristinia DeBarge Kristinia DeBarge Kristinia DeBarge Kristinia DeBarge

B&S speaks to Kristinia DeBarge - 19-year-old daughter of Eighties Motown hit-maker James DeBarge - who this month steps out in her own right with her debut single âGoodbyeâ and its accompanying album âExposedâ.

Born in March 1990, Pasadena, California-raised Kristinia is indeed carrying on the trailblazing musical tradition of her aforementioned father James DeBarge, keyboardist and founding member of chart-topping Motown Eighties family group DeBarge. Having first came to national US TV prominence six years ago on the âAmerican Idolâ spin-off programme âAmerican Juniorsâ, she is now prestigiously the first artist signed to Sodapop Music - a new label owned by legendary multi-million-selling writer/producer Kenny âBabyfaceâ Edmonds, who is in turn musically responsible for a large part of her debut LP âExposedâ.

Indeed, pioneered by the punchy upbeat US Pop Top 15 single âGoodbyeâ (whose chorus prominently samples the familiar hook from Steamâs 1969 American Number One âNa Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbyeâ), her aforementioned new album lyrically showcases the teenage Ms. DeBargeâs personal journey of self-discovery through a variety of musical moods - ranging from the robust urban pop of âSomebodyâ and furiously-driving âSabotageâ; to more soulful cuts like the hauntingly yearning âFuture Loveâ; sexily undulating âItâs Gotta Be Loveâ, and the sadly-surging break-up anthem âCried Me A Riverâ.

Amidst a hectic day of promotion which also marks her first-ever visit to London, a sweet-sounding, youthful Kristinia (whose vocal influences include Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and Alicia Keys) enjoys a breezy introductory chat with âBlues & Soulâs ever-attentive Pete Lewis.

How Kristinia describes her debut album

âIâd describe it as fun, young and sexy pop/urban music thatâs like a mixture between Rihanna, Gwen Stefani, Brandy and Beyonce. You know, it is pretty diverse because itâs going in so many different directions.â

The lyrical content of the songs

âWhile the songs are vulnerable, theyâre also very empowerment-filled. So, though some may sound a little sad at first, once you keep listening to them all the way through youâll hear that thereâs a message there. You know, Iâm basically a confused young person going through a transition in my life from a little girl to a woman. So, in that way, itâs an interesting album that I think both women and young girls will be able to relate to. Because, while the young girls will identify with what Iâm singing about as the same things theyâre going through right NOW, the women will also remember going through it at an EARLIER stage in their lives.â

How Kristinia first hooked up with her mentor and label-head - multi-award-winning songwriter/producer Kenny âBabyfaceâ Edmonds

âI first met Babyface at his recording studio when I was 14, through a person who at the time was my manager. Because he had a really good relationship with Babyface, he introduced us and just very casually asked Babyface if he wanted to hear me sing. He said âyesâ - and, as soon as he heard me, he was like âI have to work with you! Youâre a STAR!â⦠And weâve been making music together ever since!â

The ongoing musical relationship between Kristinia and Babyface

âOh, we have a fantastic relationship! Weâre very close, and we have a lotta fun in the studio. We write together; weâre very open-minded about the music... I mean, over the five years weâve been working together, heâs really seen me grow and change and evolve. And, with me being the first artist on his new label Sodapop Records, heâs invested a lot of time into the project. So this album is just as exciting for HIM as it is for ME!... Plus, on a personal level too, heâs genuinely one of the coolest people I know. Like, even though heâs written so many hits and worked with the best of the best (Madonna/Whitney/Mariah etc), heâs still this really quiet, down-to-earth person whose humility really does inspire me.â

Growing up as a member of soul musicâs legendary DeBarge family

âEveryone in my family, on my dadâs side, plays at least one instrument - in some cases MORE than one. Plus they all sing and they all song-write. So, growing up and seeing all that, I couldnât help BUT fall in love with music! You know, my father always had me in the studio, always had me onstage with him⦠And it all kind of opened me up to just going out there and DOING it! Instead of being afraid, it was more like âIf you have a talent and you have a gift, why would you waste it and pull it back? Why NOT share it with the rest of the world?â... I mean, my father introduced me to a lot of different, good things about music - as opposed to me just being introduced to all those CRAZY things that also come with being in the entertainment industry! So yeah, having my family around has definitely been a plus. Because, with them being experienced and knowing the ins-and-outs of the business, it really has allowed me to be more realistic in terms of my decision-making.â

The role Kristiniaâs father - James DeBarge - in particular played in kick-starting her music career

âOriginally my father had wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer. But, though I tried to be open to other careers because I didnât want to disappoint him, secretly my heart had been set on singing since I was three! So when, at 12 years old, I finally TOLD him I wanted to sing, he took me to the studio to record a duet with him. Then, when it got to like 4AM - because he wanted to see how bad I really wanted to do this - he was like âArenât you tired? Letâs go home!â⦠But I was like âNO! Daddy, I really wanna DO this! Letâs finish this song, and then letâs do ANOTHER one!â⦠So he was like âWOW! OK, if you wanna do it, letâs do it the right way! Weâre gonna have a long talk, and I want you to know that thereâll be many MORE of these recordings till four in the morning! This isnât just a one-off!â... And, from that day on, he SUPPORTED me! You know, he took me on tour with him for the whole of summer 2003, which got me over a lot my initial fears of performing... And it was actually after that summer tour that I decided to go all-out to pursue music as a full-time career.â

The single âGoodbyeâ is released August 24. The album âExposedâ follows August 31, both through Sodapop Music

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