We caught up with legendary artist Brandy to talk about her new single “Baby Mama”. It’s been almost eight years since the release of her last album “Two Eleven”, so we had to find out what she’s been cooking up during this hiatus. The new album “B7” will be her first as an independent artist, so we talked about her mindset from a business perspective and discuss what her expectations are moving forward with her music. In addition to that, we learn more about Brandy’s creative process. Critics and fans have given her the nickname “Vocal Bible” so we picked her brain on how she creates her infamous harmonies and runs in the studio. Lastly, we take some time to celebrate Brandy’s past success as one of the most accomplished artists since the 90’s and also look ahead to what’s in store for Brandy including her daughter’s upcoming music. Check out what she had to say about all of this below!
YouKnowIGotSoul: I remember back in 2012 when you put out “Put It Down”, your mindset when creating that song was to introduce yourself to a new generation of R&B fans. Talk about your mentality with your new single “Baby Mama”?
Brandy: My mentality is just to do what I love to do and connect to as many people as I can. I just know that I wanted to come back with a message. I want all of my songs to have a special message and giving a voice to mothers out there who are holding it down for their kids. They’re really being resilient and strong and doing everything they can to be an example in their seed’s life. Also it’s a way to celebrate my love for my daughter. I think it’s a great message and it’s a great song. It’s a triumphant song and I was able to team up with really good people to make this happen. I’m really happy to be back doing what I love to do.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Would you say that your mindset has changed business? I know you’re an independent artist now whereas previously you were on a major label, so perhaps expectations are different now?
Brandy: My mindset has definitely changed. I feel very free. I feel blessed to have my label and to work with eOne that completely supports my vision of myself. I just feel a lot more creative control and I’m just looking forward to see how far I can go with this mentality and new found independence and creativity that I have to give.
YouKnowIGotSoul: The one thing we love about your music is that every album sounds different. You’re always looking to evolve, so what excites you sonically about this new project?
Brandy: Sonically it’s a lot different than anything I’ve ever done. I had the pleasure of working with Camper who is so forward in his music. You can’t pinpoint where his mind is. He gives you something different for each song. I was able to be very vulnerable, authentic and honest in my songwriting and finding my own sound and melodies. It was a great process. I’ve never been this hands on with any other project in my life. Of course with every project I was involved heavily, but with this project I was doing a lot of the writing and producing. It’s a story that I have not told, so I just can’t wait for people to hear it and take a ride with me into my music. I’m so blessed.
YouKnowIGotSoul: “Baby Mama” has the horns and the drums are knocking. Are we expecting more musical type of production like “Baby Mama” or will it be more atmospheric type of music?
Brandy: It’s all of it. That’s the beautiful thing about the music. For me, I’m able to do all different types and when you work with Hit-Boy or Camper, it’s not just one way. They’re both musical guys, but it’s atmospheric as well. It’s all part of it. It’s a vibe.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We spoke about three years and you were working with Camper as well as some other producers. You were really excited about the music at the time, but it looks like the project has transformed since our last conversation. Take me through that journey and at what point did you finally get to the point where you satisfied with the music?
Brandy: Oh my, it was a journey. *Laughs* It took a lot of just doing vocals over, speeding up the music and trying to figure out if it’s good enough. When you are the main person doing everything, I’m wearing so many hats. I got insecure and didn’t know if it was the right thing. After letting key people hear it and just listening over and over myself. I got to a point where I really started to believe in it. I got into a place where I could be proud of it. It was tough because you’re your own worst critic. I’m so sensitive and I want to get the music to the right place. I’m right there, so I look forward to seeing how people connect to it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I know with artists, their opinions changes over time when it comes to their work. What was your process like for songs that didn’t necessarily make the cut? I know you were in the studio with The Neptunes and I’m sure those songs were great, but you’ve mentioned that they won’t be on the album.
Brandy: For me it’s about the body of work and how the songs sound sonically together. I’m from a generation and time where albums or an entire project were a hit. I never want to lose that. I have a lot of great songs, but I want for all of it to sound cohesive where it can tell a story. I didn’t want one song to not be in a place with another song. I wanted it to be one song together even though they’re all different and special in their own way. I just want them to tell one beautiful story sonically and lyrically.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I know you’re heavily involved in the writing process this time around, so what is your process?
Brandy: I go into the booth and sing what comes to my mind. I’ll sing melodies and then the words will come. I don’t go too far ahead of myself. I just wait for each bar to come. I’m very patient with myself and I take the advice of Michael Jackson to allow the song to write itself. The song is already there, you just have to listen. I’m very patient during that process. I separate it too. I don’t write a song and then sing it. I write it, spend the whole day writing it and give my focus to that. Another day I will do the vocals, so I just keep my focus on one process at a time so I can get the best of myself in that moment.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’ve worked with legends like Timbaland, Rodney Jerkins, LaShawn Daniels and Sean Garrett. Now that you’ve explained your songwriting process, does it remind you of any of those people I just mentioned?
