Here is a transcript of Alicia Keys' recent teleconference from Paris with several journalists.:
Q Since I work in Minneapolis, I have two Minnesota questions for you. First of all, how did it feel to be name-checked by Bob Dylan in his song "Thunder on the Mountain"?
A. I loved that, I've got to say it. It definitely was a bit of a shock. I wasn't really expecting that. And I didn't quite believe it, honestly. My friend John Mayer was the first person that told me about it. And I was like, "Stop it, John. Why?" I didn't understand why. And so obviously after I found it was definitely the truth, it was just a great honor. You know he's one of the greatest songwriters of all time, and I thought that for me to live in his songbook is pretty damn cool.
Q My other Minnesota question is how did you go about writing the speech that you gave when you inducted Prince into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and what did it feel like to deliver it?
A. When they asked me to do that, of course I was like, absolutely. When and where do I have to be? And I just wrote from my heart, just like I do with everything, with my songs and anything else that I write. I just wrote exactly what I feel. And they were like, "Do you want us to write something for you?" And I was like, "Absolutely not, I have to say what I feel about him." And that's exactly what I feel. Honestly, I wrote that, probably, in just one sitting, like just writing what I felt and then I went back and edited it to keep it tight, because I probably went on and on too much.
Q What did it feel like to give that speech?
A. It felt fantastic, because here I am saying exactly what I feel, and I think so many other people feel about him, and being able to induct him in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which obviously, he belongs in. It was exhilarating, I felt exhilarated.
Q As far as this tour compared to previous tours, what are you hoping to do?
A. This tour is definitely, totally, totally different than any tour I've ever done, ever. You know I love it, I love that about it. I never want to do the same thing, and I never want to do what is comfortable. I know how to do a lot of things, and I definitely know how to kind of do my standard style show. And I really wanted to make this show something unique and different. I wanted to really, really show people my versatility and I wanted to do something that was almost like a story.
So the approach of this tour is more almost like a journey that you take from the beginning to the end; from the beginning of my life, leading up to where we are now. So it is very communicative, like I'm communicating a lot to the audience through the music, through just connecting and talking and personal stories and that kind of thing. So I think it really brings people into my world and I find that they really, really love it.
So in regards to exploring the material and the music, you know naturally as a musician every time I play it, it just gets more and more involved. And that's a good thing. I find the places where it needs to breathe, I find the places where it needs to kind of be extended and we just have a good time. I'm in Europe already doing this tour and it is phenomenal. And actually, it's kind of a little bit -- the way that I begin it you'll see, and the things that I do, actually are things that you might not be so familiar with if you're not from America. And they're totally getting it. So I know you guys, we're going to be good.
Q Is there material from the earlier albums that you're throwing out as gems for fans and are any covers in the mix?
A. Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely, I'm definitely doing favorites on the last albums. I have to do that. And there are some, even, that are just certain songs that people always ask me to play, and I usually don't. People always ask me to play "Butterflies," always. And I usually don't play that song, but this time I definitely am playing it. So yes, it's a nice mixture.
Q To me you've always seemed a bit of an enigma. You're highly visible on the public stage but very guarded about your private life. You are very proficient and prolific in a variety of music styles and you're cause-conscious, but I haven't seen you make any stands in the current political campaign. Although "No One," I don't know if you know this, is now scoring a Barack Obama film that' s up on YouTube.
A. I've had a couple; I've had a "Super Woman" on [Hillary] Clinton too.
Q.So is this enigma business all part of some master plan to keep everybody happy and rule the world? And can you come clean on anything? Are you and Kerry Brothers really an item? Which is your musical comfort zone? And who are you rooting for in this election?
A. So am I really an enigma, with a plan to take over the world? I'm starting there first. I think that's a beautiful word, I'm fascinated with words, I love that word. And do I have plans to take over the world? Yes I do, in many ways. And I'm learning, more and more the ways that I want to do that. More and more the ways that work for me to do that. And I think that there is so much more that I have still to do, so much more that I need to do, actually.
Something that I have been constantly challenging myself about is the fact that the more that I read about Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and the Panther Party and all those different organizations that interest me, the more that I see that they were so young and so driven and just so focused on making change. They weren't 60 or 50, they were 20 and 23 and I just look at myself and I say, "Wow, I know that there is so much more that I could be doing." So I do have plans to take over the world in my way. So that's affirmative.
The second part of your question, was that the can I come clean on anything part?
