Interview: Musiq Soulchild Changing People’s Lives, One Love Song at a Time
Through his career that has spanned over a decade, there hasn’t been much that Musiq Soulchild hasn’t accomplished. Over the years, he’s made a name for himself by creating timeless love music that has surely guided many fans through their own relationships over the years. So who better who write a book on the topic of love than Musiq himself. That’s exactly what he did with his new book “143…Love According to Musiq”, a culmination of the information he’s gathered about love over the years. The book will help him accomplish what he’s already been attempting to do with each song he creates; change people’s lives for the better. YouKnowIGotSoul caught up with Musiq prior to a recent performance in NYC and discussed the motivation behind the book, what he’s getting into next musically, his creative process through the years, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Your new book “143…Love According to Musiq” is out now. Tell us a little about the book.
Musiq Soulchild: “Love 143…According to Musiq” is a book about love and it’s intended to assist people in becoming better lovers. It’s not just in the bedroom, it’s as a person who loves. If you have advanced intentions on becoming a person who loves better or a better person to love, to give and receive love, then I pray that this book helps you.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I read in another interview you did that this book talks about how your music was affected by love and relationships and also how your music affected others love and relationships. Can you go into that?
Musiq Soulchild: My music is a direct representation in essence, not autobiographical but in essence, of the lessons I’ve learned in my experiences in dealing with love. My music is a direct reflection of my experiences, not necessarily verbatim, however the lessons that I’ve learned in those experiences is what I use as a motivation and an inspiration for the songs that I write and sing and perform. Also this book as well is definitely a representation, it’s actually a culmination of information that I’ve gathered so far in dealing with love. I think that it’s important that people are introduced to the many different perspectives on how to deal and engage with this love thing because we’ve been so desensitized with a lot of the stuff that we hear in these fairytale type songs and what we see in this movies and shows. Not to condemn them, but it’s one thing to see and imagine something, but it’s a whole nother thing to deal with it in real life. I think in a way my music and this book, I’m hoping that it will sort of serve as a bridge between the fantasy and the reality of love.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’re so deep in your music career now, it’s been over a decade. When were you first motivated to want to do a book and venture into that?
Musiq Soulchild: To be honest, I still don’t have the motivation to want to do a book. *Laughs* The thing about it is I was approached by the publishing company that was really, really interested in working with me on this book. They were like “Dude, you’ve got a book, you’ve already got it, and we put out books, so we see potential. All we need you to do is get on board and we’ll help you figure out the rest”. Before then, I had so many people come up to me and was like “Yo man, you should put out a book”. I would talk to people so much about love, I would have these random conversations with random people at like meet and greets or in passing. Love is a very, very passionate subject for me, I can go on and on about love. People were always just saying “Dude, when’s the book coming out?” One thing led to another and it was put in my path and I said “Ok, let’s do it”. I was just a little apprehensive about it because you’ve got a whole bunch of naysayers who might say “Oh just because you wrote a whole bunch of love songs, that doesn’t make you the authority on love, who are you to tell me about my love?” It’s like “I’m not trying to tell you anything, all I’m doing is presenting my opinions, my thoughts and my feelings about what I’ve been through and what I’ve experienced that has helped me, so maybe it will help you.”
YouKnowIGotSoul: Just like you’ve been saying, your music and your lyrics over the years have been so deep and so powerful and people relate to them so much. What’s it like pouring yourself into a book as opposed to pouring yourself into a song?
