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Vivian Green Talks ‘Vivid’ Album, Frankie Beverly’s Support & Bumping Heads With Kwame [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

Anna Webber, Getty Images

Vivian Green has certainly earned her music industry stripes over the last 13 years.

The singer is no R&B newcomer, having released her debut album, A Love Story, in 2002. That project featured some inspiration from veterans like Isaac Hayes on “Complete,” but while her debut had that classic R&B sound, she’s also trying something fresh on Vivid, due Aug. 7.

She admittedly states that she didn’t think twice about tackling an upbeat throwback, Frankie Beverly & Maze’s “Before I Let Go,” for her forthcoming album. Green’s first concern was in regard to her fans once they heard her version “Get Right Back to My Baby.” “I was moreso worried about what my fans would think,” she tells The Boombox. “Because the last 12 years have been all ballads, so if I had any fear, it would be a fear of that.”

Still, she ultimately agreed with her producer Kwame that it was time to show a new face to her loyal supporters. Vivid is a mix of Green’s stories and those of the people close to her as usual, but now with a different backing. Her vocals and melodies are still superb but her self-described call to action with this record is getting people to live, hence the title.

The Boombox chats with the Philly native about changing her sound, bumping heads in the studio with producer Kwame and explaining the racial tensions of modern times to her prepubescent son.

The Boombox: How does Frankie Beverly feel about you and Kwame touching such a classic song for your lead single “Get Right Back to My Baby”?

Vivian Green: Frankie Beverly is extremely supportive. When we reached out to get it approved, he was all about it. He loves the song, he even said that on WBLS in New York City on air.

How’d you guys decide on making that the first single? And there was no apprehension about using the sample the way that you did?

We didn’t think that would be the record at all but we were just waiting on it to get cleared. I just love how a record would live on when people decide to use a sample or an interpolation. That way, the song can live on.

You got with producer Kwame this time around for the album and you’ve been noted as saying that it was a little rough at first.  

You know, it wasn’t the easiest process but eventually we got into a really good rhythm and then it was great. So I loved the change in the end.

Is it typically hard to switch up on the production?

I think that it depends but this time it wasn’t the most pliable experience. It took a minute for us to understand each other because I don’t think we were able to understand each other creatively before we started to work fluidly. Sometimes he didn’t agree with me and I didn’t agree with him and we wouldn’t see eye-to-eye. He felt like my fans needed to see a different energy from me and I was moreso afraid to change so it definitely wasn’t easy in the beginning but it didn’t take long for us to find our mojo working together. Then it was smooth sailing from there.

Do you think that maybe his background in hip-hop made it a little harder for you two to mesh?

I guess people may think that but he’s just very talented in so many ways. He can play instruments and stuff like that. He’s produced for so many R&B artists as well: Fantasia, Mary J. Blige, Christina Aguilera, Keyshia Cole. So his discography is not just hip-hop, he just doesn’t prefer music that doesn’t have energy to it. So even if it is a ballad that he’s doing, it’s gonna have a certain energy, a certain kick to it and that’s just with everything he does.

Watch Vivian Green’s “Get Right Back to My Baby”

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How’d you come up with the title Vivid? Especially for the fifth LP, it seems like something you would’ve thought about earlier.

We were gonna initially title it V for the number five and it being the fifth album, but then we thought, “Well, that’s just too easy and there are plenty of albums called V or Five…” So then Kwame and I were just throwing ideas out there and started playing with words that had the same root as my name and my name means “full of life,” so Vivid was just perfect.

At first we thought Vivification which is a real word! But we were saying that it was too long. Vivid was perfect, short and sweet and even the image, it’s full of color. I’m glad I didn’t think of it until now. My other albums haven’t been as full of color. My albums in the past didn’t have as much energy, so I don’t think it would’ve been as fitting.

What’s your favorite track on Vivid? Word has it, you’re partial to a song called “Broken.” What’s it about?

“Broken” is a mid-uptempo song. Empowering for women, or anyone I guess. The girl is really into the guy but there was something about him that she didn’t trust. She was never all in, never gave him her entire heart so when he turned out to be something different than what she thought, she walked away okay. The hook says, “You didn’t break my heart, you just bent it, there’s no damaged, I’m not broken.” In the past, I’ve definitely made sad songs but this one definitely has a different tone to it. It’s a very powerful and bold performance. A lot of times as women, we give our hearts a little too early, before we should have.

Do you have any other songs on the album that are based on real life happenings?

“Leave It All Behind” and “Disrespectful” are both songs on this album based on some experiences people close to me have been through.

Have you ever written a song about your friends’ experiences without them knowing? Like, they hear it and come back, “Viv, did you write this song about me?”

I usually tell them so I’ve never been in that situation to have that conversation. I usually tell my family or friends, like, “Hey. This song’s about you.” And there’s another song called “I’m Blessed” which is about both myself and my sister, so one verse is about me and my career and the other is about her and her career — she’s a teacher — and she loved it. I’ve never written something then had someone call me like, “Girl, you wrote that about me?” Probably wouldn’t be a nice surprise.

How do you go about it?

Usually we’ll have our therapy sessions and I pull from that, typically at a much later date I’ll put it into song.

Between recording this album and the last, there’s been a lot of rising racial tensions in cities across the nation. How do you explain them to your son? He’s only 11, right?

>He’s always with me or my mom who’s been a big help so we control what he hears on the news. And it’s a lot. He’s still very young and doesn’t “get it” all the time, but he’ll “get it” when it’s the right time.

What do you want people to take from Vivid when they listen for the first time?

I want people to decide to live with it. Have it in the car, on their iPhones when they work out, take it to work with them, you know. I want them to live with it. I want this to be the album people live with and take with them throughout the day. I would listen to it if I was at a desk all day — I would totally listen to it [laughs]. It’s energetic, happy and fun.

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