When an r&b singer is looking for someone to write or produce a hit for them, who is one of the first people they might look to for that song? I’m pretty sure that Tank’s name would be one of the first to surface in that type of discussion. Even if you don’t take into consideration the fact he’s written and produced a countless amount of hits for other artists, many coming in the last few years, Tank has accomplished so much as a solo artist himself. Now just over three years removed from his highly successful “Sex, Love & Pain” album, Tank returns with “Now or Never” which is the next step in his journey to placing his very large stamp on r&b. In this interview, Tank discusses the recent acting he’s been doing, his style of fusing commercial and classic r&b, the happier tone we can expect to find on “Now or Never,” and his opinion on r&b returning to the fore front.
YKIGS: I want to start out talking to you about the play you’re currently featured in “Marriage Material.” Tell me about how you got the opportunity and how the experience has been?
Tank: Well you know I’ve done different plays with these guys before, I did “Gold diggers” with them back in like 2006.” So they were very familiar with what I do and the characters I like to get on stage and have fun with, that type of thing, it was really easy. Most importantly, the cast is really cool. I’m out here with Allen Payne who’s been a good friend of mine for years, Jill, just meeting T-Boz, I’ve been knowing Michael Colyar for years. It’s super easy to get on stage and have fun with these guys.
YKIGS: Do you see yourself getting into more acting in the future?
Tank: Well I mean I have a movie just coming out, “Preacher’s Kid,” on DVD right now. So yea, top of the year going to we’re going to start going into a whole, whole lot more stuff.
YKIGS: I want to talk to you about the new album you’ve got coming, “Now or Never,” your forth studio album. Where did you come up with the title for it?
Tank: It just hit me one day, I just got a little urgent to really make a project to really fight for my genre of music which is r&b. I think that now is the time to take that stand, take that stand for the real musicianship, the real lyricist, the real vocalist; people that work really hard to do this thing. And we have to take that stand now or we’ll lose it forever.
YKIGS: I was pretty happy when I heard “Sex Music” and “Emergency” because they are good, solid r&b songs and you never tried to stoop to any gimmicks to try and make pop/commercial r&b for the radio. How important is it for you to make that kind of music?
Tank: Well I look at it in two ways, I mean you have to be entertaining, and in order to be entertaining there have to be people there for you to entertain. Unfortunately maybe the popier or maybe the more straight ahead your music is the more people want to hear it. And then you get more people to come and you’ll be able to introduce them to things. So far my approach has been to try and fuse the two without totally compromising, just try and find the balance between current and classic r&b.
YKIGS: Even when I heard the song you did with Drake, I was a little skeptical at first when I heard you did a song with him, but it was actually I felt that was a good r&b song as well.
Tank: Yea, it’s an r&b record! That was the point, the point of it was to bring Drake to my world, not necessarily to try and run all into his just because he’s hot right now. But to find a happy medium between the both of us that makes sense.
YKIGS: Very good approach on that. How would you compare this album to your “Sex, Love & Pain” album which did very well on the charts. Did you stick with the same formula?
Tank: No I think I’m a lot happier on this album. *Laughs* No more “Heartbreakers” and “I Hate U” and all of those songs. I’m appreciating and celebrating a whole lot more on this album.
YKIGS: I know the album went through a couple of name changes, at one point it was going to be “Sex, Love & Pain II: The All Night Experience.” At one point the first single was going to be “Wanted.” What made you have the change and all of that?
Tank: I just honestly just sat with the music too long. I’m one of those guys I’m always trying to outdo myself. Those albums, I still have those albums, all of those songs they’re still just sitting there. But the more time changes and as I grow into different spaces I just want to do new and try new and different things and that’s just what happened with “Now or Never.” Once we got this Atlantic thing going and really started grooving and movin, it just inspired me to do something else and “Now or Never” is the result of that.
YKIGS: It’s been over three years since your “Sex, Love & Pain” album and I know you do tons of writing for other artists and work with all of these artists. Do you think there would be less time in between albums if you just focused on your own music?
Tank: The time really doesn’t concern me. I’ve been blessed to be able to take five years off and I came back with “Sex, Love & Pain” and I had a great showing and it let me know that I have a space and I have a place in music. So I’m not really concerned with the time, I would like to maybe put out an album every maybe year and a half, two years, that type of thing, in between that get some holiday things going, maybe some soundtrack things going. I’m very happy with just having a little space and having people desire to hear my music.
YKIGS: I want to ask you a little more about your songwriting and working with other artists. How do you switch gears between working on a project with another artist and then focusing on yourself? What’s the balance like there?
Tank: When I write songs for other people, I literally write songs for other people. I don’t write what I’d want to hear me sing, I listen to their projects, I listen to things they’ve done, and I say what can they do and where have they been, and can I stretch them a little bit creatively just to take what they do to the next level. I don’t sell anybody me, I’m not out there trying to make a bunch of Tank clones when I’m writing and producing for them, I want to make them, them. My music, when I do my music for me, it’s just automatic, I have a thing that I do for me that’s just me, and I just don’t give that away.
YKIGS: I want to ask you about a song you did a few years back, the song “Strip Club.” I was reading you sold that song to Marques Houston and eventually it didn’t make his album. Does this type of thing usually happen?
