Kelly Rowland: Fulfilling destiny
Having enjoyed one of 2009’s biggest international chart-toppers as featured vocalist/co-writer of David Guetta’s Grammy-winning dancefloor smash ‘When Love Takes Over’, one-time Destiny’s Child superstar Kelly Rowland now hooks up once more with said French dance DJ/producer for the electronic club grooves of her new anthemic single ‘Commander’.
All of which is further proof that not only is 29-year-old Kelly generally acknowledged on a personal level as one of the most sunny-natured stars in today’s music business, but that her recording career away from her former bandmates (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 the group sell over 50 million records worldwide (in turn making them the world’s biggest-selling girl group ever) Atlanta-born, Houston-raised Kelly’s work away form the girls has additionally seen her score a global Number One duet with St. Louis rapper Nelly on 2002’s Grammy-winning ‘Dilemma’. While her first two solo albums - 2003’s ‘Simply Deep’ and 2007’s ‘Ms. Kelly’ - have between them also sold over 3.7 million worldwide.
Meanwhile, hot on the heels of her more recent, award-winning move into dance music with the aforementioned 2009 Number One ‘When Love Takes Over’, an ever-charming and personable Ms. Rowland once more hooks up with Pete Lewis in the opulent suite of her Mayfair hotel. As she happily discusses her new single; her forthcoming third album; her working relationship with David Guetta; plus - once more - those ever-talked-about possibilities of a Destiny’s Child reunion.
Working with Grammy-winning French dance DJ/producer David Guetta again for ‘Commander’
“What David and I have together with music is ORGANIC. Like ‘When Love Takes Over’ just HAPPENED. It wasn’t anything that was forced. I took a risk, I loved it - and everybody else loved it just a much as I did!.. I mean, looking back I think working with The Freemasons in 2007 for the remix of ‘Work’ was what first opened me up to a dance sound. So that, when I did first hook up with David in 2009 for ‘When Love Takes Over’, I wasn’t as afraid as I probably would have been if I HADN’T done ‘Work’... And then, when a few months ago I heard the track David had done for ‘Commander’, straightaway I was like ‘David, I LOVE this!’!.. Especially because at the time I was kinda bored with where R&B music was, and I wanted something different that I would actually stand OUT with!... You know, coming from a team - Destiny’s Child - where I felt each one of us had something so special that we brought to the group, I wanted to make sure I also brought something on my OWN that was special and that I could grow with.”
The potentially-controversial use of auto-tune on Kelly’s vocals throughout ‘Commander’
“I actually sang the song for REAL - and THEN they put auto-tune on my voice! You know, there is a difference! I mean, it’s just part of the whole dance feel of the song. And, despite what some people may think about auto-tune, it’s not about me needing help with the vocals! I mean, people already know I sang with the Destiny’s Child ladies for years, I’ve sung by myself on two albums, I sing acapella... And if my mic gave out, I’d STILL be able to sing AND hold it down! So, as far as the auto-tune sound goes, it is just there purely for the effect of the song!”
Kelly’s forthcoming, as-yet-untitled third solo album
“Well, while I’ve certainly not forgotten about my urban roots, I will say dance has definitely inspired me a lot on this record, and it’s also inspired the producers and writers. Which makes me very happy. Because at first I’d be there listening to all these dance records, and some of the writers that were coming in were like ‘Are you CRAZY? You do R&B and urban music!’!.. And I was like ‘Don’t put me in a box!’… So I actually ended up bringing on board the people that WANTED to be on board and WANTED to give it a shot - and it all fell into place beautifully!
The main ways her forthcoming new album differs from her previous two solo sets
“I’d say the main difference between this new album and my previous albums, is that this time I wasn’t afraid to take a risk. I didn’t care whether it was urban, dance, hip hop, WHATEVER… I just wanted a great track that I could sing and that people would enjoy. I mean, I remember hearing Janet Jackson saying once ‘With every album we grow, and we can’t be afraid of it. Because we never know everything, and we learn something new every day’… And I take that with me everywhere I go and I keep it in my box, because it is so TRUE!”
Producers and writers she’s collaborated with for the forthcoming album
“The ones that have made the record include David Guetta, Rico Love, Ne-Yo and StarGate, Dr. Luke and Esther Dean, Andre Merrit, Brian Kennedy... Oh, and Jim Jonsin of course - who in particular has this great way of balancing urban and dance music so well, just like he did with Pitbull and so many other artists. So yeah, they’re definitely all very talented people who all made me tap into my emotional, more vulnerable side, Which I thought was something really important for me to get across on this record. You know, I want people to get to KNOW me - because to know me is to LOVE me!”
