YouKnowIGotSoul had a chance to catch up with Kiley Dean who is most known for her work with Timbaland which includes the song “Make Me A Song”. Kiley let us in on all the politics behind the music industry, the recording process of her first two albums and also what she has been doing recently. She also gives us some insight on what it was like working with stars like Timbaland and Brandy.
YouKnowIGotSoul: In 2002, you signed to Timbaland’s “Beat Club” label. Talk to me about how that opportunity came about and what you were feeling when you first got signed.
Kiley Dean: Obviously when I first I got signed, it was like the dream of any singer, especially being that young. I think I was 19 when I signed the deal. I was actually on tour with Britney Spears, I met Timbaland at a hotel lobby with my manager at the Grammys in 1999 and then I signed a development deal with him and Missy first and it just wasn’t the right time. So I went and developed who I was as an artist. A couple of years later, I ended up signing to Beatclub and that’s when “Simple Girl” and everything came about. He was a little less known back then, now he’s a superstar, but it was cool because I always knew who he was with Aaliyah and Ginuwine. Me and him have this cool relationship, he looked after me like a sister so it was really cool.
YKIGS: Eventually you started working on your debut album “Simple Girl”, what do you remember most about that making that album and what was the recording process like?
KD: The recording process was really cool. We did most of it in L.A. and we also did some of it in Miami and we did some of it in New York. It didn’t take that long; he was amazing to work with. We have a cool relationship because he’s like a brother. So we went in, he had ideas and I would put my voice on. I had a little bit of writing on the album but I was so young and it was new. I got to work with Candice Nelson who is now a part of the Clutch, who is an amazing writer and at the time with her husband Walter Millsap, and a whole bunch of other writers. Static actually wrote a song for me, but I never put it on the album. It was called “True Love” and it was an awesome song. But the process of the album was a dream come true because I made my first album, it was my baby. I put my blood, sweat and tears into it and it was a great album. So when it didn’t come out, you could understand my dismay.
YKIGS: Now the first single “Make Me A Song” had some success on the charts, but I know some fans were upset because the song referenced Aaliyah’s “Rock the Boat” soon after she had passed. Did this backlash catch you by surprise when the song was released?
KD: Of course, when you give somebody props and showing nothing but love, it’s stupid. Personally that was my least favorite song off of the whole album, I didn’t want to do that song, but everybody loved it. But for them to have any negativity, I just didn’t even listen to it because everything I did on that album was out of respect, so people can view it the way they want to, they didn’t have to listen to it. Either way they were talking about it, so whatever.
YKIGS: Looking back now, would you have released another song as the first single and which one would it be?
KD: I would have put out “Kiss Me Like That”. I actually at the time wanted to release “Simple Girl” even though it was a ballad. I think the song that would gone over really well was “Keep it Movin”.
YKIGS: The second single “Who Will I Run To?” also had some success on the charts. So you had two singles that did fairly well on the radio, why do you feel the album never got released?
KD: Because it was politics and it made no sense. Obviously there wasn’t a video or push behind “Who Will I Run To?”. It was done sloppily and to have a powerhouse like that behind you, they should have gotten it right and they didn’t. But whatever, it is what it is. It wasn’t my time. “Who Will I Run To?” is a great song, but personally both singles weren’t my choice. I didn’t want either of them. I felt like “Who Will I Run To?” was an old Whitney Houston ballad back in 1992 and it made no sense. And at the time, I had no say in my career and it was extremely frustrating and that’s why I asked for a release. I understand and felt privileged to be able to have people like Jimmy Iovine and Tim even care, but at the time I was feeling more of Tim’s direction. We spent months and months recording that and then we were just going in a completely different direction and it made no sense.
YKIGS: What I find surprising is that the album is 8 years old now yet people still talk about it to this day. Does this surprise you at all?
KD: It was before its time to me. I could put the album out right now and it would relevant to the times today, it’s not dated. You could maybe update tracks, but lyrically, melodically, track-wise they’re still relevant.
