Exclusive: A&R Eddie Fourcell Talks Early Beginnings at Def Jam, Mary J. Blige’s New Album ‘Strength Of A Woman’

The success of a single or an album takes teamwork. One of the most overlooked members of the team is the artist and repertoire (A&R), who is responsible for building the team of songwriters, producers and artists to create magic. Eddie Fourcell, Mary J. Blige’s A&R, has seen success with Blige’s chart-topping single “Thick of It” and her Kanye West-assisted single “Love Yourself,” which is climbing the radio charts. Both records are lifted from her upcoming album, Strength of a Woman, due April 28.

Working with an artist like Blige, whose music career expands over two decades, makes Fourcell feel “super elated” about her recent achievements. “The fact that people are now witnessing how dope she is still is amazing to me,” he tells Rated R&B in an exclusive interview. “It makes you feel good that all the work you put in is finally being appreciated.”

Before landing his position as Blige’s full-time A&R, Fourcell had to pay his dues. Born and raised in New York City, Fourcell vividly remembers his ear sprouting for music early in his childhood. “When kids were going outside and playing games, I was coming in to watch videos,” he recalls. “I was addicted to BET’s Video Soul and The Box. I was driving my mother crazy because I would have to call in to request songs. I was doing that shit all day.”

Fourcell remembers requesting songs from artists like Notorious B.I.G, and Junior Mafia to Aaliyah and R. Kelly, who all emerged from the 90s, an era Fourcell is proud to call “the best decade in music.”

Fourcell’s obsession with the climate of music in the 90s helped him realize his career aspirations. “As soon as the 90s hit, I knew all I wanted to do was be involved in music – especially from the creative standpoint,” he says.

Not only was he passionate about the creative aspect of music, he also was interested in the business side. He admired music moguls like Puff Daddy and Jermaine Dupri, who were both pushing hip-hop culture to the next level.

While his life wasn’t engulfed in the luxury existence of his favorite music tycoons, he remembers, “just looking at it from a perspective of loving the music and the lifestyle and being from New York City.”

After stepping inside the Def Jam Recordings office in New York, and seeing his favorite artists’ lifestyle, Fourcell quickly realized his calling — the music industry. “It changed everything,” he reveals. “I’m not doing anything else for the rest of my life. It has to be this.”

From there, at the age of 17, Fourcell started his intern gig at Def Jam during the era when Roc-A-Fella Records and Murder Inc Records dominated musical landscape.

While at Def Jam, Fourcell’s philosophy on music from his upbringing and working in the label’s office influenced his feelings on what good music was supposed to sound like. “I feel like coming from where I came from helped perfect my ear,” he says. “Back in the day, I was always in the middle of talented people who just loved music the same way I did. So every time I was around artists and songwriters, it helped level my ear up.”

Fourcell also credits his association with Roc Nation’s Senior Vice President Lenny Santiago who he had a chance to work closely with on crafting records for Rihanna’s early projects, along with other notable accomplishments. “I was able to help out with delivering lyrics, and facilitating between mastering and mixing on projects for Ghostface Killah, Fabolous and Ne-Yo,” says Fourcell.

After graduating from SUNY Fredonia, Fourcell landed an internship at Mary J. Blige’s record label Matriarch Entertainment.

His internship eventually evolved into an A&R position. His first project he worked on was Blige’s 2011 album, My Life II: The Journey Continues (Act 1).

Instead of overseeing the entire recording process of the album, Fourcell acted as an apprentice where he learned the ins and outs of making an album for a major artist. Although his role wasn’t as prominent as it is now, he was still able to secure a placement with platinum-selling producer Harmony Samuels on the “Irreversible,” which is featured on the deluxe edition of the album.

Fourcell’s hands-on experience with My Life II allowed him “to see what the responsibility of it [full-time A&R] would be like.”

Following My Life II, Fourcell became more involved while working on Blige’s full-length soundtrack to the 2014 film,Think Like A Man Too. “It was the first time I put a writing camp together,” he says. “To have done that for her on that project was dope because we came out with three records that made the album.”

From Blige’s 2014 release The London Sessions to her forthcoming album, Strength Of A Woman, Fourcell has become the “Be Without You” singer’s right-hand man. “It’s all just me and her now,” he states . It’s just me telling her to take a chance to work with [different people] and her just trusting me.”

