Right Or Wrong: Songstress Vivian Green Opens Up About Misconceptions, Music Journey & Kwamé Connection

Our Conversation with Vivian Green

Philadelphia native, Vivian Green has been in the industry for over a decade. The lovely songstress emerged in 2002 when she was “just barely grown” as she describes it. Her debut single “Emotional Rollercoaster” served as a testimony for women going through any relationship issues. The album, A Love Story was well received and Vivian cemented her voice in R&B right around the time the neo-soul movement was serving as a blessing in urban music.

While audiences were gripping to her soulful ballads, many of which dealt with heartbreak and lovers who had messed up, Vivian was really just growing into womanhood. She signed her first deal with Sony at just 21 years old, but she penned some of the songs as early as when she was 18 years old. Even prior to her deal Vivian’s extraordinary writing was being recognized by talented artists in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. One of her earliest credits is writing “Dear God” on Boyz II Men’s Emotional album. She would also go on to work with Brittney Spears, Eric Roberson and many more. All the while, her undeniable voice was being recognized and doors were opening. She would go on to sing background for Jill Scott, one of the last jobs she had before locking in her deal.

However as her career would progress, the unfair connection to Jill—folks would credit Scott for Vivian’s deal or have expectations that Green was a protégé of the blossoming Scott—along with the labels marketing tactics boxing her in with other neo soul artists, Vivian found herself painted in a corner very early on in her career. The music was great but expectations of her were misguided.

Now on her fifth album, Vivid, Vivian is still trying to change some misconceptions about her music and her sound.  Partnering with producer, Kwamé, for a refreshing uptempo album is Vivian’s opportunity to reintroduce herself.  The lead single, “Get Right Back To My Baby” is no ballad, but it’s another great song in a wonderful catalog for the lovely artist.  As the first artist on Kwamé’s Make Noise Recordings label, Ms. Green and her producer have a lot riding on this project. The duo spoke on the project in a recent interview and although Vivid is Vivian Greens’s album, the partnership here is quite special.  It reflects in the music.

Parlé Magazine:  Before we talk about the new music, let’s quickly touch base on what you’ve been up to since listeners last saw you on The Green Room in 2012.
Vivian Green:  Since the last project, The Green Room, I’ve been working on Vivid honestly. This is the longest it’s taken me to do a project because it’s very different than my other albums. It really took me a while to get into the sound of it. Kwamé produced the whole thing and defined that sound. So it’s not an album full of ballads like The Green Room is, but at the same time it’s not trendy or gimmicky or anything like that. It’s very soulful, it’s fun. Music you want to play at a cook out or something. It has so much energy to it and it took me a while to get into that tempo of writing because I am definitely more of a ballad writer. This was more of a challenge. In the mean time, I’m a mom, I’m always a mom so I was doing that. I home school my son so when I’m not doing music I’m doing that.

Parlé:  Home school?  I know he has special needs is that why?
Vivian Green:  He just has an unknown syndrome, so I home schooled since kindergarten. He’s in the fifth grade now. His syndrome affects his size so if you go back to kindergarten, I was not comfortable putting him in school because he is very small and his head was very sensitive because he had some under developed bones in his skull so I was not comfortable sending him in school in kindergarten where they play a lot. Every year I would say, ‘oh, I’m going to put him in school,’ but I never got around to it. I have found a pretty good school so hopefully I get the guts to send him to that school next year. It’s a great school that teaches acceptance and awareness of all people. He needs that now, definitely socially. We’re both over it and he’s always like ‘Mom let go.’ But it’s difficult to let go of a miracle child like that.

Parlé: Has home school been difficult for you?
Vivian Green:  Home school is actually hard. He’s a grade and a half above grade level so it’s even harder. There are so many checks and balances and standardized tests that he has to pass so it’s not like I can sit around and just teach him what I want.

Parlé You were independent for two albums, was there anything that made you want to come back for this release with Caroline Records, in addition to Make Noise?
Vivian Green:  I think eOne was what it was at the time and Sony was what it was for the time, but you move on. It’s just a part of the journey if you been around for over 10 years. I really like this situation and I’m excited about it.


Parlé:
 Do you have those moments when you look back in your career and you second guess something you did?
Vivian Green:  Oh absolutely. I wish I could definitely change certain perceptions of me that were because something that was did or something a publicist put out or said. Absolutely. You work on those things as much as you can now. But there are definitely things that I wish were different from the beginning. So probably the first album is what I would have changed.

Parlé:  I came to grips with the fact that as a man you just haven’t lived until you’ve had a woman quote parts of Emotional Rollercoaster to you. Looking back at that time, what led to you putting those tracks down?
Vivian Green:  A lot of my core fans know, but a lot of people don’t know that when I signed to Sony I was 21. I was really young.  And that was just some first love break up purging. That’s all it was. I was a young person making her way through heartbreak creatively. I don’t think a lot of people recognize my age then and that I was just going through what a lot of people that age go through. Usually at some point between college and high school that happens and it changes you. That’s what that album was about.

Parlé:  A lot of your career had been built and connections and developing the right connections. A lot of people don’t get themselves in the positions you found yourself in early in your career. What do you credit for making those type of connections, for example working with and writing with Boyz II Men when you were a teen?
Vivian Green:  When I was a teenager I just knew I wanted to sing and I knew I wanted to be a recording artist. I was so determined and every time I met someone who was in the place that I wanted to be, I just stayed there. Being at Boyz II Men studio, it was called Stone Creek. I would stay there and just be focused. I was 15 at the time, so I was like the most seriously focused 15 year old just because of what I was around. I didn’t care about hanging out with girlfriends, I just felt like I was this close to my dreams.

