The challenge of avoiding trendy music has been a hard-fought battle throughout Amel Larrieux’s career. And according to the singer/songwriter, the decision to record non-conventional material has benefited her catalog greatly. Next year, Larrieux plans on continuing the trend, in an equally timeless solo effort, “Ice Cream Everyday.”
In preparation of her special three-night show at New York City’s famed Blue Note Jazz Club, we caught up with the 39-year-old who shared details on recording her fourth solo project, in addition to an update on the follow-up to Groove Theory’s 1995 self-titled album.
Is there a firm date set for the release of “Ice Cream Everyday”?
Well, we almost regret when we give a release date, because one of the nice things about being independent is having the luxury of not really having deadlines. We make our own deadlines and then we break them all the time, because in the end, the finished product has to be something that we can really get behind. This time around, it’s just been a lot of editing and changing our minds and things like that. We didn’t want to have a disjointed product. So I won’t give a date anymore. I won’t ever do that again. [Laughs]
Since the project marks your first album in five years, do you feel any pressure to release a contemporary album?
I remember when I was on the major label that I was signed to, and one of the biggest qualms that they had with me, therefore I had with them, was that I didn’t sound like what was on the radio [production wise, writing wise, vocal arrangement, etc.]. And that actually has been my saving grace, because for me personally I’m very opinionated.
I will tell you straight up what I don’t like about my stuff…I don’t do trendy stuff, and I don’t feel like anything that I’ve ever done is dated. And that’s absolutely because the internet took everyone by surprise. I don’t think these big labels thought that their heyday would ever be challenged due to people’s access to this other world. And I have to say that I really, really, really, really love this album more than anything that I’ve done, and I don’t think I said that before about anything else that I’ve done.
Are there any vocalists on your recording wish list for the album?
Probably not anyone mainstream. I’m actually trying to get my uncle, who hung out in Harlem with all the Bebop guys like Ray Charles. He has the voice of the ages. He’s in his mid-70s and I want to do a song with him. I think it would be the greatest thing in the world. Otherwise, it would have to be Al Green. [Laughs]
What are your thoughts on today’s crop of R&B singers?
I probably don’t listen to what you would consider “straight R&B.” It’s really weird because I feel like those lines have blurred a lot. I remember when Usher was “R&B,” but now he’s considered “Pop,” but that’s only because of what “popular” is, so I don’t know. For me, R&B is about Rhythm & Blues, so that would be a soul kind of singer. Though she is not commercially successful, I think Georgia Anne Muldrow is the best thing that has happened in the last decade. Her voice is R&B to me. But I don’t necessarily run into what would be considered mainstream R&B, but I don’t run away from it. When Drake sings to me he’s R&B, and I like Drake.
Do you feel that’s one of the challenges in releasing a new Groove Theory album?
The only reason we haven’t done anything is because we would like to be offered a good situation. So far, the offers that we’ve had aren’t what we’re looking for, because we both have other careers and stuff. For me, I’ll always write what I’ll write, but I would be interested in letting someone else write something for me [for a Groove Theory album], and I’m sure Bryce would let someone else produce something if the label thought it would be beneficial for us.
That has been the luxury of having my own independent career independent from the group. Where it’s like, I can do all of my things on my own and then go back to Groove Theory ... If someone is giving us a chunk of money then yes, they do have a say over how you should do things, which is the reason why I left a major label, I wanted to make my own decisions. But yes, I would be open to doing something more radio-friendly. And if I don’t like something, I’ll be the same girl who argued with her label before. [Laughs]
Have you and Bryce recorded any new material?
No, not Groove Theory wise. Almost two years ago Bryce and I did five nights in Tokyo, and this past summer we performed at the Blue Note Jazz Festival at Summer Stage. So we’ve done live stuff, but we’re not recording. He moves around a lot because he’s still pursuing his film career, so we’re not always in the same place. But it’s been nice to have the opportunity to go out and do live stuff. It’s a great way to have a second life.