Marsha Ambrosius Opens Up About ‘Friends & Lovers,’ Floetry Reunion & More [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Marsha Ambrosius is frustrated. Not because she’s having a bad hair day or stuck in traffic. The British-born singer is anxious to release her sophomore solo album, ‘Friends & Lovers,’ but the major record label system is holding her back. She’s forced to wait until RCA Records sets a time frame to promote her music. So while the project is complete and ready to go on her side, Ambrosius plans to release an EP to quench her fans’ thirst for her product.
“If I was an independent artist it would be easier and I could release music when I wanted,” she tells The Boombox. “As an artist I want to put out music immediately, but I also wear an executive hat and I understand there is a system.”
She has already released two songs from the LP: ‘Cold War’ and ‘Without You’ featuring Ne-Yo. For Valentine’s Day, she dropped a video for her hip-hop flavored cover of Sade’s ‘Stronger Than Pride,’ which samples Jeru the Damaja’s 1993 classic ‘Come Clean.’ Ambrosius also recently shot a video for her duet ‘Send All My Time’ with Charlie Wilson. “That was one of my all-time goals in life to work with Uncle Charlie,” she beams with excitement. “It was truly a dream come true.”
The 36-year-old will kick off her 25-city Friends & Lovers tour March 16 in New York City. At recent shows like at S.O.B.s, she performed new songs including ‘Cold War,’ the album’s title track and her recollection of a wild sexual adventure, ‘Where Are My Shoes.’
She can’t wait to tour again and hit the stage, which she feels is the true proving ground for an artist. “Anyone can make an album,” Ambrosius says. “Everyone is rushing to put out an album. I want to perform the music live for the people. I want to perform the album and then have people tell friends about it. That’s how it works for me, by word of mouth.”
Her “word of mouth” following has grown tremendously since she began her career earning five Grammy nominations with Floetry, the group she was in alongside singer Natalie Stewart before she went solo. Ambrosius’ solo debut, ‘Late Nights & Early Mornings,’ earned her two additional Grammy nominations for the track ‘Far Away.’
“‘Friends & Lovers’ follows what occurred on ‘Late Nights & Early Mornings,'” “The Songstress” explains. “The songs from the first CD segue into the second CD. Those late nights and early mornings led to having friends and lovers. On the new album, you find out what happened with those relationships.”
Watch Marsha Ambrosius’ ‘Without You’ Feat. Ne-Yo
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“Raw, honest, and open” is how the chanteuse describes ‘Friends & Lovers,’ which perfectly details her live performances as well. At her S.O.B.s in New York City, she shared an X-rated story about her “late nights” as she sang the Floetry signature hit ‘Say Yes.’ Ambrosius vividly recalled an uninhibited escapade about being invited to the W Hotel in Manhattan by a man and being shocked to find four other scantily-clad woman. She called a friend to ask what she should do. She soon became a voyeur watching the man and the four women in their erotic bedroom adventure and enjoyed one of the greatest orgasms of her life.
Ambrosius is not shy about sharing the intimate details of her love life. However, earlier on in her career, she was actually very shy, which led to composing one of her favorite songs, ‘Butterflies’ for Michael Jackson. The tune was inspired by her own “butterflies.”
“I had a crush on a guy In London and I had butterflies in my stomach. I was too shy to tell him,” she admits. “The song came easy. I was in the studio with Michael about two months after I arrived in America from England. Unbelievable.”
Now 14 years later, she’s amazed to discover she has over one million followers on Facebook. “Knowing I have so many believers in me makes me more anxious to release my new music,” the artist shares. “My new CD was inspired by my first album, the late nights in the studio and the early mornings rushing to record or perform in another city. Also, those late romantic nights and those sometimes awkward or sometimes not so awkward early mornings looking for your shoes, depending on if the guy is a stranger or if you know him.” The latter moment was inspiration for her new song ‘Where Are My Shoes.’
As Ambrosius reflects on ‘Late Night & Early Mornings,’ she realizes her growth with the new opus. “I had so many songs about relationships, love, and lust, like ‘With You,’ ‘Your Hands,’ ‘Lose Myself,’ ‘Far Away,’ ‘Chasing Clouds’ and ‘Hope She Cheats On You.’ I listened to the old album and I thought about who do I miss, who I am still with, who do I want to kiss, who don’t I care about anymore. This album is even deeper.”
