Catching Up With Marsha Ambrosius
Many of you may recall Liverpool, England native Marsha Ambrosius as the Songstress from the popular duo Floetry. Since the group’s breakup several years ago, Marsha has been steadily working as a singer, songwriter and producer and has compiled an impressive list of song credits. The six-time Grammy nominee and recipient of the BMI Songwriter of the Year award is one of the industry’s most sought after artists, resulting in numerous collaborations including songs with Alicia Keys, Jamie Foxx, Justin Timberlake, Nas, and most notably, Michael Jackson, for whom she wrote the song Butterflies.
Marsha recently released her highly anticipated solo album called Late Nights & Early Mornings, which is receiving positive reviews, including high ratings from People magazine, USA Today, and MSN. Marsha is well-known for her outspoken songwriting approach, which I’d also describe as very versatile. As Marsha has shown in her first three singles, Hope She Cheats On You (With a Basketball Player), Far Away, and Late Nights & Early Mornings, she has a musical perspective that connects well with our emotions. Perhaps that explains why the album debuted at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart and number two on the Billboard Top 200 chart.
Marsha recently finished the BET Music Matters tour and is now on the Love Letter tour with R. Kelly and Keyshia Cole. She made time during her travels to chat about her new album and her progression as a songwriter.
New album – Late Nights & Early Mornings
Mimi: What three words would you use to describe flow of the whole album?
Marsha: Hmmm…sensual, seductive, fluidity
Mimi: As you worked on the album, at what point did you know it was complete in terms of delivering those three things?
Marsha: For me, I guess there’s no true knowing. I just knew I was satisfied. That was completely selfish of me in knowing that I had created an album that I wanted to create. I wrote and produced the majority of it and that’s exactly how I wanted it to be. I guess I didn’t know it was right, as far as what I thought other people would be considering, but I knew I loved it and I took it from there.
Mimi: With everything you have going on, it would be totally understandable if you didn’t use social networks as much. But, it seems like you’re doing the opposite. You’re very visible on Twitter, UStream, and YouTube. How has your interaction with fans helped you see the impact of your album?
Marsha: For me, it was very important that I do that because I feel like everyone belongs to this project now. It’s not just about me. It wasn’t about me being comfortable in the studio by myself and creating these weird ideas that may or may not work. It’s bringing the people with you. So, when I can tweet about me creating this weird Prince fusion, Stevie Wonder, James Brown thing that I may think works, people remember and I can’t take that for granted. I guess with the outlets of Twitter, UStream, and things that I have used and do use consistently, it brings the people and the interest in what you do with you. So, I think with Late Nights and Early Mornings, it was more so the people wanted it more than I did and bringing them with me every step of the way. That has definitely helped me and I continue to do that.
Mimi: You’ve said that as a songwriter, you’re very honest with your pen. I’m sure people tell you often that your music expresses things that they couldn’t say. What inspires you to be transparent enough about things you’ve experienced to actually share with the public?
Marsha: Well for me, it’s free therapy. I have to let all of these emotions go otherwise I’d be over here going crazy. I guess life can do that to you but through music, I’m allowed to lash out; I’m allowed to be as open as I am because I’ve got a strong family base that allows me to be me all the time. And, I guess in being an artist, you can lie to yourself. You can create a character and a façade for what the public wants to perceive you as. I didn’t want to get comfortable in that notion, in having to create someone that isn’t totally me. I’d rather give myself away and then when I wanna be extra and embellish a little bit on what could be true or untrue, it’s still coming from a pure place.
Progression as a songwriter and artist
Mimi: If you were to compare your progression as an artist from when you first started to now, what would you say are the most noticeable differences?
Marsha: I’ve definitely learned a lot along the way. Very early on when I was over in the UK as a solo artist, it was a completely different era. I was on my Bad Boy kick. Faith Evans, Mary J. Blige, 112 and Total were my heroes. Those were my favorite groups and anything musically that I touched sounded like that. So, that’s the era I was in when I wanted to do the solo venture. And then I got comfortable with writing and producing and I realized that I can just make music. It doesn’t matter what genre, I’m just gonna create music. I guess when I did the collaboration with Floetry, it was because of the song Fantasize that I figured it needed a poet. It just made sense to me in my head. I heard that Natalie, who I went to school with, was doing poetry so I was like let’s see how that works. And that’s how Floetry happened.