YKIGS: How does it make you feel knowing that people are still listening to it after so many years?
KD: It just melts my heart because people care and I haven’t put things out that much since then. But at the same time, it’s like they’re still waiting for me. And it’s coming, I just have to make sure everything is right before we do it again.
YKIGS: So eventually you asked for a release from Beat Club. What was that whole experience like transitioning from being on a major label to being an independent artist?
KD: It was tough. The money, not having people telling you what to do. In a way where it’s good, for instance going on radio tours and constantly touring and pushing, it was just different having a silent backer and not a record label. But in itself it’s kind of weird because that was 6 years ago and that was before the music industry really changed and now that’s what everyone is doing now and they’re making it now. You don’t need a record label anymore! There’s so many avenues with the internet and everything. But it was definitely something to get used to, I wasn’t used to not having a label behind me so it was different. Things were different like the recording process.
YKIGS: You started working on your “Changes” album, tell me about that album and what the recording process was like, especially because you did the entire album without the help of someone like Timbaland.
KD: The process was a lot more emotional if I could say one word. I pretty much lost my baby, everything that I worked on so hard for 3 years was just gone. I’m talking about the album. To write it down on paper and collaborate with other writers and tell them my story. Like “Convince Me”, one of the songs on the “Changes” album, the chorus is “Convince me I’m not being ignored, Convince me I’m worth so much more.” And it’s just saying “Wow am I this disposable?” Because after me, there were 10 other white girls that had soulful voices that they were trying to push like they pushed me. And it was like “Wow I am disposable” and that’s how I felt, I just felt so un-special. But it’s a business, it’s not personal and that’s what I had to learn, obviously where I am today. In that “Changes” process, that’s what I was feeling, I was emotional. “Changes”, the title track, was about changes that I was going through. And you can hear it on “Escape”. It was pretty much talking every feeling that I was feeling from “Convince Me” to “I Just Want To Get Out to Here” to “Changing”. Every track on there has something.
YKIGS: A personal favorite of mine off that album is “Escape”. I know you worked with Brandy on that song, so tell me what it was like working with her on it.
KD: Brandy is great. Brandy and Blake English actually wrote that song. Blake is a local producer based out of Atlanta, but now he’s in L.A. He’s an incredible producer and songwriter. Working with Brandy was great. I think the biggest thing I took from her was that she taught me how to harmonize in the studio and layer and do harmonies in a way I’ve never heard anyone do. It’s like there’s too much harmony, but I liked that because of how much she harmonized, I learned from that. It was cool. She was nice, I don’t keep in touch with her, but she was cool.
YKIGS: So what ended up happening with the “Changes” album?
KD: It never got released. We released one single off of it which was “Who I am”. We went label shopping and had a couple offers on the table, but God and heaven only know why it didn’t happen. They all fell through. It was like “Wow!” Looking back at it, it still kinds of stirs up weird feelings. But yeah, it never got released. We never got the backing we needed and it just kind of fell through. We tried and pushed it, but it never got released.
YKIGS: You’ve had two albums that never got a proper release. What keeps you going? I know a lot of people in the same situation as you would quit.
KD: I forgot to tell you, I actually got signed to this label called Music World. And it was horrible. I don’t even like to talk about this because it was such a waste of my time. I had the song done and the album done and that was the step we were going to take. It was the worst record deal ever that I was only there for six months. I just needed a break as a human being from pushing and going and everything. This is me getting really raw if you want to know what keeps me going. I actually wanted to quit. After all that happened, when “Changes” didn’t come out, it was like “You know what? Maybe this isn’t for me. Maybe I really am chasing a dream that’s not going to happen”. Obviously I didn’t want to do it, but I packed my bags and I went home to Orlando for three months just to be with my family. I was so sick and tired of chasing a dream that didn’t want to invite me in. I actually had a battle with God and I was like “I’m giving up singing.” I didn’t want to, but this was my fight. And I was like “God, if you want me to stay in this industry and keep pushing, you will give me sign.” And that’s when I got a call to go on tour with Madonna. I just wanted to be out, I didn’t want to do anything. I definitely didn’t think I would ever background for anybody, just because I hadn’t done that since Britney. It was my sign from God that “I’m not done with you and you are not done.” That’s what got my confidence back up and know that this is where I belong and to keep pushing. So that’s what I’ve done.
