INTERVIEW: Bridget Kelly Talks Biggest Misconception, ‘Summer of 17’ EP & Plans For Debut Album

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Bridget Kelly is a go-getter. She has a clear vision of where she wants to take her brand. After being signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation for six years, she decided it was best to embark on a new journey. In 2014, she announced her departure from the label.

“It’s like going through a breakup or a divorce,” says Kelly on the emotional impact of leaving Roc Nation. “I think when you devote six years of your life to something and to other people, it’s terrifying to leave that situation behind and try to and rebuild something from the ground up again.”

She continues, “It took a toll on me for a couple of months. I really didn’t what the next step was going to be but I definitely decided that my heart is still in music and I had to be true to myself.”

While it’s only been a year since Kelly left Roc Nation, she hasn’t wasted any time. She recently dropped her new EP, Summer of 17, and is hard at work on her debut studio album.

Rated R&B caught up with Kelly ahead of her tour stop in Washington, D.C. to get the scoop on her Roc Nation departure, her life as an independent artist, her concept behind Summer of 17, the biggest misconception about her and more.

RATED R&B: What did you learn most from leaving that situation?

BRIDGET KELLY: It’s really important to do your research and trust yourself with whatever decision you’re going to make. I relied on a lot of other people to do everything for me. I didn’t do a lot of the research for myself. My team and I at the time didn’t really know how to move or what relationships to really build off of. I was trying to adhere to somebody else’s standards.

RATED R&B: So, how has life been for you as an indie artist?

BRIDGET KELLY: It’s had its ups and downs for sure. [Since] I have a firm grasp of who I am as an artist and who I am as a person,  there’s been a weight lifted off my shoulders. Now when I approach some situations, I have some free creative control. I can do whatever I want. I can say whatever I want. The music can sound however I feel it’s supposed to sound. There’s also a lot of pressure that comes with that, though. So if the ship sinks, then it’s on me. I can’t point the finger and blame anybody else. So there’s definitely a lot of pressure that I put on myself to make sure I am making good music and continuing to build my brand consistently. It’s a lot of fun because we’re doing what we love and we’re doing it our way but of course it’s difficult to not have that co-sign behind you.

RATED R&B: Speaking of branding, what’s the biggest misconception about Bridget Kelly?

BRIDGET KELLY: The biggest misconception is that I am this love-scorned, endlessly heartbroken singer [laughs]. I love writing about love and singing songs about it, but I do think I am a lot more happy-go-lucky as a person. I try not to take things too seriously. There’s other aspects of my personality that haven’t been showcased enough in my music. I am a tomboy. I like to watch football on Sunday’s and drink beer and have fun. I like to go bowling and watch movies. I’m a weirdo. I love watching Animal Planet on the weekends. All of that stuff gets lost in the shuffle where music is concerned but I am excited about the next phase of my career. I’ll be able to showcase a lot more of that.

RATED R&B: Before we move forward, I’ve got to know who’s your favorite football team?

BRIDGET KELLY: The New York Giants without any doubt.

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RATED R&B: So tell us about your new EP Summer of 17. What’s the meaning behind the title?

Summer of 17 is nostalgic for me because when I was 17 everybody was frantically preparing to be an adult and making decisions about college and stepping out on their own for the first time. I was just not interested. I was just like, “Listen the world is not going to end if we don’t all go away to college and make something of ourselves in the next 18 months.”

Now, I’m 29 and all the girls I grew up with are either married or are engaged. They’re planning their lives and building their homes and families. I’m still out here at Happy Hour on a Wednesday [laughs]. I just have a different perspective of what I want my life to be. I think my purpose is different. Lately, of course, I’ve been going against the grain. I’m independent. I’m doing music that sounds different than before, and I’m doing things a little less predictably. I think that’s kind of what’s Summer of 17 is all about. It’s about finding yourself. It’s about finding new love and being excited. It’s about having fun and not taking your life too seriously.

RATED R&B: When you decided to step outside of your box, did you feel any type of nervousness?