Brandy: I would say LaShawn Daniels because he taught me how to write a song. He was very much involved in this new project that I have coming forward and he was just a great instrument and foundation for me to lean on. He was supportive of me writing my songs. He really stamped a lot of the songs that are going on the new project. I learned so much from him and he was one of my greatest teachers. I miss him so very much.
YouKnowIGotSoul: A lot of people look at you as the vocal bible. The reason why people say that is because when they’re listening to your songs, they’re not only listening to the finished product but they’re also studying the runs and background vocals that you’re doing. Camper told us last week that you guys are doing crazy stacks with the harmonies on this album. Is that something that people can look forward to if they want to study Brandy’s vocals?
Brandy: Absolutely! I love stacking vocals and finding harmonies and creating this flange with my voice. It’s so fun to turn my voice into an instrument. It’s a beautiful experience. I have such a great time. The studio is my favorite place to be. I love discovering new things about my voice every time I’m in the studio. I’m not afraid to try things, mess up or sound wack. It doesn’t matter, it’s about getting it until you got it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Camper told us you are doing like 16 part harmonies. What’s the key to not getting lost in the runs and harmonies to make sure that the song is still cohesive?
Brandy: That can be tough because when you’re trying to do all the stacks and put all the harmonies, you want to still give the music room to breathe. It’s not so much 16 anymore. I have a new formula that I’ve been working with to make things more simple, but still not shying away from what I’m known for.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We’re going to need you to write a book or tutorial on those on harmonies
Brandy: I will. *Laughs*
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’ve also been working with your daughter and we heard the new song from her. From all these years that you’ve been mentoring her and sharing your gift with her, is there anything you’ve learned about yourself vocally from teaching her? Often when you’re teaching, it might remind you of something you haven’t done in awhile.
Brandy: She’s so precise and meticulous like I am. She just reminds me to stay that way and stay passionate about your vocals. Stay fresh and new. Do it over and over until you have it. It’s been such a joy just watch her come into her own. I haven’t really got a chance to work with like how I want to. I’ve been respecting her finding her own way, sound and process. I wait in the wings when she needs me, but it’s great to see her find herself in her own way and I’m just waiting for my turn to work with her. I have so many ideas for her and I can’t wait to share them with her when’s open. She’s still finding her way though.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Take me through that balance of making sure your daughter still has her own creative space to do what she has to do, but also that you’re there for her. That’s a tough thing to balance as a parent or even a mentor to make sure you’re not overstepping your boundaries.
Brandy: It’s hard for me because I’ve already traveled the road that she wants to travel and I’ve already been there. I can hear past what she can hear in herself. I know her potential better than she does. She has to come into the communication of being open to that. Her mission is to find her sound in her own way. When she’s ready, she promised me that when she feels she has a hold of it and she’s in a good place to work with me, she’ll let me know. I’m just being patient and being patient is so important in the process for me. As long as I stay patient and supportive without overstepping, she will come to me at some point and create the best magic ever. She’s doing great without me so far and I’m so proud of her.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’ve never really celebrated your past success. You’ll talk about the albums but you won’t do anniversary tours or anything. Recently you did the #SittingUpInMyRoomChallenge, so does that mean you’re starting to embrace your past success a little more?
Brandy: I’m so appreciative of everything I’ve been able to accomplish. I don’t’ take any of that for granted. I’m so blessed to have worked with so many great artists who made me who I am today. I actually did celebrate my 25th year anniversary when I released the song “Freedom Rings”. I’m so proud of my journey and I pay a lot of tributes to my journey on this new album, so I guess you can say I am embracing it a little more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Do you think there was some hesitation in the past to do so? From speaking to you over the years, you’ve always been forward thinking and you’re always looking at what’s next. Was that part of the challenge?
Brandy: Yes, I wanted to keep going. I wanted to keep reinventing myself and I never want to do anything the same way. I didn’t really understand that I could still celebrate everything I did before and also do all the new things that I wanted to do and stay creative and fresh. I have learned that I can embrace everything about me from my past and everything about my future. I can connect it all.
YouKnowIGotSoul: When we spoke during the “Two Eleven” era, the media dubbed that project as your comeback album. What would you call this new era?
Brandy: I’m not really calling it anything. “B7” is my new project. It’s my seventh project and I’m happy to continue to do music. Even in times when it feels like I’ve been gone, my music has been able to stand the test of time. So many artists have showed me so much love and respect. I’ve been able to inspire so many artists and they respect me in such a great way, so I’ve been alive in so many ways even when I wasn’t doing music full time. I’m just happy to continue doing what I’ve been doing for the longest time.