We recently caught up with the legendary Kelly Price for an interview following the announcement of her signing to Motown Gospel and upcoming album. During our conversation, we discussed what to expect on the new album, when an R&B album might follow, touring with Mariah Carey, songwriting with Diddy, being an R&B artist in the 90’s, finding her voice originally, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: When you look back at your catalog of music you’ve created, what’s one song you look back and think “Man I killed that song!”
Kelly Price: Lyrically one of my favorite songs that I’ve written is a song called “Metamorphosis”. It was literally on the album that came out in 2014. I really didn’t work that album at all because it came out weeks after my sister died. “It’s My Time” was the lead single from that album. That was a rough year. But I wrote this song, and it is literally one of my favorite songs pen to paper. Just lyrically, I felt like I had grown up and was an adult writer! *Laughs* The song was just really elevated. I felt like Donnie Hathaway! I felt like I had graduated into a new class of writers. That’s what that song felt like to me. I remember that day. I got to the studio that day, Shep Crawford was already there, and he was just playing this beat that felt like thunder from the piano. It felt emotional. When I walked in, I told him to stay right there. I grabbed the pad and pen and literally just started singing. It’s one of my favorite songs lyrically, I felt like I went somewhere. I felt like I was something special as a writer in that moment! *Laughs* You have to be a deep cut Kelly Price listener to know that song since it wasn’t a single.
YouKnowIGotSoul: When we spoke to you for an interview last year, we let you know we were really looking forward to new music from you since it has been so long. Now here we are in 2021 and you’ve just signed a new label deal with Motown Gospel to release a new album soon.
Kelly Price: Which was not the plan! I had been working on a new R&B album in between filming television shows. I’m loving that side of things. I probably have about 40 songs that I did in between seasons of shows. Then I was invited to join Sunday Best as a judge and when that season 9 ended and I was asked to perform, I covered a Clark Sisters song which I love them. Just that performance went crazy on the internet. I was invited back for season 10 as a judge, and I thought it would be good to have my own music so that I had a song to sing of my own for the finale. I had a song, I was just going to do the one song and then the world went on timeout. We got Covid and I started losing family members, and my grandfather I lost early in the pandemic, and people I grew up with in church and school, especially with New York being that epicenter. Then my grandmother got Covid at 95 and kicked it’s butt! But then my mom got sick in October and we lost her. The way the world went kind of decided for me what was to come next. I was working on putting out new R&B music and I just started to build from the one song that I had prepared to just do for my finale performance as a judge on season 10. It turned into a project. I did a post about it and I have a friend who is one of the senior executives at Motown Gospel and he saw me do this throwback post from my first Gospel album in 2006. It had been 15 years, I said maybe it’s time I do another one. He reached out after seeing that. That call turned into a flight to Nashville and really good meeting and a joint venture between my company and theirs. This EP is going to rock people. I’m a church girl, but I’m not a Gospel artist. This EP is really true to the eclectic taste of music that I have, and even in the way my career has gone. There is an R&B cover on this Gospel EP! There’s an old school Vanessa Bell Armstrong cover, and then a lot of dance music on this. The song “Grace” is like a lullaby. I literally have a song with two hip hop artists, 901 South and John Connor. They are on a remix to the song “What I Need” which I had previously released. That song with them on it is a whole different song. It’s me going back to the days of my voice laying under The Lox, or Jay-Z, or Notorious B.I.G. It’s an inspirational piece. I really felt like I wanted to release some goodness into the world. I had got to a point where I was tired of losing people and crying. I just wanted to have a great dance party and mean it. You have a moment on this EP to cry. But the rest of the time you are literally going to be dancing! *Laughs*
YouKnowIGotSoul: Will the R&B album follow that?
Kelly Price: This is going to roll right into the R&B album seamlessly because the music is already done. I’m really just grateful. I feel like I have the opportunity to do what not many people can do. Aretha Franklin is someone I’ve always looked at as also being a preacher’s kid and growing up singing in church, but at any point, would say “I think I want to do a Gospel album”. There was “Amazing Grace” and it was off the charts. I did that with my first Gospel album “This Is Who I Am” and we went to #1 on Billboard Gospel Charts and Top 10 on the R&B Charts with a Gospel album. To put the announcement out on Friday and we did so well digitally, it was amazing across the board. I thought we pulled a Beyonce and got away with it, nobody knew this was coming!
YouKnowIGotSoul: People are going to be really excited to hear this!
Kelly Price: Can I tell you a secret? Let me tell you how mashed up this Gospel album is. I have a cover of Alicia Myers song “I Want to Thank You” on here. It is sick!!I can’t wait for everybody to hear it. It’s going to be the new two step joint for everybody’s wedding this Summer.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You mentioned earlier working with Shep Crawford again, he’s someone you’ve worked with a lot over the years and he recently announced he’s retiring. Warryn Campbell is another one who you’ve worked with a lot. What makes things click with these types of producers for you?
Kelly Price: They are musicians. This is the thing. This is not to downplay or disrespect anyone. Hip hop is more so at a point where it’s all beat. When you’re talking about singers and R&B music, there is a difference between a beat maker and a producer. Beatmakers make beats. Producers make songs. Shep is retiring but I don’t know anything about that! *Laughs* Matter of fact we just got off of the phone the other day and he gave me some new music. We have an understanding. I actually called him out on social media about retiring. *Laughs* He ended up telling me he’d come out of retirement for me if I call. He always takes my call, even now.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We love to celebrate the 90’s era of R&B. Take us back to what it was even like being in that moment for you as an artist? That era seems larger than life.
Kelly Price: You know what’s crazy, I was so busy working that I was not living the moment! *Laughs* I look back and I was grinding. Every time I turned around I had a session. One thing would turn into another. Puff would be like “I got a call from so and so and they are coming in town and they want you to work on their record”. Things were moving so fast for me and I really had to stop and take a moment. I was on some of the biggest songs in history and I wasn’t paying attention, I was just grinding in the moment. To tell the truth I was Kelly thinking about the little girl who was raised in the single parent home being poor and on food stamps. So I would just grind to make money. That’s what I did, I was so busy grinding and didn’t take it in. That’s probably good. Maybe if I had realized all of the crazy greatness I was a part of my head would have been too big. I was just working and writing songs and singing the songs. Most days were like 20 hour days. I’d drive home, kiss my kids, change my clothes, grab coffee, and head back to the studio. All I could think about is that I would never be homeless again so I had to grind! That was my mentality. If I could change anything, I don’t know that I would. I don’t think people grind like that anymore. I remember those days. I was at the Hit Factory, there could be fifteen different rooms going and I’d find out Mase is in one room, Biggie is in one room, I’m working with 112 in one room, Faith is in another room. All of these rooms happening. We literally would just run in between rooms. To give a line, or hit a note. That’s how a lot of these records ended up coming together. Even Daddy’s House, it had multiple rooms. We’d go between rooms to each artist. I remember going from writing an Aaliyah session, that was the day I met Ronald Isley. I was finishing up a song for Aaliyah, a track that Puff gave me. I thought I was done for the day, walking out the door, and he told me Ronald Isley was coming. So I asked when he was going to get to the studio, and Puff said he just left his hotel! *Laughs* Thank God for New York City traffic! It bought me about 45 minutes which was enough time to write his first single “Floatin On Your Love”.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We always picture Mariah Carey as someone who is larger than life and a legend. You were handpicked by her to sing with her and go on tour. That’s an amazing story right there.
Kelly Price: I was a part of a choir that a musician I knew from church was contracted to put together. It all started where he was hired as a contractor for George Michael to put together a group of singers. Mariah was also at Sony. That was when he came in 1992 and played Madison Square Garden two nights in a row. Mariah wanted this big sound for a song that Carole King had done for her. So they went back to my friend for a group. I was a part of the George Michael group and then then the Mariah group. I was very pregnant and nobody knew it. I was super nauseated and couldn’t even eat. During a break at rehearsal everyone was away eating and the smell was making me want to puke! So I stayed away and sat at the piano and just started singing and that’s how it happened, Mariah walked in. She sent Trey Lorenz over to start a conversation with me. Then she came over and started talking and then Tommy Mottola as well. They wanted to work with me. I was feeling weird because it was my friends gig and I didn’t want anyone to think I was doing anything weird. I didn’t give them my number that day, I didn’t want my friend to think I was trying to poach his job. I don’t know how they did it, all I know is I got a call one day at my grandmother’s house and it was Tommy Mottola, saying he wanted to talk to me about MTV Unplugged! He said Mariah was going to be doing it and wanted me to sing with her. I was thinking how did he get this number! I told him my sister had to come with me, I didn’t know what was going on, I was 18. He said it was fine. It was at Kaufmann Astoria studios. I remember Mariah used to destroy “Can’t Let Go” every time she used to sing it. My first memory of singing that with her was that day. When we filmed MTV Unplugged, the audience asked for one more song. We hadn’t rehearsed it, I had never performed it with her before, we did it on the spot. None of us had done it before. I knew the song, because I loved it. That was a magical moment. We had a lot of those moments out on the road. I was really young when I started with her. That was my college.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’ve always been able to sing over these unorthodox beats, especially starting in your time working with Bad Boy. How did you master that?
Kelly Price: That came from being thrown in a room by Puff Daddy with a loop and nothing else. Imagine “The 10 Crack Commandments”. You put that on loop and let it run until you either get dizzy, pass out, or write a song! *Laughs* He used to do stuff like that. He’d give me a beat with no chords, no melody, just a beat. He’d say he needed something for the club, and I’d say “There is nothing here, what do you want me to do with this!” That was college for me. It made me grow as a writer. I had always been a lyric and melody writer since the time I was a kid anyway. I really had to stretch that muscle with the merging of R&B melodies over straight hip hop beats with no music whatsoever. If chords ended up on the song, it was usually later because of what I was doing. Most of the time it was just a beat with some bass maybe.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We always know when it comes to your music we are always going to get the best vocal performance. Where did you even develop that?
Kelly Price: My grandmother. She started it for all of us. Everyone in my family is a singer or a musician. She got it from God, we got it from her. None of us ever took any formal lessons. My 95 year old grandmother, she was my first and earliest influence. Stood all of 4 feet 10 inches tall. When she opened her mouth, she’d blow a room out!
YouKnowIGotSoul: Take us back to the “Loves Sets You Free” video shoot! You had Dru Hill, Playa, Case, Montell Jordan, Teddy Riley along with yourself.
Kelly Price: Chucky Thompson was there as well. You’d be surprised what you can get someone to do when you bribe them with Roscoe’s chicken and waffles! *Laughs* That was my bribe! I told them the money was going to cancer research, but I’d have Roscoe’s there, and I really did! For everyone! *Laughs* We raised some money for a great cause and I’m really proud of what we did with that song. It goes so hard today. When I go overseas, they want to hear that before anything else. It goes so hard in Europe. It has to be on the playlist when I play over there.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything you’d like to add?
Kelly Price: The music is here to stay. It’s never going anywhere. If people want to say that R&B is dead, I’m saying that as long as I’m alive, it’s not dead. I don’t plan on not singing. There’s a lot of great R&B out there.