BRIDGET KELLY: Absolutely! But I’ll be honest, I don’t think I had ever fit in that box. I can’t say really say the feeling was different for me. Because I’m a New York girl, because I’m mixed raced, because I look a certain way — I’m curvy — I was automatically expected to fit into the traditional R&B box, which is the K. Michelle’s and the Mary J. Blige’s. I feel like that’s not the essence of who I am as an artist. As a woman, of course, I love their music. I’m a huge fan but I think as an artist, that wasn’t necessarily what I was trying to reach.

I think now it’s still scary because you don’t know who is going to accept you or who’s going to vibe. Even reading fans’ comments on Twitter, they were kind of like “Damn, we were hoping for something like the project you put out before,” which was very R&B — which is okay. I don’t think Cut to…Bridget Kelly was any less of who I am but I definitely think there’s multiple facets that have yet to be revealed. Summer of 17 was the first experiment. It was my first independent project I put out. I think it was a testament to I’m not you’re everyday R&B artist. I think I still am an R&B artist. I’m just taking on a different sound. I’m creating my own lane.

RATED R&B: Where are you with your debut album? What sound are you going for?

BRIDGET KELLY: I’m halfway done. I started it last year. It’s a mixture of things. It’s got a soulful/pop sound. I’ve always said if I could combine two artists to say “this is what my music sounds like,” it would be Pink and Alicia Keys. That’s really the vibe that I’ve always tried to go for. I think that’s what my album is going to embody. There’s going to be some rock/guitar songs on there. There’s going to be some heavy bass songs. There’s going to be sexy, emo R&B vibes. Overall, I think that people are going to love it. It’s called All or Nothing. It’s going to be about situations where it was all of me and I was invested. I was in love and I was happy. There’s going to be moments where I felt like I had nothing and I’m having to rebuild myself — dark moments. This album is going to be my best work yet.

Download Summer of 17 on iTunes now! Also, follow Bridget Kelly on Instagram (@iambridgetkelly) & Twitter (@iambridgetkelly).

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Exclusive: Syleena Johnson Gets Deep on Lack of Soul in Music + Talks New Album ‘Rebirth Of Soul’

One of R&B’s most authentic storytellers Syleena Johnson is not shy about recounting her trials and triumphs through her music. For more than two decades, the Chicago native has curated records that have brought joy and sweet pain to our hearts.

Deep and honest cuts like “Faithful to You,” “Apartment for Rent,” “Labor Pains,” and “Label Me” have championed women’s life stories while enlightening men on the day-to-day struggles of womanhood.

Johnson’s first and less documented release, This Time Together by Father and Daughter, premiered in the summer of 1995. The joint album – with her legendary father Syl Johnson – ignited her soulful stardom with songs “Keep on Loving Me” and “Piece of the Rock.”

Seven solo albums and one joint album later, the 41-year-old singer-songwriter pays tribute to her music genius of a father with her fall release,  Rebirth of Soul.

Along with the gearing up for the release of her new album, Johnson continues to secure her bag with television and health/wellness ventures.

During our 30-minute conversation, Johnson dished tribute album to her father, her new TV One talk show Sister Circle, her wellness brand SheLean and her favorite R&B artists now and more.

Check out the interview below.

Already, Sister Circle is capturing audiences across the nations — specifically women of color. How important is it for this new generation of black women to hear other black women like yourself and the other hosts empower and uplift each other?

If I can be frank, this show is important right now in a time where our current leadership is inadequate, unmotivating and sexist, which is causing our nation to adopt those undertones. In an entertainment field, where women — especially black women — are being exploited on television in such a negative way, Sister Circle is a breath of fresh air. We’re not perfect. We’re not walking around with halos. We’re still black women who have the same black women issues.

Our goal is to converse on these issues and show perspective from the African-American point of view in a bulk where the entire show is made up of African Americans. And Sister Circle is something that we don’t have right now in this climate where there are so many issues that pertain to us and our culture. It’s not black women directly. Black men, our sons. Black men, our husbands. Black men, our brothers.

What was it like having Wendy Williams, the contemporary Oprah of daytime, grace Sister Circle‘s inaugural show?

