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!
YKIGS: If you don’t mind, I have a couple of my favorite Brownstone and Nicci Gilbert records, and we would love to hear any memories regarding the studio sessions or stories on what inspired you to sing these songs. We have a couple of song that we would like for you to touch on.
YKIGS: The first one I have is Brownstone’s “5 Miles to Empty.”
NG: Yeah, “5 Miles to Empty” I was actually dating the producer of that song and I found out that he was cheating on me. I was literally driving back from his house, you know; we were going to a recording session because we were going to work on some tracks, and do some writing. I found him having a conversation with another girl, anyway; long story short, I left. At the time, my car; you know this is when cars first started to tell you how much gas you had before you ran out. So Maxee was with me, and I just remember getting in the car all upset and everything. I was like, you know “he cheated on me and we are about to ran out of gas on the 405” and she was like “No, we are not gonna ran out of gas, it’ll be fine, don’t worry, don’t cry.” So we wrote a song about it, and we literally, we were like “Oh if I’m gonna write a song about it, I’ma write a song to one of his tracks!” So we pop the track in, after we got our lil’ gas, we drove home and “5 Miles to Empty” ended up being the song that we came up with.
YKIGS: Wow, so that’s a real story, a real song.
NG: Yeah, the real story of a real song and real heartbreak *Laughs*
YKIGS: Those are the best ones though, those are the best material.
YKIGS: Ok, this is one my favorite Brownstone records; the cover of The Eagles “I Can’t Tell You Why.”
NG: “I Can’t Tell You Why” oh yeah, that was Jerry Greenberg’s idea. And we actually got the blessing of Don Henley (from The Eagles) to do their song. Tommy Mottola said he wanted me to put on the soulful verse on it. I remember going “I want Maxee to do the song herself.” She did an amazing incredible job and I think Don Henley and the team for The Eagles was very impressed. Jerry made a good call, as usual.
YKIGS: You guys definitely did an amazing job covering that song.
NG: Thank You.
YKIGS: Another one of my favorites, “If You Love Me (Street Vibe Remix) Featuring Craig Mack.”
NG: Ahh that was my idea! *Laughs* I remember it like it was yesterday, I was in the office with Richard Griffiths, who was at Epic; Tommy Mottola, Jerry Greenberg and I was like “Yo, we need to do a remix, we need to do a remix.” At the time, one of our managers backed me up, he was a co-manager with us and he was like “Look, I’m telling you now these girls can kill this and we can get Craig Mack and all these people on it” and we did. Hype Williams directed the video, which was crazy; just one of my favorites. I remember pushing it forward in the board room with the big boys.
YKIGS: That’s definitely when remixes just to be real remixes. Not that “just throw a verse” stuff that they are doing now. They really remixed the track, the lyrics and everything. It’s an amazing record.
YKIGS: Since that song was kind of a “Bad Boy remix,” did you guys get to work with Puff on that one?
NG: I don’t remember being in the studio with Puff. I just remember that they all kinda came together and put the track together. I do remember one session where we went in with Puff and tried to creatively come up with some stuff. Actually Puff and Kim were in the studio together, and we went up there, but I don’t recall ever having any real one on one session with Puff.
YKIGS: Ok cool. What are your memories on the record “Grapevine?”
NG: Oh wow “Grapevine,” I just remember listening to over, over, and over again. I remember Dave Hall came up with the track. We were in New York and I remember writing that record in New York City and walking down the street. We were at 55th and 6th, and we used to go down to the grocery store to get all this vegetables and good for you healthy food and I was like “Yo, I wrote this song to the Dave Hall track, ya’ll wanna hear it?” and I remember walking down the street, you know; singing the hook and singing the song and they were like “Oh that’s hot! That’s hot! That’s hot!” so we recorded it and we sent it to Jerry and Michael. They were like “That’s the single!” You know, that’s the story behind “Grapevine.”
YKIGS: Now let’s go into your Solo material. I really like “My Side of the Story.”
NG: Actually, I didn’t like “My Side of the Story” at all when I first heard it. I actually fell out with the head of MCA, I cannot think of his name; because we never saw eye to eye on it. I just remember him saying “we need a single, we need a single.” Then, they told me well Deborah Cox wants this record, and when they said that; he was like “Yo, we are gonna buy it and that’s gonna be the single, and that’s just that” and I remember fighting, like I did not want this as my single, this is not the record that I think would work. Then, all of a sudden; it started to grow on me. And I was like “Oh, ok wait a minute; you might be on to something.” So I learned, you know; that I don’t always know everything. Sometimes you just gotta depend on other people’s professional ear and get it in.
