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Alicia Keys By: Gladys Knight

Alicia Keys By: Gladys Knight

Alicia Keys on cellphones: [laughs] The cell phone thing is out of control. Here’s my pet peeve: The not-so-unstated rule that all women are only to be treated as sexual objects and gawked at-you know, sitting up against a car, washing something, bending over, licking something. That just drives me crazy.

Interview Magazine October 2006 features Alicia Keys -– everybody knows she can sing. It’s how she’s using her voice now, though, that shows what she’s made of. Here she’s interviewed by the legendary Gladys Knight. Full article after the jump!


GLADYS KNIGHT: How are you doing?



ALICIA KEYS:
I’m good.

GK :: All over the place, huh?

AK: Not so much right now, because I’m working on the next album.

GK :: Are you?

AK: Yeah. It’s going very, very well. I’m just sort of taking it all down a notch, and trying to cut all the extracurricular activities out of there and really focus.

GK :: We used to call that “woodshedding.” People don’t realize how many different directions you can get pulled in just being in this business. When you’re talking about making an album. . . well, that’s a whole other life in itself. So, who are you doing the album with? Are you writing right now?

AK: I write and produce my albums with my partner, Krucial, so together we get the majority of it going. Sometimes I’ll do collaborations with people I admire and things like that. It all just comes together. In fact, I was just talking with my friend about the different lengths of time it takes people to do albums. When you were first starting out, how often-look, I’m about to interview you.

GK :: You just keep talking, girl.

AK: Well, when you first started, how often did you put out albums?

GK :: Not as regularly as you guys.

AK: Really?

GK :: Yeah. See, back in our time, we were brought up to believe that this is what we were going to do for the rest of our lives. It was what was going to feed us, clothe us, and help us send our kids to school. From our mentors, we’d hear, “You don’t want to be just as hot as your last record. You need to build your performance skills so you can work whether you’ve got a record or you don’t.” So we built ourselves up first by performing, and we got to be known that way until we worked up to being headliners. They throw that word out: “tour” well, we’ve been touring all of our lives.

AK: And in a much more serious way.

GK :: I wanted to ask you about the load you take on as a female in the music business. Do you feel like you owe anything to the industry? Or is music just something that you’ve always dreamed of doing, and you’re just trying to accomplish a goal?

AK: Well, I do feel like I owe something, but not to the industry. When you say “industry,” I think of a group of people who don’t really care much about you and treat you as a commodity. [Knight laughs] So, in that regard, I don’t feel like I owe anything. But the people who’ve always been supportive of me and have always seen me for my greatest potential-those are the people who I feel like I owe something to. I feel like I am their voice. I owe it them to represent them in a way that they can be proud of.

GK :: I know that music has a special place with you because of the way you write it and perform it. But what else do you dream about doing?

AK: I dream about speaking in big forums about issues that need to be spoken about. I dream about helping others who I know and love, helping them realize their dreams. I dream about being able to express myself through acting, which I’m starting to do more of — and writing, definitely. I dream about the people I love being as happy as I am. I dream about bringing more realism into the world. Sometimes I just feel like certain things are so glossed over and covered up and swept under the rug and I just want to bring them out. I just dream about bringing things to light.

GK :: So, your charities, what do you do with them?

AK: I’m involved with three diffrent ones right now. One is called Frum Tha Ground Up, and another is called Teens in Motion. Those two organizations are about helping young kids find their way in the world and providing a positive environment that reinforces the idea that they can achieve anything that they want to in this life. I think that needs to go on forever, because it’s something we all need. The third organization I’m involved with is called Keep a Child Alive. We help provide medicine for children who have AIDS, especially in Africa. Just recently I went to the International AIDS Conference in Toronto to speak on their behalf. The artists who have inspired me the most in my life are the ones who have really had something to say and stand up for. That, to me, is part of being an artist-having the voice to express things that need to be ver¬balized and brought to light. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s a priority for people these days, because the few artists who do have the nerve to take a stand for what they believe get shut down in a way. People feel like their livelihood is going to be at stake if they speak out about anything. It’s almost at the point where artists have so much to lose that they don’t want to risk saying anything, and that scares me. We have got to fight for the things that need to be fought for, regardless. Now, it’s like, “If I say something, then I might not be able to make the mortgage on this big ol’ house I live in, so let me think twice.” You know, it’s okay to have nice things in your life. But when that’s all it’s about-and all you represent–then it’s a problem, because it takes what we do to the wrong place.

GK :: It’s okay to have a good life, but there are certain priorities that have to come first.

AK: You know, I speak with kids all the time and they say things like, “Oh, I just want to be a singer so I can have that fancy car,” or “I just want to be famous so I can have those jewels,” as if their only ambition is to acquire.

GK :: Because that’s all that’s projected.

AK: But after the photo shoot, those diamond earrings come off and a security guard takes them back to the store. It’s such an illusion, and sometimes I feel like even our music is being used against us, to keep us down.

GK :: What about camaraderie in the business? Do you guys have each other’s backs?

AK: I don’t know if there’s as much dialogue between artists as there once was. When you all went on tour, you all shared the same spaces and pains and heartaches, so you grew together and saw each other’s struggles. Now things are a little more separate. Don’t get me wrong-there are definitely great friendships that develop, where you meet people and you have a connection with them. But I remember one time speaking to Stevie Wonder, he told me about how people would sometimes just gather in someone’s living room and just talk about what was going on..We don’t do that today.

GK :: We used to do that all the time. We used to swap cars, like, “Okay, I’m going to ride with Smokey [Robinson] for a while.” I even beat Stevie up one day. [Keys laughs] We were all around when Stevie was writing a lot of his early stuff. We were on tour together, and he used to make me come and sing every day after the show-and we were doing six or seven shows a day back then. He would get on the piano, because he ain’t got nothing else to do, and I would say, “Stevie, we just got done with a show and we’ve got four more to do.” But he would be like, “Oh, come on, Gladys. Just sing this part.” He was writing [sings] “I’m gonna rap on your door.”

AK: Wow.

GK :: I mean, this went on forever. Then all of us would gather ’round and we ended up singing that song. He hadn’t recorded it yet, and then, I’m listening to the radio one day, and I hear Aretha [Franklin] singing “I’m gonna rap on your door. . . ” I said, “You’ve got to be out of your mind! What happened to my song?” Every time I would see Stevie, I would tell him. So at that party Clive Davis threw where we
met you, Stevie came by and kissed me, and I said it again, and he told me, “If you say one more word to me about that song. . . Nobody talks about that song.” [Keys laughs] But that’s how we were. We were poor. We lived with each other. We actually broke bread with each other. We even fought the police with each other because there was segregation at that time. We learned so much from each other, and that was what kept us going. We didn’t have to protect our craft in the way that I sometimes feel like you guys might. Do you feel like there is a lot of competition today?

AK: I don’t personally feel it, because I don’t get too deep into that part of things, but there’s definitely a strong undercurrent of competition-of wanting to be the best. Because you all were so much in each other’s worlds, you probably didn’t have to worry so much about someone else being you. You were you.

GK :: And this business can also change you.

AK: Change you, and chew you up, and spit you out, and be rid of you, and on to the next thing. That’s why it’s so important to know who you are and stand up for something. I’m still learning about myself. I find out new things every day.

GK :: Give me some of your pet peeves.

AK: Give me one of yours, and then I’ll give you one of mine.

GK :: Okay, so there are some announcements that they make before you go onstage: no recording of this show, no pictures taken, none of that stuff. Then as soon as you step onstage, you get flash-flash-flash. This is show business. These people we hook up with go to great lengths to make sure that they’ve got control of our likenesses, and you’re going to take my picture with a cell phone?

AK: [laughs] The cell phone thing is out of control. Here’s my pet peeve: The not-so-unstated rule that all women are only to be treated as sexual objects and gawked at-you know, sitting up against a car, washing something, bending over, licking something. That just drives me crazy.

