YouKnowIGotSoul Interview With Vivian Green
Vivian Green’s music career is a prime example of the way the climate of r&b and the music industry in general has shifted over the past decade. Although her album sales have progressively declined, it wasn’t the quality of the music that was declining but more so the elements of this climate that were out of her control. Now with a smaller label that doesn’t provide the large promotional budget of a major, she’s suffering the same fate as many of the talented r&b singers in her position; struggling to reach her whole fan base with the release of an album. And with the talent she has, Vivian needs to be heard. I meant what I said at the end of this interview that I will use this site as a tool to help spread the word about her and other artists, and I can be held to that. In this interview, we discuss her passion for football and her predictions for the Super Bowl, the reaction to the direction she chose to go in on “Beautiful,” her plans to release a new album this year, how life as a single mother of a special needs child has affected her career, the type of interaction she likes with fans at shows, and much more.
YKIGS: First off I want to talk to you about football, because I know you’re a big fan.
Vivian Green: Yesss I am!! *Laughs*
YKIGS: I was hoping to get your analysis on Vivian Green’s pick for the Super Bowl!
VG: Oh well I don’t know, I don’t want to make any more predictions. *Laughs* I think that the Steelers will most likely win, but you never know, I’ve seen some crazy things this season, so I don’t know. So I’m just doing to watch and enjoy the game! *Laughs* But I’m definitely a big fan of Mike Tomlin and the Steelers, a lot of talent on their team, they’re an explosive team, they’re ballers and their defense is amazing. My teams are the Saints and the Eagles so of course there are other teams that I recognize and totally respect and the Steelers are definitely one of them. But I definitely also love Aaron Rodgers, the way he finished the year is just really amazing, he can scramble, so he’s definitely hot right now too. So I don’t know how it’s going to go, most likely the Steelers, but you never know! *Laughs*
YKIGS: Yea I’m here in New York, so I was hoping the Jets would pull it out, but unfortunately they didn’t. It was a good game though.
VG: Yea I was hoping they would too! I didn’t think they would have to play the Steelers, I didn’t think it would come down to that because when the Eagles and the Saints lost, I said I was going to root for the Jets or the Steelers, whoever goes all the way, but I didn’t think they would both be in the championship! So I was watching like “C’mon Mark!” and then “C’mon Ben!” *Laughs* It was kind of funny, but I was hoping they would have won, if they would have pulled it out I would have been really, really happy.
YKIGS: Maybe next year!
VG: Maybe next year, we’ll see!
YKIGS: So let’s talk about your music now.
VG: Oh my music? Booorrrinngg! *Laughs*
YKIGS: Ok let’s talk about sports then. *Laughs* No we have to talk about your music because you make amazing music!
VG: Thank you!!
YKIGS: I want to start with your album “Beautiful” that you released last year. How happy have you been with everything that’s gone on since the release? If you could put a letter grade toward everything that’s happened, how would you rate it?
VG: Ooohh that’s such a difficult question! Let’s start with my part, the album. I loved it, I thought that everyone involved did a fantastic job with what we were trying to do. But I am with a smaller label now and I think that the mistake that I made and we all made, everybody, myself, management, the label, was the direction of it. I just felt very free to do what I felt like doing, and I think that what I did was definitely good, but one thing was I don’t know if people knew that it was out, so that was a major issue. The second thing is, I think a lot of my fans wanted me to do I guess more soulful music or something and that album was definitely more of a r&b/pop direction. My first album I think was definitely more soulful and had a little pop/r&b accent here and there but I guess the underlying musical theme of it was soul but with the r&b part. But I think “Beautiful” didn’t have the soul element, I think maybe for only one song, “Caught Up,” so I think that the fans wanted to hear that. But first and foremost again, so many people didn’t even know that it came out, so I don’t know if the end result would have been different if it was promoted better and we had a better setup instead of throwing it out there like we kinda did, it was kinda rushed out there without a proper setup. All of my fans definitely still don’t know that it’s out; I still get Tweets everyday like “When is your next album coming out? I loved ‘A Love Story’ and ‘Vivian.’” Well there definitely was a third album! So the music business is what it is and you have to take it for what it is and you can’t allow yourself to be disappointed, you’ve just gotta keep it moving and be blessed that you can keep it moving and make another record and do something different the next time. But I loved it! *Laughs* It was definitely my happiest record to date so I’m happy about that! Everyone always says I’m a male bashing, angry lady, well here’s an album I made where most of the songs on there are totally positive. *Laughs* On to the next one!