YKIGS: You sound really good on the record. Do you like it now?
NG: My favorite record off the “Grown Folks Music” album is “Stop Messin’ Around.” I like “Think Again.” So I like “My Side of the Story” but there are so many records on that album. I really like “Summer.” When I listen to it, I enjoy it because it tells the story of the place that I was, you know; then. It feels good, like I don’t really listen to Brownstone stuff that much just because; you know, I was young and I wish I could’ve done so many things differently. Vocally, I think I’ve matured a lot. I don’t listen for enjoyment; I listen for criticism of self. The “Grown Folks Music” stuff I actually can listen to for enjoyment because all of the songs tell stories, it kinda takes me back.
YKIGS: The “Grown Folks Music” album is really good from beginning to end.
NG: Thank you.
YNIGS: Last but not least I have one more from that album, “She’ll Never Feat. Dave Hollister”
NG: Ah with Dave! Yes, yes, yes. I love it, we just kinda winged it, you know; we went in a just kinda put it together. At the time, I was really going through some stuff. That’s one of the most heartfelt songs that I’ve written *Pauses* yeah, I can’t even go into it. That song just reminds me of wanting someone to feel me and the love I have in my heart, knowing that the person he was with was just no good, a gold-digger; only interested in money. Now it’s manifested and became a true thing and now the whole world can see.
YKIGS: Wow, Thank you for sharing that with us.
YKIGS: Your answers really give a brand new meaning to all the record that I’ve asked you about. It’s crazy, they are real live stories.
NG: Yeah, I like record that speak to me and that are real, I just try to keep it real and honest.
YKIGS: And you should never stop that, I’m glad you are like that.
NG: Thank you.
YKIGS: You’re welcome. Let’s go back to Brownstone. Is the group still together?
NG: Yeah, we play dates in the Summer. We really we want to become a touring brand; here we go out and tour more often than anything else. You’ll see us more in the Summer time. I am releasing some new music. It’s a little bit of a surprise; we are wrapping the details for that. But there definitely will be music, everybody is working to make some great stuff together; I think the industry is hurting for R&B right now and I’m definitely ready to get some R&B out on the charts for sure.
YKIGS: So the group is definitely going to record a new album together?
NG: Well, yeah. We are working on It now. I’m hoping we can release some more details. I’m working first on a live album, and then we are doing an individual. I’m also producing a new group that’s an all-girl band called “The Gee Gees” and it’s kinda a “Hootie & The Blowfish” type of project. They also sing, so they are incredible. They are like a new Brownstone, a new flavor. I’m very excited.
YKIGS: Are they on Twitter or anywhere that people can start following them?
NG: We are setting all that stuff up. These girls work and them they rehearse, you know; they are just about to get out there. I like the fact that they are really untouched in terms of that. We are recording a single that Stevie J wrote for Jazmine Sullivan, we hope that it hits urban radio hopefully by the beginning of February and we are shooting a video by the end of the month. This is really a project for me to help lunch their careers and I’m just going to be the front person for that project. You are the first to hear about it!
YKIGS: Thank you. We will be on the lookout for that. We will support on the site as well.
YKIGS: What else can we expect from Brownstone and you new endeavors on 2011?
NG: Working on the Brownstone tour. I have two TV shows; one is called “R&B wives” coming very soon. You know, its kinda going for the same sort of franchise as “Basketball Wives” but with no cat fights *Laughs* We just want to share that we are real professional women coming together. This will happen around mother’s day. Also, I’m working on a film, its and Urban Drama in Detroit. It’s my first feature. I also did another film project for Fantasia; we did the Short for her tour. Another Television project called “Curtains” which is a spin off “Soul Kittens Cabaret.” I’m exited!
YKIGS: What kind of sound will you bring for your new recording including Brownstone?
NG: Same great full harmonies, real songs, and singing with a lot of grace and passion like we always do.
YKIGS: Amazing, that’s what the fans want to hear. Well, that’s all I had prepared for today.
NG: It’s been real!! Thank you! I appreciate it!!
YKIGS: Thank you so much for sharing all those memories and stories with us. I know it is very personal stuff but we really appreciate it.
NG: Thank you so much!
YKIGS: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
NG: Just that I’m exited about 2011. Spread love and peace!
YKIGS: We will definitely be on the lookout for all your new projects. You have all the support from the site.
NG: Thank you for taking the time out to interview me. I really appreciate it.