Before Blige’s divorce news hit tabloids, her Strength of a Woman was already in production, according to Fourcell. Blige’s new album was birthed after The London Sessions was unable to connect with her fans unlike her previous material. Yet Fourcell applauds Blige’s evolution as an artist. “[The London Sessions] is still urban, and more advanced which is how we look at Mary,” says Fourcell. “She’s not an old artist that’s ready to give up and retire. She needs to be involved with the biggest and best people. It just sucks that people didn’t accept it. It’s fine and cool … no one is down and out about it.”

Even though her UK based project underperformed, Fourcell sees it as a win for himself. “I would not be A&R that I am right now if I never did that album,” he says. “That album completely changed how I hear everything. Going to London advanced my ear like no one will ever know.”

As the recording process for Strength Of A Woman got on its way, Fourcell and Blige relocated from the East Coast to Los Angeles. Fourcell recalls hearing singer-songwriter Prince Charlez’ name in conversations with industry friends.

Through a mutual friend, Fourcell consequently went hiking at Runyon Canyon in L.A. with Charlez. From there, their musicianship blossomed to the point of Fourcell bringing him to the studio while Blige was working on Sam Romans’ “Overthinking” track.

“I snuck [Prince Charlez] in because they wasn’t trying to hear no new artist or writer yet,” he reveals. “I had him go in and do a session with a producer by the name of XSDTRK (Soundtrack) and they did this record called ‘Love The Way’ that was amazing. [Blige] lost her mind. It was the first song we recorded for the project and it kind of started from there.”

In an interview with Arbiters of A&R in June 2016, Fourcell shared possible release dates for the new album. “The album is expected to drop in either August or September,” he told the podcast hosts.

Not too long after, news broke about Blige filing a divorce from her husband. With half of the album completed, Fourcell felt it became “very necessary to do more sessions,” due to the energy changing. “It’s therapy for her,” he explains . “I knew who and what needed to happen from then on. Now we need you to work more with Jazmine Sullivan. I need Prince Charlez more than ever right now because I knew what was going to bring the best out of her.”

With August or September releases out of the question, Fourcell tweeted in late December, “Might be safe to say the album is officially done tho.” He remembers being in New York and being on a time crunch to deliver the album to Capitol Records due to a different release date. “We finished this one song at Platinum Sounds that [Blige] did with Jazmine Sullivan,” he recalls. “That was the last song that they told me I had to deliver for the album to be complete. At that point, I went through the tracklisting with Mary and we felt comfortable with where we were at with the sequencing to start mixing process but that was a lie. The album wasn’t done.”

Fourcell admits he talked “very prematurely” when it came to the all release information. However, he says there was always an initial plan but things changed. “In the middle of the situation she [Blige] got a divorce, so it derailed everything. It put everything on pause.” he says. “From the song we wanted to go with to the time we wanted to go with … to everything.”

Although the album’s release date changed and the sessions increased, it didn’t stop Fourcell and Blige from remaining a team. “Everything that you see was a combination of her wanting to go and do it or me bringing it to the table and making sure she was straight with it and loved it,” says Fourcell.

One of the most surprising tracks, when it comes to features, is “Glow Up.” The star-studded track features DJ Khaled, Quavo (from rap trio Migos) and Missy Elliott. Both Fourcell and Blige worked collectively to bring these artists together on one track.

“We knew we wanted a feature on it,” says Fourcell. “There were a couple of names we threw on the table but it was her idea to get Missy [Elliott] but it was my idea to get [DJ] Khaled and Quavo [from the Migos]. She loved it. That’s how we work. We work best when it’s a collaborative effort. It’s not her doing it on her own completely, and it’s not me just doing whatever. She has to always be involved because if she doesn’t love it or feel it then it’s not going to work. ”

Fourcell describes Blige’s song “Glow Up” as “the best example of what Mary J. Blige sounds like in 2017 on rhythmic radio – without taking her out of her element”.

Although he felt the track was risky, he also believed this song and project needed to reflect the current climate of music. “I think what makes [Blige] more relevant than a lot of other artists is that she able to capitalize off of what time we are in,” he says. “Putting Quavo from Migos on this [record] because they are so huge right now kind of speaks towards ‘oh she made a record in 2017, this is not 1997’. Yet we are able to balance it by putting Missy on it because she is somebody who is iconic and just as legendary too. Then you have [DJ] Khaled who sticks in the middle. It was all about the balance. It had to make sense.”

Fourcell goes on to call “Thank You” a “Grammy moment.” He also says “Telling the Truth,” co-written by Daniel Caesar and features Kaytranada is “dope.”

