I recently had the pleasure to interview Nicci Gilbert; from the group Brownstone, for YouKnowIGotSoul. Nicci is back on the Scene with a new Musical Play, a managing role for an all-girl band by the name of “The Gee Gees,” and new music in the works for all her fans. Please join us in this amazing interview as Nicci discusses how Brownstone got signed by Michael Jackson, inspiration from her mentor Tyler Perry, the future of Brownstone, all her new endeavors, and an “Up Close & Personal” explanation on the origins of some of her greatest hits. Make sure you follow Nicci on Twitter @niccigilbert. “Soul Kittens Cabaret” was written and directed by Nicci and it stars Faith Evans and Fantasia. If you are a Nicci Gilbert/Brownstone fan, this is an interview that you don’t want to miss. Enjoy!
YouKnowIGotSoul: First of all I wanted to congratulate you on the release of your DVD “Soul Kittens Cabaret.” How are you feeling with the release of the movie?
Nicci Gilbert: Well it’s a play; it’s the taping of a Musical Stage Play. A lot of people think that it’s a movie but it’s not a movie, it is in fact a Stage Play. I feel really good about it; I’m exited about the growth that I think will come with it. It’s my first project as a Writer and Director so I’m interested to see what the reviews are.
YKIGS: Will it be available in stores and online?
NG: Yeah. It is available in Wal-Mart, Target, and online.
YKIGS: That’s amazing, congratulations!!
NG: Thank you very much!
YKIGS: Let’s start from the beginning. Could you please tell us how you got your start in the music business and what inspired you to pursue this career?
NG: I got started by working with Michael Jackson. He actually decided that he wanted to sign a group, which I kind of put together; called Brownstone. We got a record deal with Michael Jackson in the early 90’s, which was amazing. We were nominated for a Grammy Award, won Billboard Music Awards, and sold platinum records. After that, I started acting a little bit; I did the TV Shows “Martin,” “Living Single,” and “Sister Sister.” From there, I moved to Atlanta. I’m originally from Detroit but I lived in LA while pursuing my music career. Once my music stuff slowed down a little bit, I moved from LA to the South and I started working with Tyler Perry. Tyler basically cast me for his stage play “Meet The Browns” and that’s how I fell in love with the idea of doing Urban Theater and Stage Plays. I worked under Tyler for awhile, learned a lot; and wrote “Soul Kittens Cabaret” as my first project. The rest is history; here we are seven years later releasing it to the world through Target and Wal-Mart. I’m very excited about that.
YKIGS: That’s a beautiful story!!
NG: Thank you!
YKIGS: Could you take us back to the time when Brownstone got signed to MJJ records? And how did Michael Jackson give the group a deal?
NG: Yeah, we auditioned for him. We met Jerry Greenberg first. I can’t tell the full story because we are doing a book; that’s going to be exiting. The short story is that we met Jerry Greenberg, we auditioned for him, and he said he had someone else that he wanted us to meet. At the time we did not know who it was. We auditioned for a second time in a pitch black conference room. After the second audition was over, we discovered that Michael was there; of course we were extremely excited. Later on, we were told that Michael fell in love with us and wanted us to be the first artists signed to his record label.
YKIGS: Wow, very impressive. Do you have a fond memory of Michael Jackson that you could share with us?
NG: Yeah, I remember the first time that I met him. He gave us the advice that, like Coca-Cola; we should always conduct ourselves as a brand. Growing up in Detroit, as an artist; I would always say that one day I was going to be able to Michael. *Laughs* I remember going to the store and buying a fake picture of Michael Jackson just to say that he gave it to me. To meet him was crazy, there was a tremendous amount of pressure, like its cool that you a singer but how do you impress Michael Jackson? I remember him saying, “Don’t try to impress me because you’ve already impressed me enough to sign you and give you a record deal. Work on building a brand and building a name that people will remember forever.” That was the strongest advice that we ever got from him, it’s something that motivates me to this day.
YKIGS: Thank you for sharing that with us. Let’s go back to the Brownstone’s Grammy Nomination for the single “If You Love Me.” Do you remember the exact moment when you found out and your feelings and emotions at the time?
NG: Yeah, We were in New York at Sony’s executive offices. They were telling us that we were up for a Grammy; *Laughs* we were like “Ye yeah right, yeah right, whatever. We’ll believe it when we see it.” A little after, we received a letter from Michael Greene congratulating us for our “Best Vocal Performance” on “If You Love Me.” I just remember being overwhelmed and it’s funny because I believe that you have to be careful with what you speak and what you truly believe. I remember believing “We are not gonna get it, we’re not gonna get it. They are gonna give it to another group.” And you know, I think Take 6 won that year. You never know, maybe if we would’ve been a little more optimistic and convinced that we were going to win; that could’ve been a possibility. But it’s a testimony of being careful what you speak.
YKIGS: Very true. Let’s talk about your transition going from singing into acting and theater. What inspired you to go this route?
NG: Tyler Perry. I had a conversation with him in New York at The Beacon; I’ll never forget it, he came to my dressing room and basically told me that there were amazing things waiting for me. He told me that I had to treat my career better, treat myself better, to be more responsible with my career; and that once I learned that, it was going to take off and be bigger that I would’ve ever imagined. I always knew that I had a passion for acting. I had a Theater Major in College so I was always excited about the whole theater and acting thing. When the opportunity came to put my own show together, I spent the last seven years really beating the pavement, grinding, and doing everything that I needed to do to put this musical together.
YKIGS: Tell us about your solo album “Grown Folks Music.” How do you compare the recording process being a solo artist vs. recording with a group?
NG: It was different because I’m used to having my girls around. At the time I recorded “Grown Folks Music,” I was really going through a situation in a relationship and I just wanted to write what was in my heart. Initially, I didn’t want to be a solo artist; I was just writing. My first love has always been writing, most people might think that it would be singing but my first love is writing and creating content. When I wrote the album, it was for other people to sing; I wanted to have somebody else’s interpretation of my stories. Instead, MCA offered me a deal and I went ahead and recorded the album. Unfortunately, before the album was released; MCA went under and this was around the time where things pretty much ended for MCA. I asked for my masters and they gave them to me. I own the masters to the album and it’s available on iTunes. I’m actually about to work on a Nicci Gilbert live project for the Spring and it will include some music from that album and some Brownstone stuff also.
Stay tuned for part 2 coming later this week.