A little time with Amerie!
How long did it take for you to get to where you are now?
Well I was working really hard at it starting in 1997. It took until 2000 when I met Rich Harrison. Altogether it took five years. But when the right connection came it really took off, but before that it was a lot of hit and miss.
So it’s true, determination pays off?
Is it a lot different being a signed artist than you expected?
Not really different. Everything does change around you and when you are working so much, I’ve been on tour with Usher and I’m touring with Nelly. I’m doing a lot of press and you are constantly working. It’s like running with your head down and you don’t see what is going on around you. I find it weird to see myself on the cover of magazines. I see myself as plain old Amerie and I’m wondering, “what am I doing on there?” You work so much where you feel like you are going through a time warp.
I read that you graduated from Georgetown; it’s a rarity today that artists go to college let alone graduate.
A lot of people are surprised that I graduated from a good university. It makes me feel good to have the degree and I think life is all about options and I think you can get further if you have more options. I also think that college helped me grow a lot. I think college is a really important time.
I read that you met Rich, your producer, at McDonalds.
I met Rich through a chance meeting with a friend of his and a friend of mine. He knew Rich was looking for a female vocalist. So Rich got my information and we talked on the phone and agreed to get together. But I didn’t want to go to his house and I didn’t want him to come mine, mostly because a lot of people claim to be something they aren’t. You get the ‘yeah, I produce come on over to my house’.
How long did it take before you realized you two had a great chemistry together?
It was almost instant. For some reason we had a very special chemistry. When we would work together something great would happen. The first track he played for me I loved it. After two years we could hear a huge growth from the very first song to beginning of the album to the middle to the end.
Were you getting advice from him?
Day in and day out I was learning certain things, especially with sound. We talked about the sound we wanted to get. He also learned about my voice and me. We found that we could use my voice as an instrument. I learned a lot about the melodies and harmonies. I still listen to tracks sometimes and hear some of the harmonies and its just amazing. He taught me a lot about timing too.
What was it like doing tracks that were all your own?
It’s a lot harder because you have to go on your own and have nothing to go on. I really feel like we have a magical chemistry, the music just sounds special.
Were the songs written ahead of time?
They were written beforehand. But we changed some of them in the studio by changing the melody or words. We would adjust little things.
When you toured with Usher was that your first time touring?
It was my first time playing in front of a crowd that large. There were ten thousand people or more.
What did you think when you first went on stage?
Well thankfully I was performing with Nas. He really helped me by hyping the crowd. It was great to be able to get my feet wet with him first.
How do you feel when you step onto the stage now?
It’s great. It’s a complete change of persona for me.
Is the Amerie on stage different from you at home?
No, we are the same. I think the one singing is a little less inhibited than the one at home. The more comfortable I am out there I get more attitude and ready to entertain. I’m a very diplomatic person at home, but on stage it’s my stage. I’m in charge.
When you were in school you were obviously dreaming of being a singer, but did you have a backup plan after school?
I actually didn’t have a backup. (We laugh) The only way I can explain it is that when you really want something badly, you make a plan B you feel like you are giving up on your dreams and giving up on yourself. You just leave room for doubt. Although having a backup plan helps you. But I never made a resume because I knew I wouldn’t need one.
What were your parents thinking?
They were very much into academics. My mother wanted me to become a professor or a lawyer. My dad wanted me to do what I wanted to do. But they agreed that now was the time because I had the least amount of responsibility and obligations.
Now they are like ‘yeah!’
They are my biggest supporters. Sometimes it’s downright embarrassing. (We both laugh)
Lastly, when you dreamed about being an artist, what was your dream that kept you going?
I just wanted to see how far I could take it. I want to see what can really happen.
+ charlie craine