Musiq Soulchild: It’s a different kind of process. It helps to have someone else there because if I had to write it from scratch, it probably would have taken way longer. The editor in chief at the publisher, he helped me to format it in book form. I just put a whole bunch of stuff out, and he said “Let me take this and put it here, let me take this and put it there.” Then he gives it back to me and I’m like “Ok that’s cool, but I would say it like or like that” just to make sure the authenticity was maintained as far as it being something that’s coming from me. I’m definitely very grateful for that because that helped me learn how to present my words and my thoughts and my feelings in a different light that I probably would have never thought of because I’m so stuck in song mode. Book mode is something totally different; I see why people end up spending years writing a book, it’s not easy. Your mind starts going and you want to change everything because your life is still going so you still are accumulating more information. A one page chapter turns into a five page chapter. It can get real stupid. It helps to have people working on your behalf. It also helps to stay focused on what the goal is and trying to stay true to the mission. It’s really easy to get sidetracked, especially as a creative person; we’ve got that ADD condition. I’m definitely grateful that it all came together for me and you guys can go out and get it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Earlier this year there was some news that you would be taking a break from music and focusing on writing and producing for other artists. Is that still the plan?
Musiq Soulchild: The thing is it never really was the plan, that was something that was a little bit misconstrued. I never planned to take a break; I need for people to understand that. I’m kinda thinking maybe I shouldn’t have said anything at all! *Laughs* It’s very challenging when people take your words and they don’t really fully understand what the point of it was. The plan wasn’t to take a break, the plan was to focus more so on, along with, what I’m already doing. I’m not going to stop performing, I’m not going to stop recording, I’m not going to stop entertaining, the plan was to put more attention on writing and producing for other people along with what I’m already doing.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I’ve talked to so many r&b artists who are independent now. There are only a few major label r&b artists left like yourself. They’ve always given me the positive side of the story of being an independent artist. I’d like to hear your side of things on the positives of being on a major label.
Musiq Soulchild: The positive side of being a major label artist. You have an entire building of people who are actual personnel working on your behalf. You have access to resources you would not otherwise have access to if you were independent. There is the weight of the name of the label when you want to get stuff pushed through, you don’t have to work as hard. Being able to get something that resembles a budget, that helps. Getting your music distributed effectively, getting your music played on the radio effectively. I think that’s pretty much it. It’s a good business move to be with a major label simply because of the benefits a major label has to offer potentially. However, it’s a good creative move to be independent because you have full autonomy, you can do whatever you want to do. You don’t have to necessarily bounce off ideas with people. So it’s a give and take either way.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Something I will say about your career, even though you’ve been on a major all of these years, it has seemed like you’ve had full creative control.
Musiq Soulchild: Not at all. *Laughs* I’m sorry, I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but not at all. Everything that I’ve done in my career has been me conceding to the wishes of the label and using my own presentation. I think that’s what people are getting, they’re getting my presentation and my compassion for my audience and not allowing myself to do anything that’s not worth your guys time or money. Everything that I’ve done for the most part has been me taking what’s been given to me and making lemonade for the past 12 years. The thing is, I can make a mean sandwich too, as a matter of fact, I can make a full course meal, I can cater an entire party. All you guys have been exposed to was lemonade.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I will say you’ve handled it a lot better than some other r&b artists who tried to follow the trends and were unsuccessful or got disgruntled. You’ve been able to create great music.
Musiq Soulchild: I’ve always been thinking about progress. I’ve been willing to sacrifice my creative endeavors in order to service my audience in the best way that I could. Most of the time I didn’t get my way but I didn’t allow that to interfere with the progress that we’ve made. Every song that I’ve recorded or performed or presented to you guys may not necessarily have been what I would have wanted to. However, I knew that it was something about it that you guys would enjoy. I put my personal beliefs aside, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to put that song out, but I know people like that song. Because I know that people will like the song, I’m not going to half do it, I’m going to do it all the way like it’s the best song ever. I don’t want to deprive you guys of the experience. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to do what I really feel to do and not worry so much about being accepted and being accessible, being played on the radio or charting on Billboard. Personally, I’m not really concerned about that because all that does is it just showcases how you are faring with the game of this industry. I’m not concerned about that. I’m concerned about whatever it is that I can do that can have an impact on your life. When I leave here, it doesn’t really matter how many records I sold if you didn’t care what I did. I’m more interested in making music that’s going to have a positive effect on you and change your life in some way for the better. If I never win a Grammy or if I never get a number 1 single, I really don’t know how to express how much I don’t care. This is no disrespect to the Grammy foundation or the Billboard or anything like that. I just don’t care because the average person down the street doesn’t. They aren’t watching the charts. All they care about is if they are listening to this song, do they like it or not. If I do, then cool, it doesn’t really matter how many records you sold, it doesn’t really matter if anybody has ever heard of you. All that really matters to them is that if it’s changing their life right now. That’s what I want to do because I think that’s the only thing that really matters.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about the creative process on your debut album “Aijuswanaseing” because many consider that a classic album and your best work. Did you have full creative control on that?