And you know with Natalie leaving the group at the end of 2006, I’m right back to the comfort zone of writing and producing. I guess I never channeled what would be Marsha Ambrosius as a solo artist again but I knew people were well aware of my capabilities because I had written a lot of songs and I had features on a lot of records. So, I was like ok, well let me hone in on this and figure out what I want to do. And when I finally did so, and in getting the collaborations with Alicia Keys and Jamie Foxx over at J Records, I established a great partnership with them and they were well aware of what I wanted to do as a solo artist. They gave me that creative freedom to do so, which resulted in me once again getting to be myself 100% versus people putting on me what they expected of me. Late Nights & Early Mornings is as honest as I get on one album, which I’m very glad I got the opportunity to do.
Mimi: If you were to write a song about your growth as an artist and songwriter, what do you think the title would be?
Mimi: You’re a fan of basketball so I assume you’re familiar with NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, who averaged a triple-double in his second season. I’d compare you to Oscar from a music perspective because you too are excelling in three areas as an artist, songwriter, and producer. What steps are you taking to make sure that Late Nights & Early Mornings is not just a good season, but a piece of a legendary music career?
Marsha: Well, I guess it kinda did that to itself. As much as you appreciate it, or I appreciate it, and the people that have been on it from day one, it’s still growing and people are still now just discovering it, which I find refreshing. I don’t have to get comfortable in the core fan base that I’ve built over the years. I’m reintroducing myself as someone completely different now; not that I’ve changed but when I’ve done certain shows, I’ve gone on stage and sang everything from Say Yes to Butterflies and people are looking like why is she doing all of these songs? Is this the same person? And then I’ll do Hope She Cheats and Far Away and I’m all of these things that people connect with me in one way or another. So, I still feel like I’m being discovered, still so many years later and that’s refreshing to me as an artist. I can still feel new and still keep on my toes. I don’t have to deliver it the same way or expect that people know the songs just yet. I can still kind of get comfortable but still grow in it. There are so many things to connect me to that I can still be discovered or rediscovered to so many people and I like that.
I think for me, with this being my very first solo album, eleven years into what is my US career and that being the number one album on Billboard, number two behind Adele on the Billboard 200, that’s insane. I didn’t expect that on the first time around for me at all. I’m still wowed by all of this but I’m enjoying it all at the same time.
Mimi: You did a wonderful job with the Lauryn Hill song Lose Myself, which originally appeared on the Surf’s Up soundtrack. Is there another b-side, diamond in the rough, type song or album that you think more people should know about?
Marsha: Playa. That album changed my life. Static Major Garrett was one of my favorite songwriters ever and that album…Top of the World, Cheers to You…it’s an amazing album. It brings back so many great memories and I’d love for everyone to have that album.
Mimi: I’m going to do a play on the words Late Nights and Early Mornings. I’ll say a phrase and you say the first thing that comes to mind.
Marsha: Oh Lord. It may take me some time.
Mimi: (laughing) I promise it’ll be easy. Favorite late night snack
Marsha: Ooooh, that’s difficult. It might have to be soft bake cookies.
Mimi: Something you have to have on an early morning flight or bus ride
Mimi: The last TV show you watched late at night
Marsha: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Mimi: A song you could wake up to on any early morning
Marsha: Bill Withers – I Want to Spend the Night
Mimi: The song on your Late Nights and Early Mornings album that you want to influence the most people with
Marsha: Chasing Clouds
Mimi: I thought you were going to say Far Away.
Marsha: Nah, Far Away does what it does by itself. As far as what I believe the lyrical content should be for Chasing Clouds, it’s how the world makes you feel. Have you ever just stood there and looked up at the stars and realized how small you are and how you’re just one speck of what all of this is? When I made Chasing Clouds, it was about how the world can make you chase something that doesn’t really exist or is so insignificant in the scale of things.
Mimi: If you were on a desert island with only three albums, which three would it have to be?
Marsha: I’d have to say Late Nights & Early Mornings is one of them. Two would have to be Music of My Mind by Stevie Wonder and three is Purple Rain.
Mimi: I was just listening to Music of My Mind last night. Superwoman is my joint.
Marsha: Yeah, my favorite on that album as of late has been I Love Every Little Thing About You. I think it’s because I’m an adult now. I get to listen to albums and appreciate them. I didn’t use to listen to that song like that. I was like, this is the happiest song in the world. I want to love someone like that.
Mimi: In addition to the tour, what can we expect from you in the next few months?
Marsha: I have three nominations for the BET Awards. I’m smiling very happily (laughing). Other than that, I’ll be on a tour bus traveling the country and I’ll be getting over to the UK at the end of the summer. I can’t wait for that. So, I’m going to be very busy.
Thanks Marsha for a great chat! If you haven’t purchased Late Nights & Early Mornings yet, this is the perfect time to see what all of the buzz is about. Marsha just released the video for Late Nights & Early Mornings and she still has several cities left on the Love Letter tour.
Photo Credits: Glynis Selina Arban