GK :: But you know what? It’s up to us to take back that control. We’ve got to not be willing to give up everything in order to have fame.

AK: Yeah. Make people wonder a bit more.

GK :: That’s what romance is all about. Do you feel like you’re a romantic at heart?

AK: There’s romance in my heart. But that’s another thing that my friends and I talk about: beautiful love songs, because there aren’t many of them anymore.

GK :: No, they’re sex songs now. Write something!

AK: I will. You know what else we don’t have enough of? What you and I are doing right now. We don’t get to talk among generations. We think that we don’t really have anything in common. It’s like, “I can’t understand them kids,” or, on the other side, “I can’t understand that woman, and she’s never going to understand me.” So we just don’t talk.

GK :: That is so very true. One time at a show I had an opportunity to talk to Tupac and Suge Knight for three hours in my dressing room. They both came by with their moms. I know that they had their own trials and tribulations, but we got to talk to each other like human beings, and they opened up. They were just a couple of guys at that point. Their mothers spoke of the pain that they felt, and how they had fallen short as far as their children were concerned. Tupac was saying how much he longed to have conversations like that, and that it was such a myth that his generation was fighting against ours and didn’t want to hear what we thought. He got killed not too long after that. So that’s something that we need to work on together. I’m going to be hoggin’ you and doggin’ you, girl, because I know you’re busy. I know your life right now. But we’re going to keep in touch.

AK: That’s right.

Six-time Grammy winner Gladys Knight will release two albums this month: A Christmas Celebration and Before Me.

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Posted to: Alicia Keys

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  • pg

    1st.

  • bdj

    I am a big fan of Gladys Knight and Alica Keys.
    Both women are exceptional singers, songwriters and overall talent. This was a very good interview. Thanks Just Jared.

  • Mel

    love to read Alicia Keys interviews
    still remember the one from the Q mag

  • jesseortiz

    alicia keys is the best!

    i want her kind of maturity. its so heartfelt and inspiring.

  • bdj

    Oops! Sorry, didn’t mean to misspell Alicia Keys name. She is one of my favorite singers.

  • pissedoffmothassed off motha

    she is sooooooo beautiful!!

  • Mrs. Lenny

    Alicia Keyes is very talented and corageous. She does not seem to be plastic or not real . I appreciate her sincerity and her Charitable works. I wish people like Beyonce and others would stop focusing so much on selling sex and stop putting these naked images out there for young girls to see and believe that a woman has to expose her body to be the best or sell records. Gladys Knight is a living legend and she did not pose with a pair of crocodiles or Alligators half naked to become a star she is truly talented and sexy with clothes on.
    Peace~

  • Queen

    That’s why I love this girl. She’s smart, down to earth and conscious. I admire her for not being just a pretty faced product but a stand up lady who really stands for SOMETHING! Alicia is the most successful R&B act out rightnow and she never needed to use her butt to sell over 10 million records worldwide with only her debut cd. She’s strong, fearless, and aware that with great power comes responsibility, she is what young lost raised-by-tv girls need to see more and look up to. She will make a change, just watch!

  • Jesse

    I absolutely love Alicia Keys! I, and many others, cant wait for her next album to come out! And if its anything like “Songs In A Minor and The Diary of Alicia Keys”, Im sure grammys will be calling Alicias name! ;)

  • BB

    That doesn’t even look like her.

    I really like her music and I like her a little more after reading this interview.

  • Abby

    im alicia keys’ #1 fan!!

  • Nora

    I love Alicia and I can say that she is the best female talented singer……One Love

  • Shirelo

    The interview was great I love and respect the music of both beautiful legend and legend in the making. As far as Alicia is concerned I and many others just seem to have a ginuwine connection with her it’s like watching a close friend, cousin or sister accomplish her dreams and goals so it’s safe to say I’m going to be watching and supporting her. I wish her all the luck in the future.

  • rita

    wonderful conversation between those two great artist ladies! Please more like that!