“I like for her to experiment,” he says. Mary really took a chance trusting me with bringing Kaytranada to the table. He’s very much still urban … sampling the good urban stuff but almost has like a dance feel to it. So I wanted to hear her on something like this.”

Before Fourcell even asked Kaytranada about working on Blige’s album, his people were already reaching out for a collaboration for his next project. Although Capital Records was on Fourcell about turning in her album, he took this opportunity to make magic. “Me and her were on the side like ‘Listen, if this record comes out crazy we’re keeping it for [Strength of A Woman],” he laughs. “We were quiet about it because we couldn’t tell the label we were still recording because they would have killed us. So we said it was for his project.”

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Fourcell’s idea worked and for a good reason too. “It was seemingly perfect,” he says. “It was honestly the last session we did for the album and my favorite session because it was when she was ready to start talking about what she was going through and how she was feeling. She connected so well with Daniel [Caesar] who is like 22 or 23 but still he was a huge fan. Then when Kaytranada pressed play, she lost her mind. Her and her sister LaTonya were in the studio and they kept singing it. So everything was perfect.”

The Kaytranada collaboration wasn’t originally slated to be on the Strength Of A Woman track listing, however, due to the response from Blige and her sister, Fourcell rearranged the order and took a record off the album to accommodate their warm reaction.

While the award season hasn’t officially kicked off, Fourcell believes Blige’s lead single “Thick Of It” should take home the prestigious Best R&B Song at next year’s Grammy Awards. “I’m not saying there isn’t another song better [on the album], but I feel [Thick Of It] is so 2017 to me,” he explains. “The song is an amazing record. In my opinion, it’s the best way she expressed herself written wise. From the way the hook is structured to how the whole process came about … it’s classic but it’s still modern.”

Once Strength Of A Woman drops, Fourcell has a final message for Blige’s true fans and even her naysayers. “It’s the perfect example of throwing it in anyone’s face that said Mary can’t make music in 2017 because she’s done and she’s over,” he says. “This album will prove that Mary J. Blige has made an album in 2017, 25 years after debut and still made an amazing record that still stands the time. We didn’t make it a dated album. It doesn’t feel like What the 411? but it feels like what she was on there . You’re going to be extremely pleased with the album.”

Aside from Blige, Fourcell continues to work with budding artists, producers and songwriters like Shawn Butler. He plans to sign artists to Blige’s Matriarch Entertainment imprint. He also plans to remain an important figure in the music industry as A&R as he develops emerging artists and songwriters in the coming year and years to come.

Antwane Folk is the editorial assistant at RatedRnB.com.

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What a Time: 20 Memorable ‘Sessions @ AOL’ Performances (R&B Edition)

Sessions @ AOL may have launched in 2002, but its presence was felt more in 2003 as the way we hear and see our favorite artists online started changing at a rapid speed. From the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) going to legal war with individual music file-sharers ( Napster, Wake.Princeton.edu ) to the launch of Apple’s iTunes Music Store, the options for consumers to follow their beloved artists started to become more difficult. But Sessions @ AOL made this easier.

Brought to us by AOL Music, the mini-concert experience became an outlet for artists to perform their past and presents hits in a more up-close and intimate way. Similar to MTV-Unplugged, many artists have sung acoustic and stripped down versions of their popular songs and album gems. Artists even sat down to dish on their latest albums ahead or after its release.

After 10 years of special performances, exclusive interviews and some name changes (AOL Sessions, AOL Music Sessions), the intimate concert series ended abruptly in 2013.

While others (Walmart Soundcheck and Yahoo! Pepsi Smash) have attempted to capture their own exclusive studio performance moments, nothing beats holding the house phone hostage so no uses it so you could use dial-up to watch your faves spill the tea on their album and sing your favorite cut track.

In the spirit of nostalgia, we compiled a list of 20 memorable performances from the online music concert series. (Sidenote: Can you guess how we ranked the list? The answer is at the end)

Mario – “How Could You” (2005)

Mario brought his underrated vocals to Sessions @ AOL to perform his top-20 hit “How Could You” from his Turning Point album.

Keri Hilson – “Let Me Down / Beautiful Mistake” (2011)

Following the release of 2010’s No Boys Allowed, the singer-songwriter stormed Sessions to sing cuts off the new album including “Beautiful Mistake.”

Chrisette Michele – “Be Ok” (2009)

Fresh off the release of her album Epiphany, Michele revisited her I Am era with a sensational performance of “Be Ok.” The uptempo number won a Grammy in 2009 for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

Keyshia Cole – “Love” (2005)

Sporting her signature orange hair and a casual outfit, The Way it Is singer belted her powerful ballad “Love” for online viewers.