Musiq Soulchild: The interesting thing about “Aijuswanaseing” is I wasn’t planning on making an album, I was just recording songs. As a matter of fact, when I got the deal, I was planning on going back in the studio and doing songs that were going to be for my album. The reason it was called “Aijuswanaseing” is because when I was recording those songs, that’s where my head was. I had access to a studio and I just wanted to make songs; that’s it. I did “Just Friends” because I just wanted to make a song, I wanted to make it as hot as I could make it. I did “Girl Next Door”, I just thought it was a cool idea and I just wanted to do it. All of those ideas, that’s just what I wanted to do, I wasn’t thinking about songs that were going to be on an album. I wasn’t even really thinking about people listening to them. That was the first time I had access to a studio, so I was learning myself through the studio. I always knew how to sing, but singing in a studio and listening to yourself back is kinda different. I just wanted to do that a little bit more so I could get a grip on my sound. I had accumulated so many songs and my managers at the time shopped me a deal and Def Jam at the time picked up on it and said “We can put these joints out” and I said “Nooooo”. That wasn’t even practice, I was just doing stuff. But they were like “These are hot, they are raw, that’s what we need” and I was like “Ok…..alright, put it out!” People hear it and they call it a classic, and I’m like “Well, maybe yall should hear what I wanted to do then because I was just doing something.” Maybe if yall heard what I really wanted to do, and the thing is I never really got to do that because ever since then, I had everybody that was surrounding me at the time always trying to get me to do another “Aijuswanaseing” and I said “That’s not going to happen because I wasn’t trying to do that when I did the music”. So “Juslisen” was trying to make another “Aijuswanaseing”. “Soulstar” was me trying to get away from that, but I was kinda one foot in and one foot out, I don’t want to distance myself from the “Aijuswanaseing” audience, but I’m trying to reach over here and do other stuff too. Then around the time when that album came out, there was a whole lot going on in the music industry, Def Jam was shifting, the internet really hit the music industry, everything just shifted. That album came out in a weird time. Then “LuvanMusiq” was trying to do another “Aijuswanaseing” basically. “OnMyRadio” was trying to do the same with “Soulstar”, trying to get away but it didn’t really work out. “MusiqInTheMagic” was an attempt at just tapping into a much broader audience, but something got lost in translation. Please don’t mistake what I’m saying, throughout each project, they were all great songs in one way or another. However, none of them were anything close to what my musical intentions are. It trips people out when I say that because say well “How come you aren’t doing what you want to do?” It’s because I call myself being a team player. Unfortunately, not everybody shares that same sentiment. Pretty much all of that is to say, I’m at the point where it’s only fair not only to myself but to you guys to really, really be a little more of what my actual intentions are rather than to please the label or please radio or trying to please Billboard or the Grammy foundation. Let me just make music, that’s all I want to do. I’ve spent 12 years trying to please everybody and somebody is always unhappy. If somebody is going to be unhappy anyway, then I would much rather you be unhappy because I did the best that I can do. Not because I was trying to compromise and get in where I fit in and all of that safe crap. I’m good now. If you don’t like it, then hey, it’s not for you. But one thing I will never be able to live down is knowing that I didn’t give my best because I was saying too much. I need to stop thinking and I need to start doing. Hopefully you guys will dig it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Where can fans check out the book?
Musiq Soulchild: You can go to www.DipPub.com. It should be everywhere electronically now, so you don’t have to worry about waiting for your book to get to you.