Angie Stone Interview – Soul Music’s Renaissance Woman
Veteran Grammy nominated quadruple threat, Angie Stone, has been delivering her signature buttery smooth, honey-toned vocal stylings, bathed in that undeniable gritty soulfulness, for well over three and a half decades now. Throughout her vast musical journey, the native Columbia, South Carolina, songstress has amassed four top 10 albums; including a number one, a top 10 single, and has sold more than ten million units worldwide. My Angie Stone interview…
“Angie Stone is an OG diva! She paved a way for artists like myself to join their gospel roots with catchy melodies and rap flows…making her a true pioneer of Hip-Hop/R&B and Soul music.” – Faith Evans
“Angie is a sweet lady. I love her music, real soul music. Makes me want to dance.” – Al Green
“To My Dearest Sister Angie Stone: Your Voice is Soothing. Your Lyrics are Moving. Your Spirit is Encouraging. And GOD made you TIMELESS!! With my Heart.” – Yolanda Adams
“Angie Stone is a unique and fearless artist that has fully embraced the creativity that resides in her. Her voice and her music are created for the soul.” – Brandy
“From the lyrics to her live delivery on stage, Angie Stone is authentic heart and soul. She’s been giving us something to feel for a while now and we still want more.” – Mary Mary
“Angie Stone you are in my opinion one of the greatest songwriters in R&B music. Your voice effortlessly lifts the spirit and your vocal arrangements should be taught in classes. You are music and the business of music…You are a LadyBoss! That’s why I adore you.” – Ledisi
Parlé Magazine: Let’s hop right into your latest single, “2 Bad Habits” — Tell me about this track specifically? How did it actually come to fruition?
Angie Stone: Well, this track was created by, of course, Walter Millsap [Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez] and co-written with Candice Nelson, Teak (Underdue), myself of course, and Walter, and I have to tell you it was an amazing transition for conversing with these young people and letting ’em know just where I was in life and the things I’ve gone through. And actually, they crafted and sculpted the project with me so I can’t take full credit. All I can say that is I wanted to convey that I’m a real person at the end of the day, I’m no different than anybody else, it’s just a different job title. So, “2 Bad Habits” is something that I go through as a woman, making bad choices sometimes, in several different walks of life, but especially in regards to relationships. Sometimes we can get stuck on stupid and I think that’s what “2 Bad Habits” is meaning. Get over it, get on through, let it go and all of that stuff.
Parlé: “2 Bad Habits,” of course, comes courtesy of your just unleashed seventh solo studio LP, Dream [Shanachie Entertainment] — Conceptually, what does that title represent both to and for you?
Angie: Okay, Dream came about because Walter Millsap called me when I was in a place that I was done with the music industry. I was tired of putting out great music, not getting any recognition for it. I felt like I was wasting a lot of my time because everything that I worked so hard for just kinda got taken for granted by so many people, and I couldn’t really blame anybody but the labels who really were uncertain with what to do with an artist like myself; someone who was growing old in the business. The second thing is because we always put a cap on what it is we’re doing because of age. I found myself in an inappropriate situation, so I had given up, I was tired, I wanted it to be over with. I was done. And, Walter Millsap called me and said, “God had given him a dream,” and he was emphatically adamant about moving forward with this project because he wanted to be obedient…and I said, “Go for it!’ I mean, I just effortlessly put forth my energy to put this album together with him. I kind of leaned heavily on what he said and what he wanted to do ’cause I was tired. I was at a place where I didn’t want to put out another record…and this brings me back to the adage in ‘Footprints (in the Sand’) when they say, “I asked God where were you in the times when I needed you the most,” and he said, “Those were the times where I carried you.” This is one of those times really. I had been in a place where I didn’t care and here it is now because I’ve cast all my cares upon the creator, things are just falling into place and I’m still at a level of shock.
Parlé: How does Dream either differ and/or compare to previous Angie Stone efforts?
Angie: I think Dream is the album that I never… like I said, I didn’t work as hard as I should have. God did it for me! I took the load off of me. I really believe that it’s different because even though all of my albums have been conceptualized, conceived by him because him knowing all – everything – and doing all long before we get there—I stopped trying to do it all myself, and I think that’s the difference; I didn’t do this one, he did.
Check out the tracklist for Dream here.
Parlé: What has been the ultimate key to your longstanding success?