  • LORRAINE

    GOOD INTERVIEW. YOUNG, SUPPOSED TO BE LADIES IN THE BUSINESS NEED TO LEARN A LESSON FROM ALICIA KEYS. IF YOU CAN REALLY SING, YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE OFF YOUR CLOTHES, POSE WITH ANIMALS, OR STAY IN THE NEGATIVE GOSSIP SECTION TO BECOME WELL-KNOWN, A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS WOMAN, BE LOOKED UP TO, OR HELP OTHERS!

  • http://www.lellowfan.ya.st,www.myspace.comlely_kuchikuchi Lely

    I admire Alicia so much she always speak out her mind is a very inteligent woman and she has so much love to ppl and ain’t superficial. She is very succesful in everything she come with and is beautifull in and out she wins all the prizes others would like to win by just showing real talent and not naked body. I can’t wait for her new album and her new movies. I am and will always be a huge fan of Alicia Keys cuz she always come out with good stuff and I have so much to thank her big hug 4 ya and keep it goin gurl

  • Enji

    she said it all herself.. both of the true women has spoken.. gotta love me girl Lellow

  • ali

    Alicia Keys is simply the best young female artist out there right now. period.
    she’s gorgeous but doesn’t use her looks or sex to sell records. she lets her vocals, her talent, her ability to write and compose music speak for itself. LOVE HER.

    at the end of the day, people will always respect a young woman like Keys over her competitors in the music industry.

  • ali

    Alicia Keys is simply the best young female artist out there right now. period.
    she’s gorgeous but doesn’t use her looks or sex to sell records. she lets her vocals, her talent, her ability to write and compose music speak for itself. LOVE HER.

    at the end of the day, people will always respect a young woman like Keys over her competitors in the music industry.

  • ali

    Alicia Keys is simply the best young female artist out there right now. period.
    she’s gorgeous but doesn’t use her looks or sex to sell records. she lets her vocals, her talent, her ability to write and compose music speak for itself. LOVE HER.

    at the end of the day, people will always respect a young woman like Keys over her competitors in the music industry.

  • Caroline

    This interview was really sooo interesting. She’s an amazing artist and I love every single one of her songs. On top of that, she’s super pretty. But what’s wrong with this picture?!! It looks so photoshopped and makes her look ugly! That’s insane :/
    They turned a pretty girl into a really NOT pretty person. Wow. It usually works the other way round…

  • pissedoffmothassed off motha

    GREAT INTERVIEW…SHE IS BEAUTIFUL!

  • lady

    I loved this interview two of my favourite artists/performers of all time. Gladys Knight is a legend. And Alicia is someone who deserves all the recognition and respect she gets. She is one of the few successful female artists who is so beautiful but there’s more to her, she has a voice (and uses it for all the right things not just making money) and DAMN IT SHE’S TALENTED! I think a lot of these ‘hot’ female artists need to take pointers from her, and realise that you can be successful and keep your clothes on. It takes only a few artists to make that change and artists like alicia are definetly leading the way. One Love to these inspirational women Alicia Keys and Gladys Knight!!

  • rachel

    interview magazine always produces the best interviews. i think it’s a winning method of interviewing celebs. getting celebs to interview each other. genius!

  • Rose

    I’m in love with Alicia’s voice and I’d can listen to her all time.. I’m looking forward her latest album, I’m certain it will be great. like also her romantic lyrics. She’s really got a talent and she’s naturally beautiful without artificial metamorphosis and showing nakedness.

  • LISA

    I just love Alicia Keys she is soooooooo beautiful!

  • lúcia

    I do think that generations are more separated and i would like to see more artist as Alicia Keys concerned about the society, people and herself…it’s hard because nowadays we live for the goods and we forget about things that are important suchs as good relationships with our family, friends, teacher, neighbours… we live for the money…we are admire for what we can have not for what we are or what we can be…

  • http://www.mortgagerefinancingloanz.com/ mortgage

    “If I say something, then I might not be able to make the mortgage on this big ol’ house I live in, so let me think twice.”
    Absolutely agree, she described the position of the both celebs, Hope she really cares about charity, not her mortgage payments… I like her…