Music Is For Life
For Liverpool-born singer-songwriter Marsha Ambrosius the last ten years have seemingly been one blessing after another. From hitting it big in The States as the poignant vocalist of fan-favorite duo Floetry, to writing and producing for artists the likes of Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, and Michael Jackson. Of course Marsha’s ride through the industry hasn’t been without bumps in the road, but if you ask her, talking about them is “not even worth it”. While speaking with TheWaitingRoom recently, Marsha maintained pure optimism while reflecting on her past and looking toward her exciting future. Stepping out from behind-the-scenes once again, Ambrosius is gearing up to release her highly-anticipated debut solo album, due out Spring 2010. If any of her preceding work is an indication of things to come, this funky lady is just getting started.
Is it true you grew up playing basketball?
Basketball was definitely my first love, until I got injured, and then plan B turned out to be music. My father was a basketball coach and a bass player, and I just happen to take up the musical element.
Before the injury did you consider music as a career or was it just something fun for you?
It was just fun – it still definitely is just fun. I still wake up every day thankful that I can make everything that I find fun in my life a career. I never lost that excitement about it; the joy of making the type of music that I wanted.
What was the first album you ever bought?
I am 32-years-old, and unashamed to say that. First album was ‘True Blue‘ by Madonna [laughs]. And then CD’s it was Jodeci and Boyz II Men, the same time – their first albums, ‘Forever My Lady‘ and ‘Cooleyhighharmony‘.
Earlier this week was the anniversary of the tragic loss of Aaliyah.
What are some of your thoughts on Aaliyah?
It’s just sad. I respected her so much. It’s so crazy how someone can have that effect on you in such a short space of time. She carried this persona that you couldn’t get away from. She was just infectious. The sound, for young girls doing R&B, she was the blueprint – and still will remain that way. Like, anyone coming out today you’re like, “She’s cool, but she’s no Aaliyah”. No one will ever be that or take her crown. To still have that effect is a tremendous blessing and I’m thankful to have been around in my lifetime to have been able to see that. We’re losing our greats very young – even with Michael Jackson’s passing. I never thought I’d be alive to see that day, and here it is – the whole world just kind of in shock. You want to be sad, but you want to be grateful for what you did get out of them.
Speaking about Michael Jackson, what was it like working with him on “Butterflies”?
Amazing. He was so precise, concise, humble, modest, a perfectionist, and very, very welcoming and encouraging. Coming on board as a producer and the writer of the record, it was mind-blowing to have to tell that man what to do everyday. We spent two weeks together in New York, and then spent time out in L.A. Just being around him and his family – getting to see him as a person before seeing him as ‘Michael Jackson’ is just beyond words. I just thank God that I can say I did that.
Besides working with Michael, what are some of your biggest career achievements?
First standing ovation I ever got, in D.C., Constitution Hall, opening up for Jill Scott, when I was on the keys just playing one of my songs that ended up being on her third album. I did a tribute to Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall and I got a standing ovation for that performance – that was mind-blowing. I’ve had a blessed career. There are a million horror stories I could tell, but it’s not even worth it. There are things you have to go through and steps that you have to take. You learn from anything. You have to. I’ve done too much, and want to do too much to stay stuck there.
What are some goals you look forward to reaching in the future?
I’m definitely looking forward to my first solo record being released and getting to do a tour of just my music. That’s blowing my mind thinking about it. I think I’ve been somewhat… afraid, to go it alone, as it was never a plan for me. It was always something that was kind of put on me. I wasn’t ready when everyone else was saying, “go solo!” I’m always the one that wants to be part of a team, like, “let’s all go!” When Nat (Natalie Stewart) left Floetry, that left me to pick up the pieces and trying not to say too much about what was really going on, because it was a very personal situation on her part. It was crazy how many fans responded the way they did. Everyone was so passionate about the music and they forgot that at the same time we’re human beings that go through very human situations. I guess when all that went down, I had to go it alone, in one way or another. But you can’t fake being who you are, especially with the type of music that I make. It wasn’t until I took myself seriously that I thought, “you know what, I need to do this now.” I think that time has come. I’ve come full circle. All insecurities out the window. I’m ready to do this, for myself, rather than other people.
What can you tell us about the solo album, without divulging too much?
I’ve had a million-and-five producers, songwriters, and artists that have been really behind my project and willing to do whatever. This record is just absolutely phenomenal. From Focus to Just Blaze, Scyience, 9th Wonder, Bangladesh, myself – it’s… it’s amazing. I’ve put an amazing body of work together and it’s been a love situation because people have just been so ready to do the project – just a phone call away. I think I’ve gotten to live my life on both sides of the fence, if you will, because I’ve done the Floetry thing and I’ve been in the forefront as an artist, yet I have so many writing credits and production credits under my belt to boot. Getting to do my solo project now I got to tie in all the relationships I’ve built, so I’m very excited!
Would you say your recent mixtape ‘Yours Truly‘ had a decidedly more hip-hop feel?
I don’t know. Musically, you love it or you hate it. It moves you or it doesn’t. It’s just a feeling for me. I have so many genres that I’m directly influenced by – I sound like everything, to me. There’s a song you would swear is the biggest R&B ballad, but it was definitely rock influenced, and I know because I’m a writer and I know how I approached it. But to the normal ear, “oh, it’s a great ballad.” So call it what you will – it’s just music.
If you could work with anyone you haven’t yet, who would it be?
I don’t know! Oh my goodness! I’m just going to see what happens. If someone asked me back in the day I’d be like, “Prince, Stevie, and Michael Jackson” – and directly or indirectly, I’ve been with all three. They’re my holy trinity of music [laughs]. I’ve shared the stage with Stevie, jammed at Prince’s house – it’s just crazy. My life is crazy! I’ve done a lot and I can only be thankful for what God is going to bless me with next.
Name some artists that, no matter what, you’ll always buy their new music?
It would be them three. Bilal, if he ever drops again, D’Angelo – waiting! Coldplay I love. I’m weird [laughs]. Danny Elfman if he scores a movie. John Williams, any score – I have it. And… anything that I’m on [laughs].
Your family is still back in England. When you were first starting in America, before Floetry blew up, did you ever get homesick? Did you ever want to give up and just head home?
No! It all happened so quickly. As soon as I flew over here, did the Floetry gig in Atlanta, a week later did another Floetry gig in Philly, met Julius Erving, III – the son of the infamous Dr. J – who is my manager to this day. A month after that we recorded eleven songs in seven days, all of which were on the first album, (2002’s ‘Floetic‘). We were signed by December. Michael Jackson was 2001, Glenn Lewis’ album, and then Bilal’s album, Jill Scott, the “Rush Hour 2” soundtrack – everything happened back-to-back. There was no room to miss anything – it was like, “this is our time and we need to go.” I guess when I went back [to England] I realized, “wow, I just up and left!” It’s like, “yo, I moved out” – I didn’t know I was going to move out. It was a two week holiday that turned into nine years.
What is the legacy you want to be remembered by?
Just that I told the truth, in anything that I did. Musically, melodically, lyrically – it was the truth. That’s all I need.