Monica Celebrates ‘New Life’ in Our Studios, Will End on a Gospel Note — Exclusive
Seven is a pivotal number for southern songstress Monica. After two years of craftsmanship and numerous delays, the 31-year-old Atlanta native is set to release her seventh studio album, New Life, due April 10. While the numeral is synonymous with luck, it's unmitigated talent that has given the "It All Belongs to Me" creator the ability to continue on with a music career well after her debut LP Miss Thang in 1995.
She's come a long way from hits like "Don't Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)," "The Boy Is Mine," "So Gone" and "Angel of Mine." In 2012, she's a triple threat but in a different way. Monica is an entertainer, a mother and a wife. Now she balances a recording career with guiding the lives of her two sons and devoting equal time to her husband, Phoenix Suns basketball player Shannon Brown.
Before her highly anticipated album debuts, Monica performed some oldies and goodies for The BoomBox as part of AOL Sessions. During her live set, the charming chanteuse opened up about working with songwriter Rico Love and rapper Wale on New Life and dedicating one special song to her man.
Check out the R&B singer's performance below and her candid discussion about her husband, her tattoos, a summer tour she plans to embark on with Brandy and ending her legacy on a gospel note.
How did the song "Take a Chance" come about with Wale?
I have a song on the album called "Take a Chance" and it's a song about not being afraid of change. What I love so much about it is it was produced by Rico Love and he and I have a great relationship, but I added someone to the song that's like a brother to me, and that's Wale. Wale was able to bring about a special quality 'cause he's the type of person that shares without hesitation. So on the record, you know he pretty much starts off by saying, "Don't love me shorty," like, he's basically giving the woman the warning, but it says, "Let's just take a chance. Take a hand. Take a leap. Go where most don't understand." Which means it's OK if you find that special someone, to change all of the things around you. So, it's a pretty special record to me.
Another track on the album is "Man Who Has Everything." Why is that song special to you?
"Man Who Has Everything" was also produced by Rico Love and it had this special meaning to me because my husband used to always say, "You are something so special to me. This type of love can't be bought." When we talk about the things that we've experienced in life and why we're so special to one another, this song stood out most to me. "Man Who Has Everything," it speaks volumes to the fact that a lot of people are defined by the things that they have and the things that they've obtained and the things that they've done and accomplished, but in a real relationship that's full of real love, none of that really matters. So, "Man Who Has Everything" is definitely one of our favorites as a couple.
Watch Monica Perform "It All Belongs to Me" for AOL Sessions
You're supposed to go on a tour with Brandy this summer to promote your album, along with hers. Is that still going on, and if so, how far along are you in the process of putting that together?
Brandy and I just released a single called "It All Belongs to Me." We've discussed going on a tour, and it takes a lot more than just a discussion. What we've done is we've sat down and talked about the way that it would go, and us co-headlining and being able to take walks through the past, and go through both of our first albums, see one come out, one leave, one come back, one leave again. Something very special so that the audience can feel like they're having a full experience of both of us as individual artists, but also us in this newfound group we've become after reuniting after 14 years since the previous record "The Boy Is Mine." So, we're trying to get it together, and hopefully we'll be on the road by summer. It will take a lot to make that happen, but we're both dedicated to doing it.
What difference do you feel in the release of your 2008 album, Still Standing, compared to New Life?
This album, New Life, is really a continuation of my 2008 album LP, Still Standing. Still Standing, I was in a place where I was trying to figure out exactly how to balance everything that was taking place in my life. When I started recording, I had a 6-month-old and a 2-year-old, who are now 4 and 6. I look back at those moments, and I look back at what it was really like, I think those struggles helped me to really become the person that I am. I had to find the strength to be everything that my audience needed, but moreso everything that my children needed.
So, learning to really juggle all of the facets of my life is how I've gotten to the point of saying "new life", and new life means embarking upon new things and not being afraid. I don't ever want to be afraid of change anymore because who knew that so many amazing things could happen if I just let go of what used to be and embrace what can be. And because of it, I feel better, I think better, I sing better, I love better. I don't live in yesterday anymore, so New Life is just my way of saying to every person that listens, embrace all that can come into your life.
You have a lot of tattoos. Can you share some of the stories behind them?
I do have a lot of tattoos, but every one is meaningful. There are no tats of SpongeBob on me, you know. Everything is meaningful. I have my children, I have my husband, my brother, my mother, and most of all people that know me know that my love for Christ is a love that I can't explain. He's kept me through the worst of times, and as I make it through more and more and I read and get more into the word, I think that when I look at him being on my body it's just a reminder of how far I've come from the person that I used to be. I say that with the utmost respect for all that I've went through. I wouldn't be who I am today if it had not been for the things that molded and shaped me. So, all of my tattoos are very meaningful. They're in places that I chose. There were no late night group tattoos for me. Everything was well-thought out.
See Photos of Monica's AOL Sessions Performance
Reality TV, is that something that you're going to think about again -- doing another season or a new show totally different from something that we've seen before?
Reality TV was really fun for me because I worked with a group of people -- James DuBose, Melinda, my mom -- these were all people that genuinely loved me and wanted to put something together that was authentic. They weren't looking for any type of drama. They wanted to see real passion, compassion, family and show that you can come from nothing but have everything in the midst of the love that you have for your family and one another. And that's what "Still Standing" the reality series was about.
If I were to do reality TV again, I would look at shows like "T.I.'s Road to Redemption," something that I could do that maybe helped others, or I really enjoyed being a part of NBC's "The Voice," something on that level. My husband and I don't want to do a reality TV show based around us. Our marriage is very strong and it is that way because we share what we want to share, and we keep what we want to keep. There are some things that are sacred between us -- even though I'm an open book and I'm very honest about a lot of stuff -- there are some things that we keep between us. I think if you do a show that's based around you as a couple you have to give it all up, or it will be pretty boring. So, we don't want to venture into that but we'd love to do something where he can give back to his community, I can give back to mine, and it's not about the house. It's about us reaching people like us.
When did you realize that you were on your musical path?
For me, music was very organic. I didn't grow up wanting to be a star. I didn't grow up wanting to be in front of the camera. I grew up singing. My entire family sang. Our choir was named after my grandfather Alfonso, so all I knew was music. I thought that was something that everybody did, and not until about the age of about 8 or 9 did I realize that my voice was a little different than the norm.
I sang at a talent show at Center Stage, and it changed my life. I really went because there was a $1,000 prize, and I wanted the prize. The real reason I wanted the $1,000 was because the following day, my mom was marrying my step-dad, who's now been in my life for two decades, and I really wanted to do something for them. And after winning the money, I never thought any further but God has a plan for us all, and a couple of weeks later, Dallas Austin ended up finding me. He then took me to Clive Davis. Clive Davis then took the rest of my career to other heights. I never would've imagined that this was even possible. That's why I always say believe.
Would you ever consider being a gospel singer?
Absolutely. I think that it's kinda happening on it's own. After Still Standing, I realized that I'm kinda transitioning. It hasn't happened quite yet because i still have a lot of self-work I should do before I cross over into that genre. But I definitely would do that. That will definitely be how my story probably ends.