At her sold out show in New York City, Marsha Ambrosius greeted the room with a captivating question nuzzled warmly in her cozy English accent. "Can you truly be friends and lovers?" she asked, stirring colorful responses from eager fans squeezed shoulder to shoulder in the packed venue.
The singer -- and one-half of the now defunct group Floetry -- has had her fair share of heartbreak, an emotion she's poured into her upcoming sophomore album, "Friends and Lovers." Ambrosius calls the album an autobiography of her past relationships, tales she selflessly shared between performances of familiar tracks like "Far Away" and "I Hope She Cheats on You with a Basketball Player," as well as a couple of new songs like "Where Are My Shoes" -- a sultry recount of putting the pieces together the morning after a wild night.
Rocking a sleek, gold jacket that perfectly complimented her lively personality, Ambrosius charmed the crowd with both her silvery voice and witty anecdotes about her missteps in love. This honesty on stage mirrored the woman I met just a couple of hours before as she prepped for the night's performance.
As we talked before the show, Ambrosius offered a transparent glimpse into her life as a songwriter, vocalist and most important -- at least for this album -- her role as both a friend and lover. Between sweeps of metallic eyeshadow and the snap of her compact, we discussed why mixtapes for R&B singers can be a little "weird," her love for "Family Guy" and the reason she doesn't need a wind machine to make a compelling music video.
As far as the album creation process goes, where are you?
I'm mixing. I'm on the tail-end of getting this thing together. We have narrowed the songs down and tracklisted it. It's there. And I'm scared! No, I'm not scared but every time I think about it I'm like, "Oh my God I am there!" It's crazy.
And when it comes to your first single "Cold War," when was your last cold war in love?
I think I'm currently still going through. I don't think you ever let that part of it go. Even in exploring new love, you have to revisit where you once were so the cold war still remains. It's still a very pivotal point in history. In relationships that doesn't die so I think everyone can relate to the song for that reason. You don't have to necessarily be in your cold war, but if you've had one, it resides.
On your mixtape "Late Nights & Earlier Mornings" you did a little rapping on a few of the tracks. Can we expect some rhyming on the new album?
You know, I've always considered myself a rapper. I just sing my melodies. Always I've enjoyed lyrics. I'm a lyricists first and I guess it just works that I can actually sing a little bit. Any song that I have, I can rhyme it before I sing it.
Your teaser for the new album was an EP. Seeing that a lot R&B singers are turning to mixtapes to share new material, why did you choose that route?
For me, mixtapes for R&B singers are very, very weird. I've never considered myself making these mixtapes. I just give away stuff that possibly won't get a home. I'll have something that has way too many samples that is never going to get cleared but I want the world to hear it. So how else am I going to put it out? I'll put it on a compilation of other MP3s of other stuff I'll give away.
I've seen people have parties to launch said mixtapes. I just put it out. I just do the work. The internet is for everyone to enjoy and I use it to give my fans something to look forward to while they are waiting for it to be available in the stores. So that's my giveback versus making mixtapes.
How was it working with your fellow Brit Daley?
Prior to us getting in the studio I hadn't heard of him. And he came in -- this was couple years ago -- and I was like, "Oh! You're pretty dope!" Then I heard all of his stuff and I was like you're really dope. One time I was working with my homeboy Canei. Canei did "I Hope She Cheats on You With A Basketball Player" and "Lose Myself" on the first album. And we were all in the studio and Canei starts playing these cords and I was like, "That's pretty."
We wrote the whole song there on the spot and we created it in all of 10 minutes and I was like, "That's a cute song." And here it is today for everyone else catching up to what we've already done. And that's what I'm saying about music not being available to the consumer quick enough. Had people had that quick enough, maybe it would have been a bit bigger now. But they had to wait.
You carry a lot of serious themes in your music videos such as sexual health in "Late Nights & Early Mornings" and suicide prevention and gay rights in "Far Away." What made you want to create more socially conscious videos rather than visuals full of beauty shots?
I unintentionally took pride in accounting for my visuals with my music because not many artists understand how important the two marry each other. My focal point with music is I'm a movie person. I love film. So it's almost like the music has to speak to what you're doing visually. And I was like why would I shy away from that emotion versus me getting a wind machine, standing in the middle of the street crying my eyes out like every other corny person ever did in their video. It's been done before. You can just "insert face here." I never wanted to make those type of videos and I didn't.
And as a vocal supporter of gay rights, what has been your reaction to major political figures -- such as President Obama last spring -- now stepping out to voice their support of same sex marriage.
I think in this day and age you are just supposed to accept period. It's not a gay thing. It's not a straight thing. It's what rights do you believe you should have as a human being. What do you want, brownie points? No one gets brownie points for obvious things. So fight the mighty fight. Everyone should do so.
You covered the "Family Guy" theme song on your "Late Night & Earlier Mornings" mixtape. So was that a hint that cartoons are one of your guilty pleasures?
I wouldn't consider them guilty pleasures. I guess to know me is to love me. And to know me is to know that I am sitting there at 11 p.m. It's "American Dad" twice and then "Family Guy" and then I'll turn to Cartoon Network which then turns to Adult Swim that then does it all over again. I'll sit there for what would be three hours watching "Family Guy" and "American Dad." I don't find it guilty. I just know that it's a part of me.
And I'll get things from the cartoons. There are so many melodies and so many transitions like when they all show the house and you're like what's going to happen next. It's my thing.
Do you have anything else you want to add about the project and what you want listeners to take from it?
"Friends & Lovers" is to be listened to responsibly because you don't know who will end up becoming a friend or will end up being a lover. It might be the wrong one so that whole album explores the decisions that were made in my life that made these songs possible.
So it's a warning in a sense?
Yeah, it should could come with a warning or a caution. Don't listen to it with just anyone.