Tank: Yea I took that song back from him. It did not make his album, it was on his album but I took it. *Laughs* So we thought it would be a great record for me once we finished and I was like “Hey if yall think it would be great for me, let’s keep it!” And we smashed it back, Timbaland remixed it, and we went from there.
YKIGS: And then it turned into “I Luv Dem Girls” on “Sex, Love & Pain” right?
YKIGS: Does that ever happen where you would give a song to an artist and doesn’t make their album. Does that ever happen to you?
Tank: Yea, but most of the time I don’t use the songs. *Laughs* Because I tailor make records for artists and sometimes it just has their thing on it. I don’t want to be nobody else, and I don’t want nobody to be me.
YKIGS: I want to ask you about a personal favorite artist of mine that you worked with years ago and that’s Static Major. What was your relationship like with him and what was it like working with him?
Tank: That was my guy, it was family so it was easy to make magic with Static, that’s what he knew how to do. I came up listening to songs that Static…my first tour, I was singing songs that Static wrote, big hits that he wrote for Ginuwine and he wrote for Aaliyah. So it was an honor and then it turned into family and from there it’s just what it was at that point. He’s sorely missed, great writer, great entertainer, great everything.
YKIGS: On your second album “One Man” he was credited in the writing credits for “Unpredictable” and “So Many Times” and I was just wondering, because they sound like more of your style than his, did we co-write those with you? How did that go down?
Tank: No he wrote those himself! I produced “Unpredictable” but he wrote it, and he wrote “So Many Times.” That’s all Static and that was probably maybe Static maybe coming into my world. We had an appreciation for each other’s craft so it worked perfect going into the studio with him. I didn’t second guess anything he wrote or anything he told me to sing, I just did it.
YKIGS: I also want to know what you remember about working with Aaliyah on the songs “I Can Be” and “What If” from her “Aaliyah” album. What do you remember most about those sessions?
Tank: Well unfortunately with those sessions, she was shooting “Queen of the Damned” over in Australia, and that was just when I was getting ready to start a promo, so I didn’t get to make the trip. But she told me specifically what kind of records she wanted, and she kinda wanted a little dangerous, a little sexy, that type of thing. I got to go in the studio and tailor make something for her, that was amazing that she called me from way overseas like “Tank, I need these kinds of records, I know you can write them for me.” And I was happy that I was able to deliver, that they were records that she actually loved them when she recorded them, she did her thing.
YKIGS: Since you’ve had so many hits over the years, do you find labels coming to you like “We need to get Tank to work with our artist, we need a hit.” Do you find that type of thing happening more and more often?
Tank: Yea, that’s pretty much what I do! Yea so it’s the process that continues, they don’t come to me for album cuts, they come to get hit records. We’ve been able to do well servicing record companies with great records that they can use to make a great body of work with, so yea they’re still calling.
YKIGS: Do you feel any pressure when they come to you like that for a hit, or is it business as usual?
Tank: No I just do music, let the music speak for it. We just go in and we just have fun and we just make music, music needs no pressure to cook!
YKIGS: I want to ask you about TGT. Do you feel if you guys had remained as a group and it would have worked out, the sound you guys had as a group would have worked on radio today? Because there are not many male groups doing music these days.
Tank: I think our three voices on anything would have worked on any radio station, on any TV station, in any arena or venue you could think of. That was a magical thing that I hope it still has action in happening. We’ve been talking about it and hopefully this thing could still happen.
YKIGS: Yea I’m hoping it does too. It’s been almost ten years since your debut “Force of Nature.” What major differences do you see since you came into the industry in r&b and the shape of the industry now with r&b?
Tank: It’s not at the forefront. Rap has kinda come in and kinda taken over. We get mainstream by singing a rap hook whereas back in the day they weren’t mainstream unless we were on their record. I mean the roles have just kinda changed a little bit and we gotta fight a little harder to survive but working hard, you just got gotta get out on the street and and get a campaign, just like they out on the streets campaigning. It’s running for president now, it’s no longer just about selling records.
YKIGS: Do you think it’s coming back soon, r&b to the forefront?
Tank: Yea, definitely. It’s getting ready to make a charge right now. You got a bunch of r&b albums and things like that getting ready to come out at the end of the year. Keyshia Cole, and Jamie, and myself and Trey is already out, Usher is doing well, Chris Brown getting ready to put out another mixtape, Drake getting ready to do an r&b mixtape.
YKIGS: Tell me about an artist you’d like to work with that you haven’t got the chance to already?
Tank: You know I’m trying to, me and Brandy keep saying we’re going to get together and really do something, and I’m hoping I can. Then I’m hoping I can work with somebody of the likes of Josh Groban or Celine Dion that type, just make some crazy music like that.
YKIGS: A lot of your material has leaked on the internet over the past few years and demos and all of that. How does that affect you, does that bother you?
Tank: Well if it wasn’t good music you’d probably hear me. But it’s good music so I see on Youtube and all of those things and people are saying that they love the music, and when is Tank coming out, that type of thing. It’s almost kinda helped create the anticipation for this album. I will say that it was wrongly done and the people that are responsible for that, legal action will be taken, but as an artist and from a present standpoint it’s kept my voice alive.
YKIGS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Tank: December 14th “Now or Never,” or pre-order it now on TheRealTank.com.