Monica – “It All Belongs to Me” (2012)

While this Rico Love-written track is a duet with Brandy, the New Life vocalist stripped down the record and took it on alone with some help from three backup singers.

Jennifer Hudson – “I Remember Me” (2011)

There are not many artists who can sit on a stool, sing their hearts out and still be on key. Jennifer Hudson is one of them. She delivered a stellar performance of “I Remember Me,” the title track of her 2011 album.

Tyrese – “Stay” (2012)

Tyrese accepted an Open Invitation to AOL Sessions in 2012 where he performed his soulful tune “Stay.” The song spent 11 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs chart.

Ashanti – “Rock wit U (Awww Baby)” (2003)

The then-Murder Inc front-women was on point with all aww babies for her first time at Sessions. And catch how Ashanti barely opened her eyes during this performance of “Rock wit U (Awww Baby).” We love a dizzy queen.

Faith Evans – “I Love You” (2005)

The First Lady had viewers in their feelings with “I Love You” from her 2001 album Faithfully. Did you peep Meelah, lead singer of 702, singing backup?

Toni Braxton – “He Wasn’t Man Enough” (2005)

The sultry tone diva came to Sessions to promote material from her Libra album. She also revisited The Heat era and sung “He Wasn’t Man Enough” alongside her sisters Trina and Tamar Braxton.

Fantasia – “Bittersweet” (2010)

Donning a black dress with silver shoulder embroidery, the Back to Me singer left it all on stage with her mind-blowing performance of “Bittersweet.” She reprised the emotionally charged ballad with more personal lyrics.

The-Dream – “I Luv Your Girl” (2013)

The Radio Killa paid a visit to AOL Sessions in 2013 to promote IV Play. While there, the versatile musician dropped the auto-tune and bared his natural singing voice for his wavy performance of “I Luv Your Girl” off his debut album, Love Hate.

Ne-Yo – “So Sick” (2006)

The singer-songwriter had us “So Sick” with his first-ever AOL Music Sessions visit. The heartbreak song topped several Billboard charts including the Hot 100 for two consecutive weeks.

Chris Brown – “Winner” (2006)

The young Breezy had girls all over the world screaming at their computer screens with his performance of “Winner” off his self-titled album.

Brian McKnight — “Back to One” (2003)

Brian McKnight was one of the first R&B artists to grace the AOL studio. He performed his classic song “Back at One” from his 1999 album under the same name.

Earth Wind & Fire – “The Way You Move” (2005)

Supported by a full band, the legendary group got us out our seats to dance along to “The Way You Move” from their 2005 Illumination album.

Kelly Rowland – “Like This” featuring Eve (2007)

Ms. Kelly invited rapper Eve to perform their fierce collaboration “Like This.” Hopefully, no one hurt themselves trying to reenact this dance number.

John Legend – “So High” (2004)

Seated behind his instrument of choice, Legend had us levitating as he wonderfully sung “So High” from his debut album, Get Lifted.

Alicia Keys – “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” – (2010)

Alicia Keys rarely steps from behind her piano to perform music. But she did for the majority of her 2010 Sessions to perform past and present tunes including “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” from The Element of Freedom.

Mary J. Blige – “Take Me As I Am” (2005)

It was all or nothing at all with the Queen of the Hip Hop Soul’s moving performance of “Take Me As I Am” from The Breakthrough.

Rihanna – “Unfaithful” (2007)

The Unapologetic artist starred on the Sessions for three album eras: A Girl Like Me, Good Girl Gone Bad and Rated R. Her amazing performance of “Unfaithful” in 2007 is a standout though.

Beyoncé – “Me, Myself and I” (2008)

Although she was there to promote B’Day and its singles (“Irreplaceable”), it was Yoncé’s breathing performance of “Me, Myself and I” alongside her incredible background singers The Mamas that stole the show.

Give up yet? The list of performances was ranked by the artists’ number of Grammy nominations. Beyoncé has the most (63) nods out of all the artists featured on this list while Mario and Keri Hilson have the least (2).

Mary J. Blige Returns with New Song ‘Only Love’

Mary J. Blige starts a new era with a brand new song titled “Only Love.”

Sampling “Doctor Love” by First Choice, Blige makes post-divorce sound delightful on the disco groove. She understands wholeheartedly that “only love can save the day.”

