Singer-songwriter Amel Larrieux

Larrieux discusses her seven-year recording hiatus and also performs “Afraid” from her latest release, “Ice Cream Everyday.”

Amel Larrieux grew up in New York's Greenwich Village and rose to fame in the mid-1990s as a founding member of the R&B/hip-hop duo Groove Theory. After leaving the group, she co-wrote and co-produced her debut solo effort, "Infinite Possibilities," in which she fused a range of genres, from soul and jazz to folk, with flashes of Middle Eastern, West African and Indian styles. She also contributed to film soundtracks, including Why Did I Get Married?, Barbershop and Down To Earth, and collaborated with Stanley Clarke on a Grammy-nominated cover of the classic, "Where Is the Love." In 2004, she launched Blisslife Records, which released her new CD, "Ice Cream Everyday."

TRANSCRIPT

Tavis: It’s been seven years since Amel Larrieux released a new CD, but she’s continued, of course, to tour and record and now has a new CD out titled “Ice Cream Everyday,” a sentiment that sounds good to me. (Laughter)

During those seven years, in addition to touring, she’s been concentrating on writing new songs and raising her two daughters, who are now teenagers. She’ll perform her latest single, “Afraid,” later in this program. Cannot wait to hear it, but I’m honored to have you on the program.

Amel Larrieux: I’m honored to be here.

Tavis: So I just kind of gave away the story of where you been, but let me ask – where you been?

Larrieux: Writing, raising kids, raising myself. It just kind of – touring. It’s just one of those things where you’re independent; you kind of have the luxury of taking time. Then things get tight and you’re like, “We got to put this out.”

But I don’t believe in rushing it, and it’s part of the – one of the reasons why we became independent, so that we could do things in our own time.

Tavis: When you say “raising yourself,” I think I know what you mean by that philosophically, but tell me a little bit more.

Larrieux: All of us in our own respective professions are still living, breathing, evolving human beings who have emotional stages of change, and so especially for me, who I’m in the public’s eye for my profession but not necessarily completely comfortable with that.

So there’s a crazy conflict with that, and then I’m just a woman, I’m 40; things have changed hormonally, emotionally, raising girls, two teenaged girls. There’s a lot going on for me personally. Then just as a human being, seeing where I’m at.

Tavis: When you say you didn’t want to rush it, again, I get that as well, and I think, without calling names, I think there’s some artists who might have benefitted from taking more time than pushing projects out too quickly.

But I suspect what you mean by that is that the music has its own timetable as well, which is sometimes different than what the artist wants to push out.

Larrieux: It is so true, it’s so true. Again, this is why I reiterate that being independent works for someone like me and my husband, who’s my producer. Because we have pretty particular ways of wanting to do things, but like I say, we kind of have an unformulaic formula.

So we know that nurturing our process by giving it space and time will get us this final product that feels right and cohesive and comprehensive, and rushing it, it never works.

Tavis: Before I go to “Ice Cream Everyday,” which again, I just love the title of -

Larrieux: Thanks.

Tavis: – how many times a day, how many times every day do you get asked about Groove Theory?

Larrieux: It definitely comes up, and for me, I think the greatest part about it is I’m a songwriter first. I really think of myself that way first. Those songs, I wrote. Straight out of the box. I was 18 when I signed to Epic, so it’s a really lovely reflection on the first thing that I gave to the world. It means something to people.

Tavis: Did that put a level of pressure on you that that project was so well received?

Larrieux: The only pressure was I was still at a major label and they wanted me to duplicate the gold single, “Tell Me,” which I’m, it just didn’t work out that way for me to do that.

I was willing to write other songs, but I wasn’t interested in going backwards. Otherwise, it’s just been great. It’s lasted this long and I can still do those songs, and I love to see people’s experience through the songs that I’ve done. That’s like a new life.

Tavis: “Tell Me” is hard to duplicate. It’s such a great track; you don’t just duplicate that every day anyway.

Larrieux: Well, not me. Maybe somebody else could do it. I don’t know.

Tavis: No, it’s definitely a classic. That’s a beautiful song; I love it to this day.

Larrieux: Thank you, thank you.

Tavis: So tell me about “Ice Cream Everyday.” Far be it from me to interpret what the artist meant by the title of said CD, but why “Ice Cream Everyday?”

Larrieux: I was having a really rough day, and I just kind of whined, “Oh, I wish I could have ice cream every day.” This was during the writing of the album. My husband said, “That’s the title. That’s it.”

What happened was it became kind of a metaphor for the experience that I needed to go through on my own – finding this thing that would, that could be implemented into my life and that I’d like everyone else to kind of think about implementing.

The thing that you could, like, give yourself a break, and this wonderful little spark of joy. Obviously, I don’t want it to be ice cream; I want it to be something else. I actually found meditation, which is another part of the reason why I can sit here like this and be chilled.

Because I can find that inner place, and I visit it every day. So that’s my ice cream every day.

Tavis: Well, the ice cream you don’t want passed to my side, and -

Larrieux: Did it?

Tavis: I do want mine to be ice cream every day, preferably with whipped cream on top.

Larrieux: I feel you, I feel you.

Tavis: But before I let you free to go perform for us, as I listen to the CD, there’s a refrain that I’ve heard a few times from beginning to end, Amel, and it is “Do you feel, have you felt.”

I hear that refrain. Does that make sense to you? You wrote it, I hope it makes sense.

Larrieux: Absolutely.

Tavis: Because that’s what I’m hearing. It flows through there.

Larrieux: You’re on point, you’re on point.

Tavis: Yeah.

Larrieux: I don’t know, I think I’m empathetic by nature, and I think that’s part of what makes me an artist. I think all artists have this kind of absorbing, constant absorbing of things around them.

I think I’m, sometimes to a fault, so in tune and in touch with what’s going on with other human beings that it could really throw me off, but it could also really inspire me and be a source for something. I think that making that connection is very important for me.

Tavis: It’s a great project, and I want the audience to hear something from it. Before I do, say a quick word about the two persons who’ll be accompanying you in this performance.

Larrieux: Jeffrey Connors will be on bass, originally from the Bronx and an L.A. resident.

Tavis: The boogie-down.

Larrieux: You just beat me to that. (Laughter) And my eldest child, Skye Larrieux, will be on guitar and vocals.

Tavis: I love it – so you’re going to hear from one of these two teenagers that Amel has been busy raising -

Larrieux: Oh, you certainly are.

Tavis: – over the last seven years (unintelligible) Larrieux. So here they come, Amel Larrieux and band, singing her latest release, “Afraid.” I’ll say good night, thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith, but here comes Amel, so stay with us.

[Live performance]

Tavis: That’s our show for tonight. Thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith.

“Announcer:” For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at PBS.org.

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“Announcer:” And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

COMMENTS

  1. Ephraim
    February 17, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I just love everything about her,her music and style is awesome!

  2. Michael Blade
    February 18, 2014 at 12:30 am

    Saw he sing on Travis show love the sound would like to consider booking her at my Jazz club in Florida.

  3. VLM
    February 18, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Michael Blade, contact Amel’s management group through Facebook or Twitter! I’m sure she’d love to sing at your club. :D

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Last modified: March 10, 2014 at 1:58 pm