It was one of the biggest example of black women supporting each other. She’s the queen of daytime talk right now. By her being our very first guest, she pretty much blessed the show. She pretty much said, ‘I’m proud of you girls and you’re doing your thing.’ What more can you ask for? Other than Oprah Winfrey herself (laughs).

How does Sister Circle stand apart from other panel talk shows?

First of all, Sister Circle is live every day, five days a week. It’s the first all black panel talk show with no other nationalities. There is a male that represents the LGBTQ community which I have not really seen on any other talk show. Also, our hosts come from all walks of life which is really fun. Plus, we knew each other before starting the show which makes the chemistry really strong.

Recently, you started a health and wellness initiative, SheLean. Tell us about it. Also, did personal health motivate this new business venture? Or was this idea presented to you after the success of fitness DVD Mommy’s Got Soul?

No, it wasn’t personal health. Although SheLean was something that my best friend and I had already put together, what really put the fire under me is when I learned that every 4 out of 5 African American women, according to the CDC, are suffering from heart disease, type II diabetes and mild cancers. African-American women are also developing lupus and other different autoimmune diseases, which I believe is directly related to diet, poor rest and lack of vitamin and mineral content.

Also, the lack of education to be able to remedy this void plays a part. So with SheLean, the initiative is to educate the matriarch of the household, which is a woman, and in educating the woman you can help decrease childhood obesity, as well as obesity and obesity related disorders in minorities cultures, with African-American women and individuals being primary.

How do you resist food temptations and stay on a consistent workout regimen with your hectic work schedule?

During the five-day week, I eat clean. I need my energy and I need my stamina. Eating bad during the week will cause me to be sluggish and groggy. I allow myself a bad meal on maybe Friday and Saturday and then I go back to eating clean on Sunday. Like today, I had a glass of wine and a fried chicken burger. It was a good cheat meal for me (laughs).

I don’t go crazy though … like you won’t catch me eating a full pizza. I’m not really a sweets girl. I don’t get rid of temptations. I minimize them and I put them in my diet where it works. I think what happens is when people diet and they starve themselves it causes them to binge. That’s how they end up eating a whole pizza and ice cream (laughs).

Rebirth of Soul, out now, is an ode to your father, Syl Johnson. What was the overall recording process like?

It’s really easy working with my dad in the studio. So the recording process was awesome. It was all live instrumentation. On the Curtis Mayfield’s “The Makings of You,” there was a live harpist and string quartet in the studio. So live instrumentation was the most intriguing thing.

With a title like Rebirth of Soul, do you think soul has died in music? If so, why?

Yeah … and the reason I say yes is because soul is not a genre. When you’re singing soul music, you’re singing from your soul. And that means you’re singing from your story, your history, from the things that you’ve gone through. I think that the music today is talking about things that are way too surface. They’re not getting deep enough into the infrastructure of their spirit and soul. They’re not baring their soul in records anymore. A lot of artists are just taking a song that was written and they just sing it.

As far as the music you’ve heard this year, who’s music do you feel still embodies soul?

Mali Music. He’s my favorite right now. I listen to a lot of old music like Anita Baker, Sade, Earth Wind & Fire, Chaka Khan. Every morning when we come on set for Sister Circle we first listen to gospel. Then we merge to vintage R&B, which has been in my spirit lately. To be quite honest, I don’t even listen to the radio. I’m not really a fan of anything that’s out at all. I do like The Weeknd … sometimes. It’s the music that I like. It’s eerie. He reminds me of a male Sade in a way. He’s just not as poignant as her.

What’s your favorite cut on the new project? Also, out of all the covers, which did you want to nail perfectly?

My favorite cut on Rebirth Of Soul is Otis Redding’s “These Arms Of Mine.” I was so happy to do this record because it’s my favorite Otis Redding record. And the song I wanted to nail was “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin. I knew that people would compare me to Aretha Franklin, like they already have. I knew attempting a record of that caliber I had to shut it down. So what I set out to do was to do it exactly like her. I mean timing wise, run wise, range wise — as well as singing it in her key. To me that was the best way to pay homage, to show respect and to celebrate Aretha Franklin. She is truly the Queen of Soul.