YKIGS: Would you say that now with the feedback you received from your fans you would use that towards your next album and maybe go in a different direction?
VG: Well the thing is that the fans that have it, they love it. It’s just that so many fans don’t have, but I don’t know, maybe they don’t have it because they heard it’s different. You never know, so you have to definitely attribute the end result to the lack of promotion and people not even knowing it was out, and also the fact that the sound was definitely different. So I’m not sure which one weighs more, but the fans that do have “Beautiful,” they seem to love it, but it’s just not enough fans that have it.
YKIGS: I read something interesting in your bio that was you had your younger brother, who is a rapper, help you with the writing on this album. How did you get him to come into that r&b zone and help to write on love songs?
VG: You know it was really easy for him. It seemed to be an easy transition from writing a rhyme, that’s not one of those unstructured freestyle type rhymes, but one with a verse and a hook. So it was really easy for him to do and he can sing a little but so it wasn’t like the musical part was so foreign to him. He really just kinda jumped in and we wrote a verse! So there were certain words that he would say and rhyme with, and I would not sing that because first of all I could not pull it off because I’m too corny, and even if I could it’s so uncharacteristic of me as an artist! *Laughs* I’m nine years older than he is, so he knows all of the slang, and stuff that I’m not really going to say. *Laughs* So I can’t pull it off singing that, but besides that I think he did an awesome job and he’s already started helping me with this one as well, he’s really talented. So I hope that the single that is put out is one that he wrote on with me, I hope so this time, I just want him to feel more recognized because he does a really good job.
YKIGS: I know that you’re a single parent and raising a special needs child. How has that affected your music career?
VG: It definitely has, I’ve had to put my career on the backburner for a minute and that’s why there were so many years between “Vivian” and “Beautiful.” Not only did I leave Sony, but the thing was that my son was definitely going through a lot at that time as far as his health, in and out of the hospital, and this surgery and that surgery, and fighting with doctors. So I really just had to halt everything and it was definitely not the easiest thing having such a long hiatus between albums. So my career suffered some but you’ve got to keep it moving and I’m just glad that I’m somewhere and I can make another record and just keep moving. I wouldn’t take back any of the time that I had to take off, that’s what’s most important. I just really have a great spiritual foundation as well so I can’t let career things get my panties in a bunch. *Laughs* Because you just can’t, you have to be able to persevere through all things, and life is full of ups and downs and you’ve got to keep it moving. Yea!
YKIGS: On that second album “Vivian” you had some high charting singles on the Urban Adult Contemporary charts and it got rave reviews as well, but unfortunately the sales might not have been where they should have been. Was that frustrating for you?
VG: No, again I don’t get into that because I can’t let that govern my mood. *Laughs* I can’t let it and I won’t and I never had, so it really didn’t. I don’t know, I guess at this point, I’m not sure maybe it did almost 400, I would have been completely and totally happy if “Beautiful” did the same numbers as “Vivian,” I really would have. I don’t think that it was necessarily bad, it was during the time of the whole transition of the internet taking over and people really don’t buy albums like they used to, maybe “A Love Story” would have sold two million copies 15 years ago. So every year people are buying less and less records, so the numbers are cut in half, like Beyonce would have sold 20 million albums on all of her solo records, but she did nowhere near that, but she would have if it was 20 years ago! So you just have to definitely look at it like that, that’s so important and that’s a major factor of why sales are not what they used to be when I was a little girl and wanted to be a singer, it’s just a completely different business model now and you have to look at it that way. Again, if “Beautiful” did what “Vivian” did, I would have been completely happy with it, so happy with the success of it. “Vivian” didn’t do what “A Love Story” did, so we just have to keep it moving and that’s what’s most important. I definitely put my heart and soul into that album, James Poyser produced most of it and I think he did awesome job. The music business is just a business where there are no guarantees, you never know what’s going to happen, all you can do is put your best work into it.
YKIGS: You mentioned earlier you had already started on the new album, when do you plan to release that?