Kwamé: It wasn’t just Boyz II Men she was working with in the studio. There were other artists in the studio as well that got big later on. Vivian likes to downplay her connections as you say. Correct me if I’m wrong, (looks at Vivian) but for a while she was working with Brittney Spears. Her parents would drive Brittney to Philly to work with Viv to help develop her as an artist. Or a lot of times I think people try to connect her to Jill [Scott] because she was the background singer, but that’s just a job she had. She was doing that job to make money but at the same time she was in the studio with people like Brittney, with people like Boyz II Men, writing on a multi-platinum album and working with her music community, there was so much going on at the time in Philly. She was born in the right era.

Vivian Green:  I feel like I was a part of the movement before any of that neo-soul resurgence happened. I think a lot of people feel like everything started for me when some big record executive saw me singing background for Jill, but that is the biggest misconception of my career. That never happened. It’s extremely rare that that happens for a background singer and it didn’t happen for me. I was shopping for my deal before and after the tour. We had several offers and Sony offered us the deal where we wanted to be. But we had three offers from three major labels. That was happening before and during my time with Jill. It didn’t get me where I am.


Parlé:
 Do you think that connection with Jill has hurt you?
Vivian Green:  I think it has hurt me. I love Jill, but I’m not her. I’m never going to be Jill Scott. But the comparisons and associations put me with Erykah and Jill who I both love, but I don’t think my music sounds anything like theirs. I always would go through so much when I changed something about myself, like when I weaved my hair in 2005 on the cover of the second album, Vivian,  people were outraged or whenever I went in a different direction musically, because people felt that I was something else that I never was.


Parlé:
 To make sure I got it right, did you work on your demo with Eric Roberson?
Vivian Green:  Yes, yes, yes! Eric and I worked on my demo tape, the demo tape that got me signed, the tape that had “Emotional Rollercoaster” on it, had “What Is Love” on it, yes we worked on that. I had to meet Eric when I just turned 18, 17 turning 18. That’s my brother, that’s my heart. I light up when I talk about him because I’m so happy for all his success in his career, which took forever. If someone is to get credit for me being signed it’s Eric Roberson all day, every day of the week of the year.


Parlé:
 And speaking of connections, you and Kwame obviously got together to put together this Vivid album, how did ya’ll end up collaborating?
Vivian Green:  We had a mutual friend who said we should work together, but it was around the time of The Green Room. I had already finished it, it was mixed and mastered so when he hit me up, I said the next go round. Then when I was ready, I said, send me some music. And I got it and his music is VERY energetic, very upbeat from what I’m used to. Musicians turned producers do things a certain way. Kwamé is a bit unorthodox. Not all of the time, but most of the time… in a really good way. But removing myself from what I was used to and trying to do what he does, it was a process early on. We’ve had so many battles making this album. We had to get to the point where we fit, where what I wrote, fit the music he created.

Vivian Green & Producer Kwamé Discuss New Single, “Get Right Back To My Baby”

 

Parlé:  What else should people know about this album?
Vivian Green:  The album is entitled Vivid, that’s the perfect description for the album and it’s the root to my name Vivian. And it all means full of life, energy.

Parlé:  What was the writing process like for this album?
Kwamé:  We wrote together. She’s not used to the uptempo style of writing so a lot of the time, for instance on the single, she would write the verses and then I would come in with the hook.
Vivian Green:  Honestly he’s a great writer, from being a lyricist and an emcee he’s still a great writer. We definitely collaborated on quite a few songs.


Parlé:
 I wonder, if it was such a tedious process what made ya’ll stick it out for a whole project? I would figure if you get one track out of it, you would be happy.
Kwamé: I’m used to working on bodies of work. If anyone looks at my track record as a producer I’m very sporadic with the projects that I’m on because I personally don’t like submitting a track here or a track there. When I was actively an artist I was used to producing full albums, so that’s just my development. And when I work with an artist, I may not get to do the whole album, but we’ll do a gang of records just because and pick the best out of that. With this, I don’t think it was ever the intention to do the whole album, but it was never the intention to do just one song. Like Viv said, I was the pitch man. I was like, just trust me. Sing it on top of this, sing like this because I feel like when you get to know her she’s multi-faceted, every time I meet a hard core Vivian Green fan they’re stuck on this one song. If she’s the vehicle to get people through things, I think you can get through things in fast pace, in slow pace and in mid pace. That was my creative process with the album. You can get somebody through something with an up-tempo record. And you’re not always going through something, you’re not always in a bad relationship, you’re not always in something negative. When I get with her she’s so funny, she’s popping off. She can be so nice, but then she can get soooo hood and it’s like why can’t people somewhat see that, without changing who you are. I was very cautious in saying remain who you are, remain true to your core audience.

Vivian Green:  I felt like right or wrong I needed a new energy on this album and that’s why I had to keep working with him. I liked the energy he was bringing. I have to wake my fans up and come back where people notice. I didn’t feel like I could just come back with another ballad.


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Kevin Benoit

Kevin Benoit is the editor of Parlé Magazine. He founded the magazine while in college and continues to run it today. Follow him on IG: @parlewithme Read more articles by Kevin.

Kevin Benoit has 1788 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin Benoit

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