The singer explained why she decided to put out “Only Love” and what she’s been cooking up for listeners. “I’ve been in the studio working on new music and was excited to share a little bit with you all,” she wrote on Instagram. “I had a year of so many ups and downs and have come out the other side with a renewed spirit and a fresh perspective. I’m entering my next chapter with an open mind and heart. ONLY LOVE is where I am right now and I couldn’t keep it to myself any longer!!!”

“Only Love” is the first release since Blige shared “Bounce Back” earlier this year. The new song has been released via Republic Records, making us wonder if Blige has left her label of four years, Capitol Records.

Last weekend, Blige headlined the ESSENCE Festival. During her visit, she launched her new jewelry line Sister Love with LL Cool J’s wife, Simone Smith.

Listen to “Only Love” below.

Interview: Sia Amun on New Music, Songwriting and Fashion Influences

Singer-songwriter Elese Russell, better known as Sia Amun, had a free ride in the music industry. Shortly after moving in with her dad, at 16, the daughter of Steve Russell Hart of R&B group Troop and original member of The Underdogs was performing at The Staples Center for The Los Angeles Sparks game. Then, they began working on her album, which seemed all too fast for Amun.

“I grew up watching [MTV’s] Making the Band, thinking I have to go through artist development,” she tells Rated R&B. “I guess when you’re signed to a label but in real life, it’s like, ‘Game time.’”

Amun’s ride into the music business, though, came to a stretching halt when her father learned she was involved in a relationship. “It was all she wrote when he found out,” she says. “He’s like, ‘I’m trying to build a career and you want to focus on having a boyfriend?’ So, my project got put on on hold.”

After getting a pep talk from her grandmother, who Amun considers her best friend, she took charge of her music career. She started working behind the scenes, hosting showcases for local artists who proved themselves in front of top A&R’s. She even performed songs recorded during her sessions with her dad. Soon, she was following in her father’s footsteps as a songwriter after one of her demo tapes landed in the hands of legendary musician Teddy Riley.

As a result, AMUN provided background vocals on Lady Gaga’s song “Teeth,” which was featured on her 2009 album The Fame Monster. She went on to co-pen hits for major artists such as Trey Songz (“All We Do”) and Mary J. Blige (“Indestructible”).

In 2017, AMUN released an EP The Blue Dream Project. The 6-track project, which includes her funky single “Flowers,” is laced with feel-good vibes about love, life and marijuana.

As she gets adjusted to her new home (and the culture) in Atlanta, AMUN puts her feelings on wax with her latest track “Single AF,” which is based on her current love life.

“I’ve been single for almost two years,” she reveals. “Before that I was in a relationship for like six years. So it’s really new to me.”

Rated R&B caught up with Amun at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen in Atlanta. We chatted about her new single “Single AF,” her forthcoming project, ingredients on writing a successful song and more.

How’s your experience been in Atlanta so far?

I love it here. I’ve been here for like two months, and today is my first day moving around and really being able to experience the culture. When I first got here I was really just focusing more on my personal self … getting my mind right. This is like my first time really moving away and feeling like, “I don’t know when I’m coming back.” So, since I’m going to be here, let me take my time. I didn’t hop back into working. I just got to a point where I am trusting more. I know that God sent me here so I’m going to take it day by day. I used to be like, “I have to plan this out. I have to write this down. This has to happen.” I don’t do that anymore. I’m really at a place where I’m more spiritually driven in my career more than ever. But overall, they really support each other here. I love the music. They have their own sound.

Growing up on the West Coast, how did it help mold your overall sound as a songwriter and an artist?

If I could be 100 percent honest, I never focused on the sound of the West Coast per se. I think that my influences, like, Brandy, India.Arie, Beyonce and Fleetwood Mac, who my grandma introduced me to very young, is what helped shaped my sound.

Before transitioning into your stage name Sia Amun, the artist, you were Elese Russell, the songwriter. If you could do it all over again, what would you choose to do first? Or would you keep it the same?

I understand that I am on a journey and it’s already mapped out. So, I definitely wouldn’t change anything or do anything different. I think we are where we’re supposed to be at this exact moment because if it wasn’t meant to be, then why are we here? Why does it happen if it wasn’t meant to happen? You know….

Besides your father, who else in the songwriting industry inspired you to write music?

James Fauntleroy was a big inspiration. Just watching him from the beginning stages of his career – writing songs for Tyrese and a couple of other [artists] – to where he’s at now is more fuel for me. Stevie Wonder is one of my favorite songwriters in the world. Stacy Barthe is amazing. And a lot of my friends too …. like Candice Wakefield.