How Kelly initially hooked-up with David Guetta for the twosome’s 2009 international chart-topper ‘When Love Takes Over’
“I was out dancing, I heard the (instrumental) track to ‘When Love Takes Over’ - and it made me cry! And I remember thinking ‘Why is this TOUCHING me like this?’. You know, it was like there was a kinda soul-tie to it! So I met David and asked him for the track... He gave it to me, and I brought it back here to London and wrote the actual song with the Nervo twins - Miriam and Olivia… You know, it all just kinda happened naturally! I was like ‘Well, let me try it and see what happens’... And I ended up with a GRAMMY! I mean, how cool is THAT?!”
Her ideas on pioneering the current move of “urban” singers into dance music - particularly in terms of working with David Guetta
“First of all, let me just say ‘I DID IT FIRST!’! Hahahah!!... will.i.am, for example, met David right AFTER I did! And, as I said, the reason I first hooked up with David was because I just wanted something NEW. And then, after he and I had done ‘When Love Takes Over’, I actually remember seeing Akon at Radio One’s One Big Weekend. He was like ‘I heard you did a record with David Guetta!’. So I said ‘Yeah, and it’s amazing! I can’t wait till you hear it!’… So I there and then re-introduced Akon and David, who’d actually met before; David let him hear ‘When Love Takes Over’’… And straightaway Akon was like ‘Oh my God, David - we gotta get in the studio!’.. And that’s how THEIR track - ‘Sexy Chick’ - came about!.. And, as for the movement itself, I just think it’s a sign of the times. I just feel that music will forever be constantly changing and moving - and that there’s nothing WRONG with that. I actually think it’s beautiful to watch it evolve.”
How Kelly’s solo success to date has been greater overseas (particularly in the UK, Europe and Australia) than in her native USA
“While I do love The States, with all due respect in my opinion people are more receptive to different genres of music abroad. For me, when I look at The States what I tend to see is that, if someone tries something that may not be what they usually do, there is a tendency for it to be looked DOWN upon. You know, in The States it’s more like ‘You did urban, you came outta urban, you should STAY urban’ - and I don’t LIKE that! I think artists should just be allowed to be ARTISTS and to try new things sometimes, because that’s why they’re CALLED artists! You know, we paint our own pictures - and I think that the sky’s the limit to what we can do as PEOPLE... And if it works, GREAT! If it doesn’t, try something ELSE!.. And for me, experimenting with dance music has definitely WORKED!”
Recently - in 2009 - changing her management (from original Destiny’s Child mentor Matthew Knowles to Jeff Rabham) and record label (from Columbia to Universal Motown)
“I just felt the need for change, and I felt the need to have my own team - and that’s IT! And so far everybody’s been very supportive of my decisions. I mean, Motown and I basically chose each OTHER. In the sense that (Motown President) Sylvia Rhone was actually at the studio hanging with Nelly when she heard what I was doing in the other room. She was like ‘Is this the style you’re going for?’... And so I was like ‘Yeah, I love dance music and I love the fact that we’re mixing it with the urban’. So she heard a bit more and was like ‘Is it OK if I sit here and just listen?’… I said ‘Yeah. Go right ahead’… So she stayed and listened. And, once she’d heard me record, she asked me if I was signed... I said ‘No’… And next thing I know, I’m having a meeting with her in New York and signing a new deal with Motown!”
Kelly’s brand new charity I Heart My Girlfriends. Which, according to her official website, well serve as an interactive support system for young girls while focusing on the likes of self-esteem, date violence prevention, community service, abstinence and sport
“I Heart My Girlfriends is all about women empowering each other, lifting each other up and growing from and LEARNING from each other! It’s also an educational programme to really help girls in school, and to basically have young women helping other women who are helping OTHER women who are helping OTHER women, and so on... Basically I just love the idea of reaching out to some of these young ladies and touching their lives - and in turn having them touch mine as well.”
And finally the obvious last question - what’s the current situation with Destiny’s Child?!!
“Well, while I still love Destiny’s Child, right now I’m very much focused on my own solo career with ‘Commander’ and the rest of the album, which I’m very excited about. I mean, I still love the ladies to death; we talk on the phone; we see each other whenever we’re in the same city... You know, we’re still very close. But as of right now, there are no specific plans for a Destiny’s Child reunion... But at the same time, anything’s possible and you should never say never... So I guess on that score we’ll just keep you posted!”
Kelly’s single ‘Commander Feat. David Guetta’ is out now through Universal Motown
Words PETE LEWIS