YKIGS: What is the balance like between being a singer and then going to background singing?
KD: It’s very humbling because obviously what Madonna is doing is what I want to be doing ultimately. To work for her somebody like her who is an icon, it’s just like “I’d be an idiot not to do that.” I know a lot of people think they’re too proud or too good, well I’m not too proud. I want to win. And the people that win, especially people that have gone through what I’ve gone through, are the people that don’t give up and the people that aren’t too proud to do those things. And I’m not too proud. I’m the humblest artist you’ll ever meet. I want to win and I want people to know that your dreams are attainable. As corny as it sounds, it’s the truth. There are people that have made it and you’re like “How the heck did they make it?” Well it’s because they didn’t give up and they went down every road and finally broke. Katy Perry was signed and dropped signed and dropped. Name it, Beyonce and Fergie, they were all similar to what I’ve gone through.
YKIGS: I know you’ve been remixing some songs and putting them on YouTube. Talk to me about that and how you originally came up with the concept of the remixes.
KD: The concept is a New York street concept. Just being in New York and having friends that always talk about mixtapes and remixes. It’s something that my manager and friend in New York brought to attention. That’s what I’ve been concentrating on ever since I got off tour with Madonna is my pen. I want to get a good pen. I want to write, I want to be better at it. That was an outlet to reach out to my fans to let them know I’m still here. So I got really great responses from it. I haven’t done them in a while because I’ve been busy, but I’m going to get back on them and keep doing those. The idea came from just having friends that are in that atmosphere where they listen to mixtapes and they’re like “This is a way for you to reach back to your fans and also work on your writing.” So that’s what I did. And everybody is wanting a mixtape, I want to try to figure out a way to make a mixtape and have it available to people.
YKIGS: I know you’re in the studio working on music right now. When can the fans expect new music from you, possibly an album and what can the fans expect as far as the sound of the album?
KD: I have absolutely no answer for that right now. I’m so sorry, but it’s in the works. It’s being talked about, but I haven’t really started. I mean I’ve started but it’s going to be a process. But I’ll definitely keep the updates coming when it comes closer.
YKIGS: What happens with all the songs that you’ve done throughout the year, is there a chance you’ll release them?
KD: You better believe it!
YKIGS: As you know, the sound on the radio is totally different from what it was when you first came out. Do you feel any pressure to record songs that are more trendy sounding?
KD: Good music is good music and good music will be recognized. I think a lot of the trendy music is crap. I would take the dope trendy stuff and I would work with that, but there is a crap and I don’t care if it’s trendy, I’m not going to do crap. For me, I think as an artist obviously I want to come out and develop myself in a way that is relatable to the fans. My fans have grown obviously with the music that’s on the radio and what they’re hearing. And there is a lot of stuff that I like. It’s funny because I remember a couple of years ago before they started doing the European dance beat, I was like “Wouldn’t it be cool to do an urban album, but with these European or almost techno sound” and now it’s everywhere. So I knew what would sound good. So I don’t want to follow trends, I want to be on the cusp of making something different as any artist would want to do. I definitely don’t want to be a follower though. I respect people like Adele and the local bands that are doing their own thing. They kind of sound similar but they’re doing something different. I respect that a lot.
YKIGS: Not too long ago, you posted a video saying that you were in talks with Timbaland about possibly working on something, Is that still happening and do you see yourself working with him in the future?
KD: Of course I see myself working with him in the future, but I’m not going to wait on him. I’m not waiting on anybody right now.
YKIGS: Are there any other producers that you’re currently working on?
KD: Big Tank. He’s somebody that I’ve been in writing with. That’s about it, there’s more but that’s off the top of my head.
YKIGS: How can the fans get in contact with you?
Official Website: http:/www.kileydean.com