Q Yes, your private life.
A. No. I will never come clean on my private life; it's something I will never do. I don't think anybody deserves to know, except myself and the person that I love and the people that I love. And I think that one of the most important things that Oprah ever told me was that if she could, she would take it back. So I think that it just becomes messy. And I would prefer people to speculate and get it right or get it wrong, that's fine. But I would rather not make it an issue.
And who do I support? I have stayed quiet, because I think it's important to really observe everything that's going on, just like everybody. And I'm still observing. But I have to say I am extremely moved by Obama and I am very, very inspired by his approach. I love the way that he's really affecting and moving everyone, no matter what color, creed or religion, I really like that. I think that's what it should be about. And so I'm very excited about this time in politics. It seems like something that will be something that I'll never forget for my whole life. This is one of our most important elections, ever. So I'm happy it' s in my generation.
Q I've heard about the dramatic shorts you've done for Dove Soap, they seem to reflect the fact that people have shorter attention spans these days. In light of this, in pop music do you think ...
A. Are you being sarcastic?
Q Oh no, not at all. But I'm curious, in pop music, do you think the 3 1/2- or 4-minute pop song is going to remain the ideal or do you foresee a day when a "song" might just be one verse and chorus or just even a chorus, you know more of a jingle?
A.Oh gosh, I hope not. I mean I was hoping you were going to say, do I foresee the day when it might go back to like five, six or seven minute songs. I mean I definitely think no, no I don't, I don't think it will be just only a jingle. I mean I do think that those things are cool with little ring tones and little things in that nature. But in regards to something that moves you and something that you say, "Oh my goodness, I'll remember this for the rest of my life," it can't happen in one chorus or a chorus and a verse. So no, I don't think so.
Q I've got to touch on one of those key things that happened ahead of your "As I Am" album, with your trip to Egypt. It sounded like that really brought about some fundamental changes for you.
A. That trip was definitely the most crucial thing I've ever done for myself, in my life to date. It was a very difficult time that I was dealing with, and it just came to the point where I really needed to -- basically, I just needed to run away, honestly. And I needed to get as far away as possible, and so I did that. And I never quite knew why I chose Egypt, honestly.
I mean I'll tell you, when it came out I was on the phone with the travel agent and he was like, "Where do you want to go? "Egypt," it just came out of nowhere. And I was like, "I want to sail down the Nile, I want to see the temples, the tombs and the pyramids. I want to be moved, I want to see something I've never seen before." And it turned out to be the best choice that I've ever made.
I remember before I left, because I went to both Egypt and Tuscany, and I remember before I left, I kind of was sitting there with my mother and I had this epiphany and I was just like, "You know what, I feel like this trip is my personal pilgrimage," because I'm half black, and much of my mother's heritage is Italian, I was like, "I think that this is going to be like a personal pilgrimage for me." And that's exactly what it turned out to be.
So being able to take myself out of my every day environment and kind of thrust myself into a brand new world, to be totally alone, which I was, and to kind of shutoff the world and shutout the world for a long period of time, for me that was three weeks, that's the longest I've ever done it. Ever done it and have ever done it since, as well. It was like a self-discovery.
And I think the thing that affected me the most was the history of it all and the way that these places that I've seen, have existed for thousands and thousands of years. And something about that timelessness and something about that strength and fortitude and that longevity, gave me a whole new perspective on the life that I wanted to have and the music that I wanted to make and the endless possibilities that I could create, just like those beautiful pyramids and those temples. It's endless, there's nothing that they couldn't have created or done, and I realize that's the same with me.
So it just gave me a brand new perspective on life when I really, really needed it; and inspiration and kind of like a strength that I guess I was searching for. So it did make me a better artist, because I came back and I was just freer. And I was more ready to do everything and anything. I just took all these restrictions off myself and I all of these kind of rules and regulations and ways that I was used to creating and all this crap and threw it out the window and I just allowed myself to vulnerable and free and open and it created some of the best music I've ever created yet.
Q So how serious are you about acting? Is there ever a point where you would consider putting a great role ahead of a tour or a new album as a priority?
A. I'm very serious about it, actually. I'm so serious about it that I don't want to just do anything. Would there ever be a point that I would put a role in front of a tour or an album? I don't really look at it like that. I don't look at it like I would be doing one over the other. I kind of look at it like, if something feels right and it's calling me and it's something important to me for whatever reason, that I would do it. So I don't really look at because I choose to do that, that means I'm putting it over my music. I don't think I have to choose. I think that they're both very fantastic ways to be creative and tell life's many, many stories and I would love to be able to do that for as long as I live.
