The benefits of conducting a live interview with an artist usually outweighs the pitfalls, with being able to have a natural, face-to-face conversation ranking at the top, and having to sit through a one hour-plus delay in the middle of a busy day, rounding out the bottom – -which is unfortunately what happened to me when I went to interview Amerie at her new Def Jam record label.
When I finally get the chance to sit down with the pop star, she looks cool, calm and collected, decked out in her pink blazer, sky-high heels, and killer sunglasses. Despite my bitterness at having been made to wait for so long, her bubbly, conversational personality quickly wears me down, and against my will, I’m forced to smile and enjoy the interview. A few minutes into our conversation, I’m lighthearted once again, and can’t help but open up, share, and listen to the stunning songstress dish about the boy dramas that inspired her upcoming album, In Love and War, her sunglasses collection that can rival Kanye’s, and her generous, gift-giving Asian fan base.
The new album is titled In Love and War. So, can you tell us, is everything really fair in love and war? It is, but it isn’t, because karma comes back to you. When I titled the album In Love and War, I was working on the song called “Love and War.” I wrote the song, and while I was in the booth vocaling it, I thought — you know, I think I’m going to change the album title to In Love and War, because the hook went, “In love and war, it doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right, in love and war, you can lose everything you had in one night.” So it’s talking about how all these things happen both in love and in war, comparing how those two are very similar. With this album, I really wanted to come from a very real place, so it’s all stuff that I’ve been through. The few songs that aren’t personal were things that I was on the sidelines of; things that someone very close to me went through. So my friends will listen and laugh, because they’ll remember the conversation that I put in the song.
Since a lot of the album is autobiographical, is a guy ever going to hear a record and realize that he did something wrong? They’re things that we probably discussed, because a lot of the album is what I was actually saying to them. For example, there’s one song where I’m yelling and my mom said to me, “I don’t know, it sounds like you’re just yelling, like you’re mad,” and I was like, well I am mad, and that’s why it’s like that. I’m screaming about how you ask me why I keep asking you the same questions, but it’s because every time I ask you the same question you give me a different answer. I know girls can relate, because that’s what happens.
Have you ever seen the episode of Sex & the City where Carrie publishes her book, Mr. Big reads it, and then he feels guilty because he finally realized how much he hurt her? Has that ever happened to you? I love Sex and the City. I have all the seasons on DVD, so I watch and re-watch. But I don’t know, I think a guy would have to really be “all there” to get it. So many people do so many messed up things that it’s almost like you don’t know if it could be about you or not.
There are battles in every relationship. In a healthy relationship, what’s the ratio of love and war? I think that if you’re fighting in the beginning it doesn’t bode well. You should be going through the honeymoon stage, so if you’re fighting during honeymoon time, I don’t know what’s going to happen after that. Usually all the lovey-dovey stuff goes down hill from that point, but I think there can be certain relationships where the growing pains can be at the beginning and it can be worth it. But I think if you’re in high school for example, you shouldn’t even deal with it. I don’t even advocate dating in high school, because you’re not going to remember the guy four years from now. You’re going to be like — Who? What? Why was I crying again?
You’ve been M.I.A. from the American music scene for awhile. When a musician like you disappears for a bit, are you still working behind the scenes? I was just telling someone today that people always say, “Oh, this artist is gone, where did they go? They disappeared.” But most of the time, if an artist isn’t out, it’s because there’s some kind of legal or contractual issue they’re going through with the label. So they might not have distributed anything, but they’re most likely still creating. You never really stop creating.
You did most of the writing on the new album; does that make it much more personal than the previous ones? For my last album, Because I Love It, which was released overseas, (but not here because I was transitioning labels), I wrote the whole thing, with just a couple of co-writers. And my first album was still very personal, even though I wasn’t writing the lyrics because I was very involved with the arrangements, song topics, the delivery, and everything else. Now, I usually write all of my stuff, but this one is a little different because it’s like almost taking verbatim some of the things I’ve gone through recently and putting it on record.
You’re half black and half Korean. Is your Korean fan base very different from your American fans? Asian fans in general are a little bit different because it’s such a different culture. Over here the fans are very excited, but when you go there they’re very excited, but they’re also very shy and they love to give gifts. They’ll figure out what you like and they bring gift bags to concerts, so I just have tons of little gift bags, and I keep them all. When someone puts in that much effort, I have to keep them all.
What do they usually bring you? I mentioned before that I like Hello Kitty, so I’ve been getting lots of Hello Kitty. And even though I’m not so much into it now, I still love when they give it to me. So I have Hello Kitty pillows, Hello Kitty stuffed animals, Hello Kitty pencils, Hello Kitty stickers, Hello Kitty mirrors…
People are really intrigued by the fact that you’re mixed race. Is that a commodity? I don’t know, I think it’s great thing, but at the same time, we’re all mixed up and I never really like to say, “this mix is great,” or, “that mix is great,” because I don’t know if I should look at it that way. I don’t like to focus on it too much, because it just gets weird sometimes.
It’s obvious that you’re into fashion and accessories, but your sunglasses always make the biggest statement. I think you might be able to compete with Kanye’s collection. I actually told him that! We were in Vegas, and I walked up to Kanye — because we were joking before that he always has great shades – and I was like, “My sunglasses beat your sunglasses!” And he was really cool about it. I love sunglasses, especially vintage; I love it when they’re 20-years-old or more. I used to keep them all closed up, but it got to be so many that I needed to see them all, so I took them out of the cases and put them in a drawer, and they’re all divided up by style – aviators, 70s vintage, early 80s vintage, etc I love love vintage.
Vintage everything? Well, I don’t know about everything — like vintage shoes, I don’t think so! I don’t like the idea of things that other people have worn. The vintage stuff that I have, they’re all one hundred percent never before worn. Sellers have people who scout things, so they’re all vintage but never worn. Vintage is cool, but the idea of other people’s energy — I don’t like it. For example, I have a vintage fur jacket — I don’t like to buy new fur, because I feel bad about the torture involved, so if it’s a vintage that makes me feel a little bit better — and I had to sage it, to cleanse it. I’m very spiritual.