Q&A: Solange Knowles On Why Working With Kevin Barnes "Makes All the Fucking Sense in The World"

I think people are going to find the new album's Isley Brothers/Donna Summers quality surprising, given the people you worked with to make it.

Oh absolutely, it's interesting that you say that, because I have gotten that response over and over. They're like, "Are you going to be this indie-pop girl and be there with your guitar?" And I'm like, "Hell to the nah!" There are so many different variations of soul music. To me, soul music is very simple concept - it's music, as cliché as it sounds, that comes from the soul. I grew up listening to Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis - those variables will never leave me.

Even the stuff I did on my last record, which was a little more downbeat, electronic over the Thievery Corporation and Boards of Canada, was still soul music. When the '90s music scene hit, my mom didn't let us listen to it. She had this attitude very much so like, "This music is the devil. Put my Marvin back on and deal with it." My mother was not playing that shit. She was like, "What is this New Kids on the Block stuff? You better put some Chaka Khan on and call it a day."

Right, like you said, no matter what sound you go for, that soul influence will still come through. I think that's especially true for your "Stillness is the Move" cover.

I think that I can hear it in so many different forms of music and, like you said, the delivery is different and sometimes it affects the way you think of the song. I really enjoyed doing that song, because, to me, the first time I heard the song and I heard the drums...Dave's drums knock! They knock like hip-hop, so I would sing along with it like it was an R&B song. But I'm even confused about what the word "R&B" means, because, to me, the song is a lot more D'Angelo than R&B. When I think of R&B, I think of SWV, En Vogue - a different form of music. With R&B, the timing and pocket is pretty much on the beat, and then with soul, it's always been about where you feel the word placement should be.

I talk extremely slow and I know that everybody who interviews me is like, "If this bitch does not hurry up..." I have a drawl and so, since I've been a kid, I've talked really slow, sang slow, ran slow. I'll never forget during my entire first album, when I was working with a lot of different R&B producers, they'd always tell me is that I was off beat. I didn't think that I was off beat, and it was a really frustrating experience, because they would constantly tell me to do it over and over again, until I was on beat. And I'm like, "But I am on beat! ...I'm on my beat." They were like, "No, one and two and sing and three." But I was always more like, "uh one and uh two and uh three."

You had everyone from Timbaland to Jermaine Dupri producing your debut, Solo Star. Do you look back on that record and go, "Wow, what was I thinking?"

Well, what I will say is, even if you look back on that record, for me to be 14 when I recorded it, you can still see how much I fought. I mean, I have songs on there that are like complete Sade knock-offs, and for me to be that young and write songs like that, I look back it and I'm like, "Hey, I'm proud of myself." I was fresh out of eighth grade. If people knew how many challenges I dealt with, even to get that product, I think people would've had a more respectable outlook on it, because even when I was so young and in a position where I had access to work with all of these producers, I still completely fought to write my own stuff.

I had gone to Jamaica and went through my weird teenage Rasta phase and it super duper influenced the artwork and the album cover. I have on Rasta seashells, beads, beanie - and my label absolutely hated every minute of it. That was during the time when Britney and Christina were superstars and then there's this fourteen-year-old girl saying she wants to wear a Rasta hat. It was still a representation of the major label fight. So I don't look back on it like, "What was I thinking?" I look back on it and reflect on it. Even then, I was proud of myself for being so young and standing up for myself at a label where Tommy Mottola was my president, and I said in my ninth grade independent spirit, "I'm going to wear my Rasta hat!" Now I do look back on that and say, "What the hell was I thinking about that shit?"

Definitely, everyone has that unfortunate, weird teen phase.

Like vegan, Rasta, yeah...

You had a vegan phase when you were fourteen?

Oh yeah, it was hard full on. I was thirteen. And I definitely did the whole vegetarian, cut my hair off, not-wearing-it-if-it's-not-from-the-thrift-store phase.

I bet some people think you've just entered that phase.

Yeah, maybe so. But right now, I definitely would not do that shit--at all!


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