Q Are there any filmmakers you'd love to work with or stories you're really dying to tell on screen?
A. I definitely have a lot of stories that I would like to tell. I get funny about telling, you know what I mean? Because the next thing I know, my beautiful story is being done. So I kind of get leery about that. But I just finished working with a fantastic director named Gina Prince-Bythewood. She's very fresh and up and coming and we did a film together called "The Secret Life of Bees," which I feel is going to be one of the most beautiful films I've ever been a part of. And I really like that, I enjoy working with people that are intelligent and smart and so focused and driven, and so I look forward to working with a lot of great people.
Q Not many artists are so successful with their debut albums, obviously it's a great way to launch a career, but did it put a lot of pressure on you to sort of live up to those expectations and how did you deal with that? Obviously, you've continued that success, but how did you deal with the expectations?
A.You know I guess I have a pretty, pretty, pretty level head and honestly, when it comes to "expectations" in regards to music, my music or my albums or that kind of thing, I never got very caught up in that, fortunately. Like I never really had crazy mind trips about what people would think. I have mantras about my own personal thoughts for myself, because I expect the best from myself and I want to really, really be the best version of myself. Do you know what I mean?
But I never got too crazy about, "Well what will critics say or what will people say about it when they hear it or how will they judge it" or that kind of thing. I just always got really into creating it and being very honest about the music and the songs and everything else I felt would just fall in place. I just always have felt like, if I love it, then I know other people will love it. You know if I love it and I talk to people about it, that will excite them and they'll hear my excitement and they'll get into it and feel the way that it move them. So I kind of never really got into the expectations things on the music creating side.
Q In light of some of the things you have talked about recently, in terms of putting pressure on yourself, in terms of trying to get away from things, I wonder if the philanthropy that you've done and the expectations that you have for yourself or that other people have for you, how much of that was in all the pressure that you've talked about putting on yourself and that you eventually felt like you had to get away from or take a break from?
A. Yes, so I feel that that adds any additional pressure to my choices or my life or whatever. Honestly, I definitely am conscious of the way that my involvement has helped to save a lot of lives and people and just create better situations, hopefully. And that's the reason why I'm involved in it. But I try my best to really do everything that I do, really from a very pure place. And that's for the benefit of, hopefully the people that it serves and also for my piece of mind, as well. Because I feel that you have to do things that you love.
When I do music, I love it. When I'm doing any film I've chosen, it's because I love it. When I'm doing my annual Black Ball for Keeping a Child Alive, it's because I love it. When I'm going to Africa on a pilgrimage, it's because I love the way that I can see the changes that have been made and I can see, first-hand, what is going on, so I know, personally what needs to be made.
I do things because I love them. And I find that if you do it from that place in your heart, then it doesn't cause all of those negative feelings. And even if it does, even if there is a little bit of pressure, because I might be having to do a lot of things in one day, at least I know I'm happy with the result of that, and I feel good about it. So then it doesn't give me those kind of -- that kind of energy, that kind of --.
Sure, do I get overwhelmed? Absolutely, everybody gets overwhelmed. Are there days when I'm mad? "I surely should have said no to one of these things, because this is just a bit too much." Yes. But I try my best to really make choices for things that I truly love from a really pure place and then it's not like you're angry about it. You may be overwhelmed with it, but I never feel angry about it or I never feel over-pressured about it. I feel like this is important, this is something I want to do, and I'm going to get it done. So I hope that answered your question.
Q Could you speak to Ne-Yo and what makes him a good fit for your tour.?And also, when Ne-Yo left the R. Kelly tour, he claimed that he was probably outshining R. Kelly and I wonder if there are any worries or danger of that happening on this tour.
A. I think that there is a lot of artists that we could have definitely chosen to do, it's actually very interesting, because when you're putting together a tour, you're putting together a tour and if people -- when you have other people on the tour with you, you're reaching out to people or people are reaching out to you that have something that they want the world to hear. So if a person doesn't have out a record, then they couldn't really be on the tour, because it kind of would be a little silly. Do you know what I mean?
