Interview with Marsha Ambrosius

by Melody Charles

If anyone ever personified the phrase “an overnight sensation years in the making,” it would be Marsha Ambrosius: a Liverpool, England native who studied business and finance, a reunion with a prose-writing classmate (Natalie Stewart, aka “The Floacist”) combined Marsha’s sultry soprano and sophisticated lyrics and resulted in the hit-making duo that became known as Floetry, responsible for hits like “Say Yes,” “Floetic,” “Supastar” and “If I Was a Bird.”

by Melody Charles

If anyone ever personified the phrase “an overnight sensation years in the making,” it would be Marsha Ambrosius: a Liverpool, England native who studied business and finance, a reunion with a prose-writing classmate (Natalie Stewart, aka “The Floacist”) combined Marsha’s sultry soprano and sophisticated lyrics and resulted in the hit-making duo that became known as Floetry, responsible for hits like “Say Yes,” “Floetic,” “Supastar” and “If I Was a Bird.”

Although they parted ways in 2006, Ms. Ambrosius’ path was already set, thanks to her nearly-decade-old publishing deal and an impressive resume of collaborations, including her career-defining song that was selected and recorded by the late, great musical icon, Michael Jackson the lilting and lovelorn “Butterflies.” By the time she signed with J Records, anticipation for her solo debut was practically tangible, and judging from its reception----a pair of hit singles, a number one and number two debut on Billboard’s Hot 100 and R&B charts, respectively---deeply deserved.

In the midst of a summer tour with Keyshia Cole and R. Kelly, the 33-year-old spoke to ST by phone about creating her music, the differences between her present and previous tour and the R&B legend who turned down what’s become one of her signature songs.

MELODY CHARLES-Late Nights and Early Mornings, your first-ever solo CD, was an instant smash when it came out three months ago and is now nearly gold status. What was that like for you?

MARSHA AMBROSIUS- “Insane and absolutely amazing (laughter)! I’m glad that the response has been what it is because I didn’t want to put out just any project. I wanted to take my time and create a body of work that held on to musical integrity, which can get lost because we’re living in a different day and age now. Whether it’s mainstream radio, or what the record company expects…..there’s so many factors in making an incredible album. I knew J Records was well-aware of my capabilities and I’m just glad that they gave me creative freedom, I’m very happy with the outcome.”

MC- I heard a lot of different styles and influences throughout, was that on purpose?

MA- “It’s my first album, so unintentionally, I guess, I poured my heart and everything I learned from into one CD. Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Prince, in no particular order, are my ultimate artists: if you could fuse all 3 of them into one, I’m trying to be that.”

MC- Did you have any apprehensions about how you would be perceived or if the music would be accepted by fans?

MA- Acceptance as a solo artist? I’ve always been one. I just managed to find something creatively that worked very well (with the Floacist) and invited Natalie to do poetry for one of the songs that I’d written “Fantasize,”  and that gave a snowball effect and turned into what became a career move. Natalie left  in late 2006 and I go back to the drawing board to being a producer and songwriter and figuring out what I wanted to do for me, which results in the music you hear right now.

MC- Working with Michael Jackson was obviously a high point in your career so far: how did it feel to record “Butterflies” with him, and did you attempt working with him again before he passed?

MA- “Being in the studio with Michael  was completely overwhelming: for me to be sitting there with him, just three years after I sent out the demo he heard…it was crazy, so above and beyond anything that I ever believed would happen at that point, way beyond anything that I ever fantasized about. But if I wasn’t confident enough with what God blessed me with, I wouldn’t have been able to walk into a room and tell Michael Jackson how to sing and what to do for two weeks. We were actually discussing getting back in the studio because I had just done the song “I Want You to Stay,” and we were talking about recording it together as a duet, but……. it just didn’t happen that way.”

MC-I don’t know where you get the energy: you were headlining BET’s Music Matters Tour right after the CD dropped, and now you’re a part of R. Kelly’s national tour. How do they compare?

MA- “BET’S tour was more hectic, there were shows everyday back to back for at least seven days straight. On this tour, we do three shows in a row, then get three days off, and that’s the most relaxing situation ever (chuckles). The crowds are very different, and it’s almost a re-introduction of who I am, I find that very refreshing. It keeps me on my toes. Keyshia and R. Kelly do different types of R&B, but we connect and it all makes sense. Their core audience, for example, may know “Far Away” and they may know “Say Yes,” but they don’t know that it was a record that I’d offered to Ron Isley, but he didn’t take it and it ended up on the Floetic album. They also usually don’t know I wrote “Butterflies” until I say so….sometimes they’re like ‘Why is she singing that Michael Jackson song? Oh, wow, she wrote it?”

MC-Speaking of “Far Away,” I love the song and think it was very courageous how you chose to showcase the video.

MA- “I take my power and artistry seriously: I know that stardom comes with a responsibility, and I have to be outspoken about things.  It wasn’t bravery on my part, I was just speaking the truth. It happened to a friend of mine, so why not make a video about it? I wanted to show what real people are going through, and it’s stopped people from being silent. The negative responses that I was getting at first started to turn into ‘now I understand, now I realize how completely ignorant I was to just sit there and hate so much.’  I’m glad that it’s changed minds and lives.”

MC-I’m grateful that you were able to squeeze us in Marsha, I just had one final question: what advice do you have for new performers wanting to make it out there today?

MA- “Invest in yourself as much as you can. The companies can give you the money to allow you studio time and to make the music, but you can have your own Twitter account, Facebook account and YouTube channel to upload your music, or you can go to soundcloud.com and upload your MP3s to really create a presence online. Technology has changed to where you can make a lane for yourself: I’m very much involved with my social media accounts and connecting with my fans about what I do. It’s not something you wait for a label to start up, it’s something that you do for yourself.”

 

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