If you had to create a recipe for writing a successful song, what would be the three main ingredients?

Melody … concept … and … relevant.

Why do you say relevant?

Music is about connecting. If I can connect to you, then we have a connection. You’re going to love this song. So, whatever I’m talking about has to have some relevance to you … and the next person … and the next person. It has to have relevance to your target … who you’re selling this song to and who you’re trying to reach. And just relevance of what’s going on in R&B today.

Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?

The first song I ever wrote was with my little brother. We were sitting outside of the studio in my dad’s car and it was a remix to “‘I’m ‘N Luv (with a Stripper)” by T-Pain and another song. It was the very first time where I had my Mac computer and we recorded a song that I personally wrote. Of course, growing up, I was writing songs in my diary when I was like 9. I’ve been keeping a diary since I could write (laughs) and I still do.

Is that where you write most of your songs at today? Or do you write them in your phone?

Umm .. both but everything ends up in my diary. All my thoughts. Whatever I’m feeling. Whatever happened in my day, everything is in there. So, I’ll remember if I’m at the studio, like, “Oh, this is what I was feeling.” And pull from there for sure. But I write my notes in my phone too (laughs).

You recently released “Single AF,” your first single since 2017’s The Blue Dream Project. What’s the story behind the record? Is it inspired by your life or someone else’s?

It’s definitely a true story. I was in the studio with my guys Ryan Toby and Ali [Prawl]. And Ryan’s like, “So, wassup? Where are you? What we talking about? What’s going on?” And the first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Well I’m single as fuck.” And I held it out like really long and everybody started laughing. And it was right away we were like, “That’s a song.” It was like writing in my diary, this is how I feel right now. Life is great. I’m not single and having a pity party. I’m single and happy but I don’t want to be. It’s not what I’m used to but I’m not about to settle just because. So it’s just really where I am in life.

Is there a full-length project attached to the new single?

I’m working on it. I’m excited about it. No date, no name. I’m honestly just taking it day by day.

Is there anyone you want to work with on this project? And is there anyone you’ve been working with on this project consistently?

Right now, as far as writing, I’m doing it solely just myself. With “Single AF,” I co-wrote it with Ryan Toby, who’s one of my inspirations as a writer. I’ve admired him as a writer for a longtime. I talked to him all the time, like, “Bro, we gotta finish this project.” So, he’s someone I plan to finish this project with. But right now, I’m just getting my ideas out. I’m still feeling out for the vibe so that it makes sense and that I got it right.

Your previous EP The Blue Dream Project was filled with positive vibes on life and love that sometimes marijuana helped create. What is the driving theme behind this upcoming project?

Life is the driving force. This project is more personal. It’s more of this is who I am. My experiences … where I’m at … I’m maturing. My wants are changing. My interests are changing. My conversation is changing. My taste in foods are changing. I’m really a woman now. So, this project is definitely where I’m at today. It’s still a vibe for sure (laughs).

Your style is unique and different. Who are some of your style influences?

I really love Rihanna. I love Louis Vuitton. I love the brand Gucci. It’s more than just the clothes for Gucci. I like to get deep, going past the surface. I’m looking at the movement. Their business strategies. My brother PUTYAHEARTINIT is one of my style influences too. He’s always been a fashion guy growing up. His opinion is one I definitely respect. I go to him and be like, “Is this fly or nah?” (laughs). But for the most part, I just do my own thing. I don’t really care what no one thinks. It’s whatever I feel like today.

You’ve been in plenty recording sessions with major artists including Lady Gaga and Trey Songz. Is there any session in particular that stands out or means the most?

I’ve been in a lot of sessions. As a songwriter, the session that changed my life was with Mary J. Blige. I was at a crossroad in my life. I learned so much from her in those sessions. From her sureness and knowing exactly who she was to what her fans wanted and what she wanted to talk about, like, it was what it was. A lot of the questions that we were asking her to be able to write these songs, I couldn’t answer those questions. Like, “What’s up with me? Why don’t I feel the same way about this? Why does it feel like work?” Then, I was in the studio like two weeks after with Brandy. Two days after, I just stopped going. I couldn’t write for anybody else. I needed to figure things out. I took a break and went to London and put [The Blue Dream Project] out. And things have been what they’ve been since then. Now I know that I’m good now.

So, you restored yourself?

Yes, definitely. That’s what “Private Reserve” was about … the whole concept of that video was like a snake shedding its skin and being reborn. Being renewed.

Follow Sia Amun on Instagram at @siaamun.

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