Aside from a very busy schedule on her plate, Ms. Vanessa Williams took some time out to talk to Terrill J. Hanna about her new release, “The Real Thing” & shares into the making of the record, various topics & then some! We welcome Ms. Williams to The Urban Music Scene!
(interview held in May, 2009)
TERRILL: Vanessa, thank you. And welcome to The Urban Music Scene! How are you doing girl?
VANESSA: I’m doing very well thank you. And you?
TERRILL: I’m doing good. Yes, I’m doing very good now! How’s the East Coast?
VANESSA: East Coast is raining today. It’s overcast and misty, but hopefully it will clear up. We had some summer weather recently. So, I’d like to get back to that as soon possible.
TERRILL: It’s really kind of cloudy out there, but thank you for your time today. We want to talk to you about The Real Thing. Please talk to us about The Real Thing…
VANESSA: Well, it’s my latest CD. It took a bit of a while to get it done. I met with Concord, probably two years ago. I thought I’d be able to crank it out while we were shooting “Ugly Betty” in LA on my days off. In between my shooting schedule. Then they moved the entire shebang to New York. We had some logistical problems, so it’s finally done. We did some tracks in L.A., some tracks in Tennessee, some tracks in New York and worked with some of my old friends – Babyface did two tracks, Rob Napis – my musical director who has done three of my albums, Producer Rex Rideout & it was the first time I worked with him. He did two (tracks) and Keith Thomas has done all my big hits: “Save The Best For Last,” “Sweetest Days” “Colors of the Wind,” & he also did about four tracks.It’s a compilation of about 50% of new material and 50% are covers. It’s a mix of R&B, pop and some Latin rhythms. It’s all over the place but it actually feels pretty cohesive.
TERRILL: The one thing about your music of course, from over the years, is you leaned on different genres. Your first debut album The Right Stuff, was probably one of the baddest ‘80s albums that made a declaration about your singing career.
VANESSA: Oh thank you.
TERRILL: It really did. It started with some real good singles. And therefore you changed from that angle and moved into the jazz vocal spectrum. What made you go from the R&B angle, the real hard pop of that, to singing a lot of standards?
VANESSA: I think I’m lucky to be able to be versatile as a singer,performer. When I first started out most of the songs that I had as demos were a jazz musical theater thing since I had a strong background or so going into the R&B and pop era; of course I was in my 20’s at the time but I always loved jazz and knew that I could perform that.So, it’s not a new concept that I am embracing, it’s just that it lent itself to where I am now. Concord Records is the one that has my latest effort The Real Thing. It’s certainly a jazz label. They have George Benson, Dianne Reeves, etc., so it’s pretty much a jazz label. They’re venturing into like a smooth R&B sound also. We gave them a little jazz, a little R&B and it fits right into their demographic.
TERRILL: Absolutely.And we have it reviewed right here on T.U.M.S.; Having personally listened to it myself Vanessa, you have such a very beautiful voice.
VANESSA: Well thanks…thanks. You know, it’s a joy to get back in the studio. Every year I do these runoffs: a weekend here, a weekend in Atlantic city. I’m used to performing throughout the year but it’s nice to get to the city and get into the studio and have new material. The last new CD I had out was in ’05. That was covers. There was only one new track on that. So it’s great to debut new music.
TERRILL: Oh absolutely, what was one of your favorite songs on that album that you would tell us to go and listen to?
VANESSA: One of the songs which is, just to show you how really talented Babyface is: I called him up and said, ‘I got a new album, can I get a couple of tracks?’ and He said ‘Sure okay. What are you thinking of?’ I said, ‘Ah you know, it’s for Concord Jazz’ and he said ‘Let me call you back.’ Within days, Babyface had two songs that he had gone in to do and they’re perfect!
One is a jazz song called “Loving You”, which sounds like an
old Billie Holiday cover, but it’s a new song that he wrote. And the other one is “Just Friends”(see video above!) which he came up with. Within the first four measures you can hear that Babyface signature sound and he produced those in LA. So it was great to work with him again.
