The rare opportunity to study music history in school exposed R&B vocalist Vivian Green as a child to timeless freedom songs that were a part of the civil rights movement, which has led to her latest effort with this week's release of Soundtrack for a Revolution. The ten-track album, which accompanies and scores the acclaimed theatrical film of the same name, features The Roots, Joss Stone, Wyclef Jean, Mary Mary and others, singing renditions of those civil rights-era songs.
During a recent interview with The Huffington Post, the Philadelphia native opened up about her involvement with the project, the relevance of its release during Black History Month, and details on her forthcoming yet-to-be-titled album.
What was the recording process like for your track on Soundtrack for a Revolution, "Oh Freedom"?
The way that the entire thing happened was really interesting. I received a phone call from my manager about the project and he was like, "Do you want to do it?" and I said, "Yeah sure, I'll do it." I love spirituals. My elementary school music teacher taught us every negro spiritual known to man, so I'm very familiar with them. So my manager informed me that I needed to record it within 48 hours. So I'm like, "Okay, so how do they want me to do it?" He's like, "They already have a track for you." So I'm like, "Have them send it on over." So honestly I would not say that I was blind, because I'm very familiar with spirituals and I produce my own records all the time, as far as arranging, so I don't need anyone else to tell me how to sing -- not that I needed help. But I didn't have any necessary direction other than the track that I was given. So whatever's done to it is just what I did. And then when we sent it back to the label, they loved it. There was no creative conversation with an executive or anything like that.
How long ago did the recording take place?
It took place on New Year's Eve, because I remember leaving the studio telling everyone happy New Year. And it's so funny, normally I don't remember the date that I recorded something, so I'm glad it was that day so I could give you an answer.
How significant would you consider the release of Soundtrack for a Revolution during Black History Month?
I think it's really significant, because those songs are a huge part of our African-American culture. We don't know who wrote them or when and why, but they're in our culture. And I think it's very important to hold on to the little bit that we have as African Americans. So those songs mean something. They absolutely brought us through, not only the civil rights movement, but also slavery as well. And those songs are still very relevant today. So for a lot of people who aren't familiar, I think it's great to have a CD with some very well-known artists like The Roots and John Legend. With a group of people on a CD like that, people are going to be interested to listen. Perhaps a lot of kids and even adults will get the chance to hear the songs that they never heard of before.
Do you think that it's a bad thing that freedom songs, negro spirituals, are not more popular or well known?
I would say that it's unfortunate. Because again, when I was in elementary school, that's what my music teacher was very serious about: teaching us about our black history, especially the music behind it. And I always appreciated that. And you do feel like you have a piece of culture that unfortunately a lot of people don't have, and you have an appreciation for it. But a lot of the schools today don't even have music programs, let alone be fortunate enough to have a music teacher like Ms. Jackson. So yeah, it's unfortunate that they don't know those songs, that they're probably getting lost as the generations go on. So it's great again to have them on a revival like this during Black History Month.
Aside from this project, when can fans expect new music from Vivian Green?
Soon -- like, really soon. I'm wrapping up right now, and honestly I'm hoping to be done with everything before February is over. So I'm hoping the next step that we go into is the mixing process. But when you're on a record label, everyone has to be happy, so you have to please everyone. Which is fine, because you want everyone on the same page. We just want everybody to rally behind a song and then we're off to the races. So we're just really trying to get this single down. The album is kind of in the bag, so it should be out soon.
Do you have a tentative album title?
I think so, but I'm not sure yet. I don't want to say one thing and then it ends up being something else.
Are you doing anything different in terms of rolling out this album in comparison to your previous release, 2010's Beautiful?
I swear, a lot of people didn't even know about the last album. Which is why we're at the place we're at now, as far as making sure we choose the right single. Because last time we didn't, it ["Beautiful"] wasn't a good single choice, and that's like the most important thing. That's what radio plays, that's the song that pushes the momentum of the album. And if you can't get everybody on board, radio-wise, in believing the record, it's not going to be a good situation. So basically a song with a piano and no drums ... or, I know in post-production they put drums on it, that's not on the actual album track and I just think it's a very difficult record to work. As pretty as a lot of people probably thought it was, it just didn't work for radio. So I think that a lot of people didn't know about the album, because it didn't get a lot of airplay. So we're going to do it differently this time so that everyone will know that I have a record out.
Do you know when you're planning on releasing the album?
Definitely early summer, but the single will be out in the spring.