Angie: I think, honestly, what’s sustained me is the fact that God allowed me to go through some of the things I’ve gone through in my life because he knew at the core of who I am, the humble spirit that I am, he knew that she would be the one who survives and that I would tell the story the right way. I think the fact that I’ve been reared up the right way in terms of knowing who the Lord is, and the important role that he plays in my life, I think that God trusted me to be the one to tell other up ‘n’ coming artists how important it is to keep their eyes on him…and in order to do that, it’s called trials and tribulations. I think I’ve gone through ups and downs that most artists have kind of swept under the rug or evaded or covered or hidden. I think all the covers have been pulled off, I think the blinders have been removed, and people see that we are just other people.
Parlé: With that being said, how have you both changed and/or evolved since your whole inception into music?
Angie: Yeah, I’ve evolved but the changes have been natural changes. I think I’ve changed as if any teenager grows up to be a young lady; from a young mother, young wife… all the way into a single parent again. And, one who is having to be both mother and father to my kids, and grandmother and grandfather to my grand kids. I think I’ve changed because I had to adapt to being in control of all of that. Do I want it? No! I don’t want to be in control of all of that because that’s too much weight to carry. I think that I’ve changed in the sense that I’ve kind of swallowed all of that whole, and most young kids that leave home at seventeen they don’t know what 27 or 37 or even 47 looks like until they get there. And I’ve had to see all of that from a kid’s eyes, so all I remember about being a kid is up until seventeen years old, everything else that I’ve adapted and picked up along the way has been weights – I call em weights – every year has been another weight, and at 53 years of age I’m just weighed down.
Parlé: Well being that you started in the business as one third of The Sequence, one of the first acts signed to the late Sylvia Robinson’s pioneering Sugar Hill Records imprint, followed by your stint with R&B trio Vertical Hold — So was the solo transition always in the plan or did that just come about by circumstance?
Angie: No, the solo transition was never in the plan. After Vertical Hold…it took us twelve years to get Vertical Hold signed. When Vertical Hold got signed after twelve years, we put out one album with the (Top 40) hit “Seems You’re Much Too Busy.” By the time we got on with the second album, they closed the Black division of A&M Records. I was completely frustrated at that point because we had waited, like I said, all those years to get discovered. I had to do a publishing deal with Carol Ware over at MCA Records, made them an offer that they chose not to refuse; I said, “I’ll sign with you, if you’ll sign the group?” They signed the group, they fought for the deal for A&M, 12 years of pining through, finally getting through, and then within less than two years saying, “Hey, you have no company now.” And, it was like starting from scratch. That was when the birth of a solo career took place. I couldn’t go another twelve years with carrying the weight of Vertical Hold.
Parlé: In addition to your music of course, you’ve also dibbled and dabbled in the acting world – Are there future plans to continue in this pursuit?
Angie: I would hope so. I’ve been trying to get into film and television now for over ten, fifteen years. I’ve had some peakable moments. I’ve had some decent roles; The Hot Chick and Fighting Temptations. ‘Girlfriends,’ ‘Moesha.’ All of these, I thought I would’ve landed my own show or at least been a regular on somebody else’s by now. I didn’t want to be 53 and touring all over the world just doing music. I really see a whole lot more for myself than that.
Parlé: You also appeared on ‘R&B Divas: Atlanta,’ but judging from your appearance and subsequent exit from the show it was made pretty clear to viewers that you were pretty discontent with the overall experience — In having said that, would you ever do reality television again?
Angie: Not like that, not like that. I’ve been offered a reality TV show right now called ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!,’ which is based in Australia. I turned it down, not because of ‘R&B Divas’ but because the show dropped you off in the middle of an Australian jungle where you come in contact with spiders, snakes, I just couldn’t do that, so I turned it down. And, they offered me a whole lot more money to do that one and the answer was still no! So, it depends on what it is. I just won’t get into a situation that would cause me to have to act out of character just to get ratings. I mean, several concepts about my daughter and I doing something but not if it’s gonna make a mockery out of her and I. So they’ve now, because of our situation, they’ve now created a show called ‘No More Drama With Your Mama,’ and they have a bunch of teenagers on there disrespecting their parents. I just think it’s outlandish, outrageous and just out of reach for me. I can’t do that because we’re bigger than that, you know…when you know better, you do better. I can’t do that.