TERRILL: You’re such an articulate actress. You had starred in so many productions, such as a number on hit TV show “Ugly Betty”. The “Hannah Montana Movie.” How is “Ugly Betty”doing?
VANESSA: We’re just finishing up the third season today. It’s actually our last night of shooting. It’s been a great season & we moved back to New York this past year for season three. We’ve been shooting in around the city and it’s been great. It’s really been great for the show. We got picked up for next season and we will be back in a few months to start season four. So it’s been a wonderful roll….it’s a great cast. The writers are wonderful and we’re loving being a part of the city and also being on television, doing a show that’s unique.
TERRILL: Going back to your album, The Real Thing, do we have some tour dates that we need to talk about? Are you going to be in Atlantic City?
VANESSA: I’m doing Atlantic City, May 8th and 9th (2009).That’s Friday and Saturday night at the Tropicana and I’ll be doing some television appearances once the album comes out June 2nd.But then I got to go back to work in July, so I have a small opportunity to perform but I’m not going to be doing a mini tour unfortunately. I might consider doing some runoffs on a week out there.
TERRILL: Like I stated, this album is different. It is a unique album. It explores the depth of your vocal approach. My hats off to you! It’s a very nice & quiet CD and it’s a different change of pace. I think that you got a real nice thing going on with ‘The Real Thing’. I think the last thing we would like to ask is just basically … and I have it here, I have tons of questions but I don’t want to go past the minute mark. But the thing about Babyface and Rex Rideout: did you choose the producers, or was this Concord Music?
VANESSA: Actually,the only one I had to work with was Rex, who is a lovely man. And he wrote a song called “Breathless”(see video above!) which we did. Which is another one of our focus tracks. He produced “Lazy Afternoon” which is an old Harold Allen song from the “House of Flowers” which is one of my favorite musicals. He did a great R&B approach to that. That was great. Babyface was another one of my calls and so was Ralph Mathis. I would say the majority of people that worked with me before, I know them and lovetheir artistry and they’re always ready to roll when I call, which is fantastic.
TERRILL: That’s what I’m talking about! Before we close, we would like to talk about another topic of yours. Please talk to us about, a little bit about your outspoken support on Human Rights Campaign, a little bit about Alley For Equality
VANESSA: Well,tolerance is something that needs to be fortified and expressed in this day and age. It seems like everyone is being kind of… and you definitely saw it within the vigorous campaign for President: People were getting very divisive in terms of labeling – you’re this, you’re that. Not saying … in general. So, H.R.C. is basically making sure that people’s human rights are respected and everyone gets a chance no matter what they’re background is, what they’re sexual orientation is or what they’re race is. It’s about equality but it’s also about acceptance. I’m lucky to be able to lend my name or be honored or appear as part of any charity that I truly believe in. There are tons of requests, but I chose the ones that touch me and that I feel like I want to be associated with.
TERRILL: It sounds like you’re very outspoken about the Gay community too. Talk to us about that.
VANESSA: Well,being in New York, growing up and also being an entertainer – being in theater and dance my entire life. I wouldn’t know my life without having Gay friends. When I hear stories of violence of hatred because of someone’s label as being a Gay, again it is an affront. I keep waiting for people to be accepting but hopefully they will become sooner or later.
TERRILL: Understood. Like I said, we’ve always followed your music from day one. Your acting career is all supreme as well as your singing career. God bless you for doing what you’re doing girl! And we thank you so much for taking the time to spend with The Urban Music Scene!
(photo credit: Gilles Toucas)
VANESSA: Thank you.
TERRILL: We wish the best for your new project, ‘The Real Thing’.
VANESSA: Oh great. I appreciate it.
TERRILL: It’s good music, it’s very good music. Would you like to come back and do a part two of our interview?
VANESSA: Sure, sure. We’ll definitely hook that up.
TERRILL: Absolutely, good. Thank You Vanessa and good luck to you and we’ll talk to you soon!