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This native Georgia peach likes to add a little sugar to everything she touches.
Chances are, if you don’t remember this R&B singer from her years as a member of 90’s girl super group Xscape, you probably recognize her from Bravo’s hit reality series, "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" where she has quickly established herself as a fan favorite. The multitalented singer, songwriter, producer and reality show phenom has a few accolades under her belt.
Besides some top 100 Singles with Xscape back in the nineties, she became the first African American woman to receive ASCAP’s “Songwriter of the Year” along with ASCAP’s “Rhythm & Soul Music Award,” both in 2000 for songwriting credits for Destiny Child’s #1 hit “Bills, Bills, Bills” and TLC’s smash hit, “No Scrubs.”
But her songwriting credits don’t end there, she has writing credits with some of the biggest names in the music industry including: Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Boyz II Men, Da Brat, NSYNC, N-Toon, Solo, Usher, Fantasia, Mýa, Joe, MC Lyte and even Whitney Houston.
Kandi now has her new album out, Kandi Koated on Kandi Koated Entertainment/Asylum Records/Warner Bros, delivering a stirring soundtrack for the music of our relationships and our somewhat rollercoaster lives.
I recently had a chance to speak to Kandi Burress about her new album, personal relationships and dealing with the cacophony that arise from being in the public eye and a target for Internet detractors. Her poise, graciousness and sense of humor shined during our phone chat, making her one of the realest personalities I’ve had the pleasure to talk to. One thing is for certain, being in the limelight hasn’t turned this Kandi sour in the least.
BottomLine: Kandi who would you site as your main musical muse?
Kandi: Before I started my own career, I used to love to other women who had deep voices like mine. So back then it was like Regina Bell and Layla Hathaway – Stephany Mills, I loved her too. You know, Anita Baker – but now I just listen to everybody!
How much of your soul is poured into your new album, KandiKoated? I’ve been listening to it a lot and it really comes across as a personal journey
It is! This album is very personal for me. Pretty much every song on the album is about a personal relationship of mine. Except for, “Me and U” because Ne-Yo did that song for me and then “Lucky,” that was just a fun song that me and my friends came up with and it wasn’t about any particular relationship.
But the rest of the songs on the album are all inspired by actual relationships that I have been in or are currently developing.
And in the song “Leroy Jones” – everything I say in that song is true. My stepfather’s name is Leroy Jones and he was really there for me.
So would you say that’s the track that has the most personal meaning for you?
Yeah, definitely, I would say the most because he really, really, really meant a lot to me and I feel like if somebody can step up for a child that is not theirs and still love them like their own child – that person deserves credit. And so yeah, I just really wanted to put into words how he made me feel as a kid with his love and acceptance.
What I thought was interesting on this album was that you had performed “I Fly Above” on an episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta but it’s definitely more polished on the album…
Oh definitely [Kandi breaks into her infectious giggle]
And I mean that as a compliment – though that didn’t come out well, sorry. [I can’t help but laugh along with Kandi.] So what’s the genesis behind that song? I mean is this your response to all the haters and bull shit?
Definitely! When I first met Kim [Zolciak] she kept saying “I’m above it.” “I’m over all the drama,” “I’m over this and that.” And what she said, when I went to the studio, it just hit me what she was saying about being above and over it. Then I was just thinking about my own personal situations. Especially when you try to do something good you are always going to have somebody that has something negative or crazy to say. I was like, ‘I’m over it too.’
That’s great. I have to say, of all the women on that show, you always struck me as the most genuine and authentic one in the bunch. I don’t know how you put up with the drama!
But back to your album, “Haven’t Loved Right” is my favorite track.
Oh wow, really? That song means a lot to me – it’s a really deep song. When I had wrote the song I think A.J. and I had just broke up – it was before he passed. But then after he passed the song meant that just more. Because being that we had broke up, he was dating, I was dating but it just seemed like the people I was running into – it just wasn’t – clicking. Then after he passed, of course, you try real hard to date but it just wasn’t connecting like it should. So I really needed to use that song for my album because it was exactly what I felt like.
Yeah, it really struck a chord for me. You can spend so much time just trying to connect with someone who should be perfect for you but for whatever reason it doesn’t work. So are you dating right now?
I’m dating, but not anything super serious.
Well it’s got to be difficult for you girl cause you have a lot of fingers in a lot of pies.
Yeah, right now I have so many things that I want to do that I want to make happen and I’m just trying to go for everything, you know?
I don’t think people who aren’t in the industry realize how much work is involved with bringing an album together; say from initial concept scribbled on a napkin in a bar to the finished project. How long was your album in development?
Well, I would say normally it doesn’t take me that long to put together an album. But this time, it was a long process. That was just because, you know, when I first started I was going to do the project independently. But then when I had talked to Warner Brothers, they wanted to give me a studio with different people but I was placed in the show [TRHOA], which it just prolonged it because I couldn’t be in the studio every day – that would just be boring to show me in the studio. [Laughs] I couldn’t really relax and be creative until we finished taping. That’s what made it really last, like, what seemed forever.
Well it was worth the wait. After listening to your new album, the thing that strikes me most is the wisdom and maturity that shines in it. It’s a growth album. Is this a reflection of a Kandi who is comfortable in her own skin finally?
You know, I’ve never heard anybody say that about my album, thank you, but I totally would have to agree. I’ve grown a lot and it definitely reflects that.
Now getting back to Real Housewives, your involvement with it. Has it been a blessing or a curse?
It’s a double-edged sword. When you are in the public eye of course you’re going to have people who want to pick you apart. People come up to you and say the craziest and worst possible things they can say to you to get under your skin. But, overall, I think it’s a good thing, or has been a good thing for me. Cause even though I don’t necessarily need the show to be a songwriter – I can write songs for the rest of my life and not be on a TV show. But it was good for the fans – a lot of people didn’t know what I was doing behind the scenes after the group Xscape. So the show really gave me the chance to show people for one, what I actually do. Especially, by doing the song for Kim. Even though, you know, I didn’t make a lot of money off of the song for Kim [“Tardy For The Party”] or whatever but it was a positive thing for me because people got to see actually how I could take something that everybody could say was not hot and make it hot. That was a positive thing for me as a songwriter and a producer.
I’ll say! You made someone who can’t sing sound good!
Poor thing. But for me it was good in that sense because business wise now everyone’s going, ‘Dang! If you can do that for her…’ you know, so it was a good thing. For my music, as for my own album, it gave people a chance to hear me and people are interested in Kandi the artist again. Business wise the show is good. Personally – I don’t know. I can do without all the picked apart drama of it.
So how do you deal with the haters? I would think a person in your position would avoid the Internet like the plague because the commentary borders on evil sometimes.
You are right. I don’t know, sometimes I say to myself ‘Forget it, I’m not going to be on Twitter anymore.’ But then I’m like you know what, who CARES what they think! If all they can do with their life is talk bad about you – if anybody KNEW them you’d be talking shit about them too! [Kandi laughs]