When you think about consistency over the last decade for R&B, K. Michelle should be one of the first to come to mind. Ever since her debut album “Rebellious Soul” in 2013, the former Love & Hip Hop star has brought great music to the table with strong vocals and heartfelt lyrics. With those qualities, It’s no surprise that her upcoming album “All Monster Are Human” is highly anticipated amongst R&B fan. It’s even more exciting for listeners as this will be K. Michelle’s first album after leaving her major label situation. YouKnowIGotSoul had a chance to speak with her about her creative freedom with this new project, the transition to being an independent artist and also what we can expect from her Country album which is set to come out in the near future.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Take me through the creative process when you were putting this album together.
K. Michelle: This album is a little bi-polar and it’s like that because it’s just the mood and phase I was in. All my music has to do with where I’m at at that time. If I’m depressed or when I feel like dancing, that’s what you’re going to get from me as an artist It’s just an honest album and I just try to make super honest albums.
YouKnowIGotSoul: This is your first project as an independent artist. What was that like for you?
K. Michelle: Well for me, not much has really changed. I’m with eOne but as far as financially, they still support everything I do. I don’t feel the difference yet other than the fact that I was creatively left alone to do what I needed to do. They’re going to do my country album, so I’m not going back to a major if I’m getting the same benefits here.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You didn’t really take a long hiatus after leaving the major label. Did you feel a sense of urgency to come back right away?
K. Michelle: My fans act like it’s been forever. They act like I never put out anything. It’s usually one year, but this time it’s two years so it feels like a long time. I was under a lot of pressure because I want to keep their souls fed and give them something to hear. I’m a lot more calm about it now and I have this urgent album that sounds like a lot of aggression and some male bashing, but it’s not as an angry as it normally is. It’s in another way because that’s where I was at. With this album, I’m happy it’s going to come out and then we move directly into this country album.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We sort of expected you to put out the country album right away after leaving Atlantic, but you decided to put out this R&B album out first. What made you decide to do that?
K. Michelle: I didn’t want to abandon that fanbase because they were hungry and needed R&B. Everybody doesn’t like Country music, so I wanted to give something they needed. The real R&B is needed, not that lullaby music. It’s that really heartfelt soul music and I’m going to give them that. Next I’m going to give them something new and hopefully they grow with me. I wanted to leave everyone with a solid R&B album.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I know when Lil Nas X dropped “old Town Road”, it was a country song with Hip Hop elements to it. Does your upcoming country album sound like that as well?
K. Michelle: I wish him well, but I don’t need to be compared to that. That didn’t help me at all, it hurt more than anything. I’m not going to do Hip Hop and I’m not playing with Country music. I do real Country music. I’m not throwing 808’s because it’s not Country music. it should be a sound, feeling and a lifestyle. People can’t just go and say “I’m going to be a Country singer today!”. Yeah you can, but that’s not what country is about. R&B was about to be about lifestyle and it’s a feeling. All of these new artists coming out and just doing the gimmicks and not saying Lil Nas X did that, but when people look at me in that genre, they think that’s what I’m going to do and I’m going to change the music. No, I love the music as it is. The actual art isn’t suffering, but what is suffering is that you don’t see anybody my complexion in that genre. There’s million of girls good enough, but it hasn’t happened yet but guess who’s going to be fighting for it and yodel on the songs? Me. I’m a southern girl from Tennessee, this is who I am. This isn’t a gimmick or something when all else fails for me. This is a lifestyle, so that’s why it’s such a big shift for the fans who aren’t into all genres of music. For the fans who are into both Country and R&B, they understand that the genres really run parallel to each other. Country has soul and tells stores, that’s what R&B is.
YouKnowIGotSoul: On the intro record “Just Like Jay”, you mentioned your previous label wanted you to be like Mary J. Blige but you felt you had so much more to offer creatively. How frustrating was that for you?
K. Michelle: Very frustrating. “The Rain” is the first single I’ve ever picked on my own. Every album my label kept lying to me like I was dumb. They would be like “Next album you’re going to do this Country album” and they would say no every time I turned it in. They were determined that I was going to be the next Mary J. Blige. I love her and that’s somebody I look up to tremendously and there’s nothing wrong to be compared to her because it’s an honor, but God made me as K. Michelle. I have my own uniqueness to me. Yes I am able to touch women and men and they feel what I’m singing about, but I want to do some other things. I want to do my first love which is Country music. It was frustrating, but no hard feelings. I’m on great terms with them. It was a mutual thing. We had a three hour meeting about why I wanted to leave and what I wasn’t going to do. Breaking the bank on another album where all the control was pulled from me wasn’t something I was going to do again.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Did you have to re-discover your love for music again afterwards?
K. Michelle: I didn’t even want to do this album. It was so hard to get in my zone. I was battling health and I wasn’t concerned about songs at that time. Getting back there took a lot. So many records didn’t make the album because they weren’t up to par. It wasn’t me at my best. It was me still healing, so it took me awhile to get in the groove and get the strength back in the records.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What are your expectations for this album?
K. Michelle: I never measured my major success by industry standards. I just know when I get on stage and everyone knows my songs and they’re crying, I know that’s the greatest respect anyone can have.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Recently we did a list of artists that we felt impacted the genre over the last decade and we gave you a shout out for being so consistent over the past ten years. You recently made some comments about the state of R&B and the lack of passion in the vocals from today’s generation of artists. How do you bring the soul back to the genre?
K. Michelle: Stop putting people in the game that don’t have soul. I turn on the radio and it sounds like a demo. It’s like those records people send you so you can actually really sing. That’s what it sounds like. I’m not knocking any artist, but I will always be honest with my opinion. There are a lot of artists that are really good. One of my new favorites is Ari Lennox. There’s soul there and you feel that girl. A lot of the other ones, they’re just mumbling like the rappers. I don’t know what they’re talking about, but I wish they would shut up and give the spot to these other new girls who have heart and soul. They even started a genre called Alternative R&B. That’s not R&B at all. It just sounds like one big lullaby and one that not even a baby would want to listen to. It’s like drug music. You have to be high to understand it and I think you should feel high on music without being high.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything you’d like to add?
K. Michelle: Thank you for your years of support. It’s greatly appreciated especially in this genre when we have to fight so hard. Thank you for always having my back.