Watch Marsha Ambrosius’ ‘Cold War’ Video
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‘Friends & Lovers’ is an autobiography of her past relationships. “This album is about a love triangle turned into a hexagon,” the soulful siren explains. “It is about that one you always loved but he was unavailable. He never texted you back but you can’t let him go, you want to work it out. Then there is another guy. He’s your best friend. You cry on his shoulder and then one drunk night you sleep with him. What do you do then? Have you fallen for your best friend trying to get over the guy you really love? Then a third guy comes along but you can’t really check for him because you are so caught up with the two other guys. I take you through a journey of meeting a friend who becomes a lover and then both of us meet someone else. There are so many emotional heart strings that make for great love-making music.”
Distinguishing between love and sex is a constant theme in her lyrics. “The songs reflect whether I want to pursue love with each guy or just want to have sex,” Ambrosius states. “I was in love three years ago and wrote a whole album about it. Now I am single and enjoying being single. I met someone amazing and I’ve learned and experienced so much since the first album.”
Romance isn’t the only thing on this songbird’s mind. Before coming to America, Ambrosius was one of Great Britain’s top female basketball players, and the recent NBA All-Star game in New Orleans caused her to reminisce about her favorite sport. “In 2000, I flew from England to Atlanta to play at a basketball camp but suffered an injury so I could not play. I ended up traveling to Philadelphia where I met Julius Erving III. I was starstruck. I could not believe that his father was the legendary Dr. J,” she details.
Ambrosius has played with The Doctor as well as Michael Jordan, and she maintains a connection to the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player by proudly wearing the brand new LeBron James gold Nike sneakers released for Black History Month.
“I love basketball but unfortunately I have bad knees so I don’t play as much as in the past,” she reveals.” Whenever I see a ball I have to pick it up and I have a group of friends who I shoot around with. Everything happened from a free trip to Atlanta to play basketball. From Atlanta, I went to Philadelphia and met Julius Erving III who is now my manager.”
Philadelphia is where the singer calls home in the states. She roots for her hometown 76ers even though she’s disappointed by their poor record. “I love the Indiana Pacers and I love [player] Paul George,” she says. “I also like the [Los Angeles] Clippers because they are a highlight reel,’ Ambrosius admits.
Watch Marsha Ambrosius’ ‘Late Nights & early Mornings’ Video
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As Ambrosius reflects on her transition from basketball to music, her career highlights include lighting the national Christmas tree in Washington, D.C., with President Obama, being on tage with her idol Patti LaBelle, and directing Michael Jackson in the studio recording ‘Butterflies.’ Her career has taken many turns from sports to what she hoped would be a future in business. “I went to school and majored in finance,” she recalls. “I knew I needed to learn business. Basketball took me to Atlanta and then I suffered torn ligaments, so I began focusing on songwriting. I ended up, believe it not, working as a librarian until the music took off.”
After beginning her career collaborating with several hip-hop artists including Busta Rhymes and Game, Ambrosius was signed to Dr. Dre‘s Aftermath Records, but left the label without releasing new music. She recorded songs for Dre’s long-anticipated ‘Detox’ album. She’s moved on from working with Dre and “has no idea” if his album will be released and if her contribution will ever be heard.
A look back in time also begs the question: will their ever be a Floetry reunion? Ambrosius loves taking the stage as a solo entity, so don’t expect her and “The Floacist” Natalie Stewart to unite anytime soon. “With Floetry, we were three albums deep,” she remembers. “We needed wiggle room to do our own thing. Opportunities to go solo. You never know if we might get back together again. I hear OutKast is reuniting at the Coachella festival so you never know, but I enjoy the freedom of being solo.”
Last year, she also made her movie debut in ‘The Best Man Holiday’ performing the Stevie Wonder classic ‘As’ with Anthony Hamilton. That role made her more than nervous. “When I was on the set, I was in awe of the actors. I looked around and I saw all these stars that I loved and was used to seeing onscreen, but now they were live right in front of me,” Ambrosius discloses. “There was Morris Chestnut, Terrence Howard, Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long. It was amazing.”
Appearing in a film seems to be a natural progression for Ambrosius, considering she could recite lines to more than a few films. “I am a movie buff. The new album, ‘Friends & Lovers,’ is a sequel and few people do that,” she comments. “Few people have a concept. If there is a sequel, you have to watch both movies and in this case listen to both albums. I make albums like they are movies.”
As Marsha Ambrosius looks forward to her spring tour, there will surely be many late nights and early mornings along the way. And with vocal pipes and looks like hers, there will be more friends to meet and new lovers to inspire songs for her third effort. A trilogy steaming with love and sex isn’t too far off.