Rebirth of Soul is available digitally for purchase and streaming now. Packed with 10 amazing covers, including Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” and “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James, this incredible body of work is definitely a collectors item.

Make sure to follow Syleena Johnson on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, follow Sister Circle TV on all social media platforms.

Meet R&B’s New ‘Pretty Girl’ Rhyon Brown

With roles in That’s So RavenLincoln Heights and Get Rich or Die Tryin, Rhyon Brown has made her mark in the film and television industry. Now the millennial entertainer is expanding her entertainment resume in the field of music.

Under the guidance of Grammy-nominated producer Harmony Samuels, the West Coast native is making waves with her debut album, Pretty Girl. Released last month on BOE Music Group/EMPIRE, the project features her catchy tune “California,” as well as her emotional track titled “Gone.” 

In support of her debut album, Rhyon released a short film with the same title. The premiere event attracted plenty of Hollywood influencers including Kofi Siriboe, Megan Good, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Paige Hurd, Tasha Smith, Keith Powers, Niecy Nash, Skye Townsend, Nicki Micheaux and Insecure’s Y’lan Noel, to name a few.

Rated R&B recently chatted with Rhyon about her debut album, working with Harmony Samuels, her short film and more.

Check out our interview below.

What is the inspiration behind your debut album Pretty Girl?

My inspiration initially was simply to be honest. I’ve been in the entertainment industry for a long time but this was my first introduction into the music industry and I knew the only way this would ever work was for me to be honest. People see through an artist not being who they are, fans are smart. Now, my inspiration has changed, and its to encourage people to recognize how great God has made them.

The album surprisingly doesn’t contain any features. Is this by coincidence or something you did purposely?

We didn’t have any features per say as far as my track list is concerned. I wanted to grow my fan base organically, with people finding me, liking my music and enjoying my message. I didn’t want people to like me only because I had another artist on my record that they were fans of. But I can say I have two songs graced with the presence of Andre Troutman, incredible artist and the best person I have ever had the pleasure of seeing work a talk box. No one does it better than him.

Along with your album, you have a short film. Tell us your experience creating that.

It was a rollercoaster. We pulled off a large feat with a group of very talented and dedicated people, but also a very small group. There were a lot of people wearing many different hats. Making this film and seeing how it is affecting people its literally a dream come true, but it took a lot of long days with very little sleep.

What is your definition of a Pretty Girl?

Someone that recognizes that her beauty isn’t found in anything this world can provide, and she shares that inspiring other people to feel and act the same way.

What’s your message to a girl who may not feel like she’s pretty?

The world does a really good job of telling women what they are supposed to look like and how they are supposed to feel, its not on the world to determine that for you. Being pretty is a choice, because everyone defines beauty differently. But when you choose to be pretty others will chose to look at you the same, because your belief makes it undeniable.

You’re signed to Harmony Samuels’ label BOE Music Group. How did you connect with him and is there anything you’ve learned about yourself while being under his wing?

I met him through someone that really believed in me that got Harmony Harmony to take a meeting, and rest was history from there. I’ve learned so much from him, the guy is a genius and one of the hardest working people I know. But its the fact that he’s a risk taker, and when God tells him something he’s willing to put everything on the line to make that happen and he reaps the benefits of that trust. So its made me be more of a risk taker, and more of a believer in my own purpose.

Although you may be new to music, you’re certainly not new to entertainment. Your acting resume continues to grow. Is there anything you’re currently filming that you can share with us?

My episode of Irv Gotti’s new BET show Tales actually just aired on October 24th.

Follow Rhyon on Instagram at @RhyonBrown. Stream Pretty Girl below.

Bridget Kelly Releases New Song ‘Happy For Me’

Bridget Kelly gets control back of her heart on her latest song, “Happy for Me.”

On the three-minute acoustic track, Kelly’s lasting memories of her toxic relationship start to fade away as she becomes open for love again.

“I’ma find a man who loves me, a man who needs me more than you ever did,” she sings. “And when I’m happy, please just be happy for me.”

The song could be an unreleased track from her Time Flies era. She may be teasing a new project especially since she is on the current season of Love & Hip-Hop: Hollywood.

Take a listen to “Happy for Me” below.

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