[ed.note: the VH-1 series Angie is referring to is actually titled ‘Mama Drama’]
Parlé: Switching gears here… Is it fair to say you’re happy with the current state of R&B/Soul?
Angie: Well to say the least, I can’t say that I’m completely happy with anything dealing with the conception of R&B or Soul music. I think that we are in a state of crisis musically overall. I think that music is in a state of—we’re in a drought. I think what has happened with Soul music is it got swallowed whole by Neo-soul; that whole conceptual, un-conceptual, unperceived, received word “Neo.” I think this was something that was birthed out of Philadelphia, in my opinion it’s a very selfish notion that said, “This is our music!” And, it’s not their music. Soul music belongs to us all. Soul music was evolved from the church. Traditional R&B and Soul music was that of the Aretha Franklin’s the Curtis Mayfield’s, the Marvin Gaye’s, the Sam Cooke’s, the Al Green’s, the Betty Wright’s. These were real Soul singers… the Ohio Players, the Bar-Kays. When you think about those kind of artists, no one person claimed Soul music; they allowed the hit music to dictate itself. Now I grant you, some Neo-soul that came out of Philadelphia was phenomenal, but we have to all admit and agree that it was a replication of D’Angelo’s rebirth of Soul music. After the Brown Sugar album came, everybody and they mama came with something that was reminiscent of what was real. That kind of stuff is what pigeonholed Soul music, because he was the leader and he was the one that was able to make the kind of music that others wanted to emulate or duplicate or try to copy. Because he made a disappearing act for 12 years, all of those people were like in one fishbowl trying to find their way out of the river because they had no other lead to follow. Once he shut down, they could only go as far as he went and that was what killed Soul music. That is why un-precedently the entire world was spinning on its axis, sitting on their fingers, biting on their fingernails, waiting for the next D’Angelo album. That’s why no other artist can sit out that long and the world still be waiting for something, because when you are a leader of something everybody is following you. Unfortunately when you couldn’t follow him anymore, nobody else had anywhere else to go. They didn’t know what to do. So, the state of Soul music was at its greatest point when that Brown Sugar album dropped, and at its worst point when he didn’t return right away. So, yes, now we’re sitting back 12 years later trying to figure out, “Can you pick up where you left off?” And he’s like, “This is where I would’ve gone had it not been an Invasion of the Soul Snatchers!” *Stone laughs* That’s what happened. I was thinking of the (1978 movie) ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers,’ but that’s what they did. They were the Invaders of Soul called the Soul Snatchers and they sucked the life out of it! They didn’t even give the boy a chance to have a lead for us to follow. I believe we would’ve had a longer run.
As an extension to this question, where exactly do you “fit in” when it comes to today’s trending sound-scape?
Angie: Now on the flip side of that, as a female I had the ability to keep going. Now with all of that in regards, I was the one female that tried to keep it gangsta, tried to keep it real soul, trying to keep it going and what ended up happening is all the people that were just looking at me as, “Oh, that’s the baby mama.” They never knew I was one of the most important factors in the initial Brown Sugar project. So I’m here to say – moving forward – that, yes, I can keep it going, yes, I can roll with it, yes, we can be consistent. I’m hoping and praying that with my new album, with my project, that I can rebirth some of what we lost from an original state, not from an Invasion of the Soul Snatchers state.
[Angie and D’Angelo share a teenage son, Michael]
Parlé: To date, what has been your biggest career moment?
Angie: When I won two (Soul Train) Lady of Soul Awards. It was the first time I had ever been on that podium from that position, and when I got there instead of thanking everybody else I just thanked God and I made my speech count for something, because it really didn’t matter at that point that I had won those two trophies, what mattered the most were that people that were categorized with me – which were Macy Gray, Mary J. Blige, Lauryn Hill — I won out on all those people – (and) that we take our celebrity and we make a stance to help other people that are coming up in the business. It was important for us to be good role models.
Parlé: Looking ahead, say five or maybe even ten years down the line, where do you see yourself, Angie?
Angie: Hopefully on television in a series of sorts, my own show maybe. If not, just chilling out, happily married with somebody who just wants to love me, take care of me, ‘til I die.
Parlé: It’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you. Thanks so much for taking your time out with me today.
Angie: Alright, babe, thank you, and have an awesome day.
Check out the video for Angie Stone’s single, “2 Bad Habits” below: