To the casual music fan, an artist like Kandi who went 10 years between albums might generate a reaction during that hiatus such as “Damn whatever happened to her?” Look no further than the former Xscape group member’s writing credits over the past decade and you will find that just because she’s been out of the limelight, she’s been very active in the industry and has had a hand in writing some of your favorite songs. The most important part is she’s never took her eyes off of the prize; releasing a follow up to 2000’s “Hey Kandi” album. Fast forward to 2010 and Kandi has managed to overcome the odds and release her sophomore solo album “Kandi Koated.” In this interview, Kandi speaks with Slam of YouKnowIGotsoul to discuss the emotions she’s feeling after overcoming the doubters, her decision to join The Real Housewives of Atlanta and how it’s affected her image, her favorite song she’s ever wrote, her Ustream show Kandi Koated Nights and a lot more!
YouKnowIGotSoul: I just want to first congratulate you on the release of your new album “Kandi Koated.” Tell me the emotions you’re feeling now that the album has released since it’s been so long between albums.
Kandi: I can’t even explain to you how it feels! For awhile I felt like maybe I wasn’t going to get the opportunity to do another solo album and it was just something that I always wanted to do since my last album. But so many different things happened for me, having a daughter, trying to get readjusted back in the swing of things to having a deal, the things that were coming together with it. A lot of people probably thought why did she just now come out but it’s not that I didn’t want to, it’s just things weren’t coming together. To finally see everything coming together now it’s a very emotional time for me and I’m happy that so many people are supporting me although I do know it’s going to be a lot of work. I’m not going into it thinking I’m going to be selling hundreds of thousands first week, for me I knew this was going to be a work album because now is a time I have to gain all my old fans and regain new ones. So right now it’s a grind.
YKIGS: I was at your album release party in New York last week and before you performed “Fly Above” you were talking about people were doubting you could ever do another album and there’s haters out there. Was there a point when you didn’t feel you would be able to do another album or did you always know you were going to be able to do one?
Kandi: Well put it this way, I didn’t think I was going to be able to do another one through a major label deal. I just figured if anything it was going to be putting out my own project without the help from one of the major labels. So to be able to do it and have Warner Brothers be backing the project is just something I never saw coming. So it started out with I was going to shop a deal shortly after I had my first solo album, I was just going to get another deal somewhere else. But then I got pregnant with my daughter so some years passed and then when I started trying to shop a deal again, labels were just so used to me being Kandi the songwriter, it’s like the songs that I had they were like “Oh we love the songs, but can we just buy them from you and give them to another artist?” They weren’t trying to put out Kandi as an artist, they just wanted to do Kandi songs. So to be able to finally come around and pull it all together it’s major for me.
YKIGS: One of my personal favorite from this album is the song you did with Ne-Yo “Me & U.” What was your inspiration for using the sample from Outkast’s “Elevators (Me & You)?”
Kandi: When I went to the studio with Ne-Yo, he has his own production team. He and I had collaborated on one song, and then we were supposed to just keep doing records and keep coming up with different ideas. So when he was playing the tracks, at first they were only playing me real r&b, what they considered to be something for me. So I was like “Look, play me all kinds of tracks, play me something that you would think is out of the box that you wouldn’t expect me to do.” So he started playing these other tracks that were more hip hop driven, and the one with Outkast came on and immediately I was like “I gotta have this track!” *Laughs* Obviously I’m born in raised in Atlanta, I’m an Outkast fan, we went to high school together and I love Outkast. So I thought that could be so hot, and at that point I wanted him to mainly write a record himself because why pay for a Ne-Yo record if I’m not going to let him do him? I just told him what I wanted, I wanted to flip that whole “Me and You” thing and he did it and it sounded hot.
YKIGS: Yea I like what you did with that! You just released a video for “How Could You…Feel My Pain.” Is this going to be released as a single? What do you have planned for that?
Kandi: No, right now it’s not a single, we just did viral videos for “Haven’t Loved Right” and “How Could You…Feel My Pain.” Basically we did that because sometimes a lot of people before you get an album, you’re kinda skeptical and don’t know what the album will be like. So we wanted to do marketing and put out a few visuals and let people hear songs before the album came out, and that’s what it was.
YKIGS: Talk to me about your web show “Kandi Koated Nights” that you do on Ustream. What was your inspiration doing the show and how has the reception been?
Kandi: *Laughs* Kandi Koated Nights was something that just kinda happened. In January of this year I was doing this “Fly Above” contest, I had put “Fly Above” out on iTunes and they had a ringtone available on most phone companies. So I said I’m going to call people who send me their number and add “Fly Above” as their caller tone. So I was calling people live on Ustream and on Ustream sometimes you’re going to get crazy stuff on the chat box. So somebody kept putting nasty stuff on the chat box and I said “Look here, whoever that is wait until after midnight and we are going to do Kandi After Dark.” So people started Tweeting like “I thought you said we were going to do Kandi After Dark?” So I said “Send me your best sex stories and we’re going to start reading them!” *Laughs* I did that, I started reading them and comparing some of my own stories and before you know it I had 80,000 people that went in and out of my chat room all night. It was just really crazy so the following day people on the web were asking when we could do it again. So I said how about we do it every Wednesday and I just stayed consistent with it, it’s me and my friends, and we just talk openly about different relationships. I guess it’s successful because everywhere I go people are like “I love Kandi Koated Nights!” How is it that so many people across the country know about the show? It’s just on the internet, it’s not like I do promo for it, and it’s just funny. Now that they showed it on The Real Housewives, it’s even more people that know about it.
YKIGS: I’m actually a big fan and I admire a lot of the writing you’ve done over the years for a lot of artists and I know you’re a very accomplished writer. What’s your favorite song or the best song you felt you’ve ever written for another artist, if you could possibly answer that?
Kandi: Oooh, that is a good question! Well one of my favorite songs that I did for another artist, it wasn’t a big song, but I just really loved the song, me and this guy Pooh Bear collaborated on it. But it was this song called “Single for the Rest of My Life” by that group Isyss. I used to love that song because the concept of it was just inspired by one of my past relationships, so I just really loved it. I hate that it wasn’t big like some of the other songs that I’ve written, but sometimes you just really like a song and it doesn’t have to be the biggest song, you just really like it.
YKIGS: I remember that one, it was a cool song. A personal favorite of mine I just wanted to touch on was the song you did with Alicia Keys “Jane Doe.” Tell me what you remember about that one.
Kandi: Ooohh well that was a great experience but I had no clue Alicia was going to be as big of an artist as she is. My current manager, at the time he worked for Columbia Records and he was my publisher, he was the president of Columbia Records, Michael Mauldin. Anyway, he had worked with Alicia, so he thought it would be great to have female producers and writers come together and do a record together. So I was like cool and I got in the studio with her and Krucial Keys and we just started coming up with ideas from scratch. I just started singing a song off of the top of my head and she started playing around it. She tried to show me how to use the drum machine, I’ll never forget that *Laughs* it was so funny because I do not know how to program a beat or anything. So she would try to show me how to do that type of stuff and it was cool, it was a real fun session, and she’s just a good person to be around in the studio.
YKIGS: Tell me about the tour you’re currently on with Eric Benet and Fantasia, how’s that going?
Kandi: Oh I looooove, love, love being on tour with them! First of all, the show is hot from beginning to end! From beginning to end, and I’m not just saying that because I’m on the show, it’s been a great tour. Some of the dates El DeBarge has joined us and that show is amazing, people are on their feet from the top to the end of the show. Fantasia, she’s like a sister to me, she’s like a little sister, and we feel like a family on the road, so I just have fun, I enjoy it.
YKIGS: Yea I hope to catch the show when you guys come to NY in a couple of weeks!
Kandi: Oh yea, please come out!
YKIGS: In regard to The Real Housewives of Atlanta, was it an easy decision for you to join the cast of that or did you have any reservations originally?
Kandi: Well the thing is, I was supposed to be doing the show with Tiny and Toya first, so that’s what got me open minded to reality TV because at first, I wasn’t even thinking about reality shows. The guy that was producing the show decided he only wanted to do Tiny and Toya, and a week after I found out I wasn’t going to be doing the show with them, the people from Housewives reached out to me and asked if they could meet with me. So I was just like “Ok, whatever!” and I was thinking in my mind why did they want me on that show, I’m not married or anything? *Laughs* But it ended up being a cool situation. Although I’m not going to lie to you, at first I didn’t know because I like the show, in the beginning on the first season I really loved it but I didn’t see myself being on the show. I think the only reason I agreed to do it was because I was already thinking about doing something with Tiny, if it weren’t for her asking me to be a part of that show, I would have never been thinking about doing reality TV.
YKIGS: Final question, how do you feel the show has affected your image overall?
Kandi: Overall I think it’s been cool because I think I’m pretty much like a normal person. *Laughs* I think I’m relate able to most people because I don’t try to do too much just because, some people just do way too much and you can’t relate. I feel like the things that I go through or the things people see me doing on the show is relate able, I don’t try to do anything extra or anything more than what I do if you were around me on a regular day to day basis. With that in mind, I feel like my image is cool. I know some people with the Kandi Koated Nights being on the show, some people were like “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe Kandi would talk about that stuff, talk about sex like that!” But I would if you were my friend, we would talk about it! *Laughs* I mean I dunno, it’s cool I guess!
YKIGS: That’s all I had, thanks so much for the interview, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Kandi: I just hope that everybody checks outs my album, give it a chance even if you never thought about getting a Kandi album, check it out and I hope everybody enjoys it!