VG: Oh it’s definitely going to be this year, I hope to be done really soon, I hope to be done in a couple of months actually. So I’m just going to keep it moving, “Beautiful” was last year and I’m going to put another album out the very next year, I’ve never done that before, all of my albums have been pretty spaced out. So this will be the first time that I’m having albums in consecutive years so that will be great. That’s absolutely what everyone’s shooting for, and I don’t take long to make a record so there’s really no reason why it won’t happen.
YKIGS: Do you have a name for the album yet?
VG: No not yet, I usually figure that out when I know the songs that will definitely make it because there are always songs that won’t make it. Once we get the songs that are definitely going to make it and we get them in the proper order and I just kinda feel the flow of the record, then I’ll start to think of what I should call it. So I don’t know at this point.
YKIGS: I was reading in your bio that you’ve collaborated with another Philly native and personal favorite artist of mine Musiq Soulchild. What songs did you work on with him and what was it like working with him?
VG: Oh no we actually toured together, we never actually did anything in the studio together.
YKIGS: What was it like touring with him?
VG: Oh it was great, he’s great, really easy going, we just had a good time, city to city every night, it was pretty cool.
YKIGS: Tell me about another collaboration you did, the song with Guru “Fine and Free” which was the cover song. I don’t think it was ever released officially but what was it like doing that song?
VG: It was kinda cool, I talked to him over the phone because he was overseas so we actually never met. He was really sweet, really gracious and told me to do what I felt really! *Laughs* So we did it and sent it back to him through the internet and he heard it and thought it was great, so I thought that was great. I guess that’s it, it was really easy and fun. That was the first time I had ever sang on a hip hop hook. *Laughs* So that was cool, I’d like to do more!
YKIGS: Oh ok, well then tell me some rappers you’d like to collaborate with or sing a hook for in the future.
VG: Oh I’d love to sing a hook for Kanye! That would be the best ever because I love him, I think he’s so talented, ridiculously talented, that would be so awesome. *Laughs*
YKIGS: I wanted to ask you about a personal favorite song I have of yours “What is Love?” It only reached #75 on the r&b charts and I always wondered how that could be because that song is so amazing.
VG: Well it was never officially released as a single so.
YKIGS: I saw you perform it live at B.B. Kings in New York and it just brought it into a whole new element for me. Your fans were requesting you to sing it, and I just like the song a lot, I wish it would have been heard on a larger scale.
VG: You know I think it definitely is a fan favorite. A lot of people think it’s a great song. Eric Roberson and I wrote that song, he’s an amazing songwriter so I think every song I did with him was pretty great. *Laughs* We’re going to work again on this record too as a matter of fact.
YKIGS: Like I mentioned I loved the show you did at B.B. Kings because you came out and did a couple of encores, the fans were calling for you and you really got the crowd involved. Tell me about what you try to do with your live shows and how you get the crowd so engaged.
VG: Yea, there was one time, I think it was in Virginia, I kinda just walked out, it’s an easier stage to walk off of, there’s a little staircase in the front. So I kinda just walked down and I was going through the audience asking them questions and it just really went over really well, so I thought I should start doing that at every show. I don’t want to have to leave the stage and come around, because I think every second is so important to not have dead air. So DJ, who is like my biggest fan on the planet, *Laughs* I actually befriended him because he’s my biggest fan on the planet and so I figured it would be a cool thing for him to conduct the Q&A instead of me walking down there because it was his birthday so I thought it was kinda cool. It was fun and I definitely like to hear people’s questions. Sometimes it’s not the question I want, I want them to be really personal questions about me, not necessarily about me as a singer which is fine because I know people want to know those kind of things. But I want people to ask what my favorite color is, or what I drive *Laughs* that type of stuff, silly stuff. But most of the time it’s questions like about how I worked with Jill Scott or something , and I’ve heard that one many times! *Laughs* One time someone asked what my boyfriend’s name was, and yes those are the kind of questions that I like! *Laughs*Asking questions like that, or what’s my sign, or that kinda fun stuff just to kinda let fans gets to know me as a person. But that’s alright, I answer them all! *Laughs*
YKIGS: Yea I definitely enjoyed that show, and I cover a lot of shows and that was definitely one of the better ones I’ve been to, and I just don’t say that, I really did enjoy it.
VG: Ohhh thank you! Thank you so much!