So it's interesting that as it comes to making choices about who to pair up with or who to invite to be on your tour, sometimes the selection depends on who actually has a record out. So I think Ne-Yo is a good guy. I think he writes great songs, I think he's a great songwriter and I think that he's somebody that is going to be around for awhile. So I think that it's interesting that we got a chance to -- that he's on this tour with me.
And I think that the people, who will come to see me, will definitely enjoy him. And the people that are going to see him will definitely enjoy me. So it's a cool thing. So I think that's all that really matters is putting your best foot forward and really putting together a great show. I know my show is great and I'm sure his show will be great. And as long as people leave feeling satisfied, that's really all that matters.
Q Alicia you've touched on this, but there seemed to be an extra level of stress in this particular album project, you know you talked about you were running away from it and life and you had a lose in the family, how hard is it to be you?
A. I don't think being me is any harder than being anybody else. I mean we all definitely go through our ups and downs and we all have difficult trials that test us and really show us the strength of our character and that kind of thing. I mean the only difference with me and anybody else is probably that it happens more visibly in my life, maybe. And even not so-so much that, because my whole life isn't plastered across the news, thank god. Because I mean I think about people like that and I just feel so bad for them. Like that's such a hard way to live. So I don't look at my life like it's any harder than anybody else's. Everybody has pressure; everybody has commitments to live up to.
You know my life, when I'm creating a record, starts to kind of become a really nice pattern, kind of a very simple pattern, actually. It's not until I start promoting the record that my life becomes super crazy, you know what I mean. So I actually really enjoy making records because of that. Because it's kind of like a peaceful, quiet time in my life. So I don't quite think like that, you will never really catch me saying the whole "Woe is me, my life is so hard and if you only knew how it was to be me." You probably wouldn't catch me saying that too much.
I work with an organization that tries to give medicine to families who would never be able to get it. Imagine lying on a dirt floor dying and having to watch your mother die, while you have to take care of your five siblings, and you're 13. I mean that's pressure. For me I keep things like that in perspective and realize that every day is a blessing and you have to make the most of it. So that's kind of my attitude.
Q The song, "Tell you Something" that seems to be really from the heart and related to the loss in your family.
Q Could you spell out who that person was?
A. No, I'd rather not. But somebody that was really very close to me and raised me, a very strong and beautiful woman in my life. And I think that this past year, although I did lose her, the time that I spent with her because of it was so much more fulfilling I think and so much greater than it would have ever been because we get busy in our lives. We get so busy in our damned lives that you forget about those little precious moments that you would never be able to really experience. So I 've got those little precious moments and that's what provoked me to write about telling the person and showing the person, while they're there. You know we fill up churches with flowers at a gravesite, but how about filling up a room with flowers while that person can breathe them.
Q For your entire recording career you've worked with Clive Davis and he is notorious for being hands-on with song selection. Could you talk about your relationship with him and his involvement in your recording process and projects and how involved he is in song selection?
A. Clive is really a great guy. I'm very happy to be working with him. I think he's a very intelligent guy, because he knows the difference. He knows when it's time to work with an artist that probably does need a little more guidance on song selection and songwriters and that kind of thing. And he knows when he's working with an artist that has the ability to do it herself. And with me that's the case with our relationship.
He has the utmost confidence in my songwriting and my songs and me as an artist. And he has always given me my space to create the music that I create. And he has always respected that and he has always admired it, I think. So we have a great relationship. We'll both sit down and talk and we'll kind of have a wide array of things that we talk about. But in regards to him picking songs for me or anything like that, that's not now we work together. And he's very happy, I think, that I'm the kind of artist that he knows that I go off and I do my thing and come back and I say, "Check this record out," and he loves it.
Q Does he ever critique the songs with you?
A. You know he's one of the first people I'll play things for, once I have a body of work that I'm calling an album, just to get him into it and get him feeling what is going on. And he'll definitely have some ideas, and some of them, actually are things that I think are great and some of them I'll say, " You know what, I really feel like this says this statement," and he'll respect that.
He's a great guy; he's a very, very great guy, especially because I feel he's somebody who really does love music, in an industry that becomes so driven by the bottom line. Obviously, you have to be, but I think he really comes from a place of love for great music.
Q You had a quick description that you've used to describe the music in, "As I Am," saying that it's kind of a cross between Janis Joplin meets Aretha Franklin. Is what you think gives the album that sort of quality and maybe how that makes "As I Am" a different record, musically and in terms of your intent, than the first two were.
A. When I said that about the mixture between Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, it was really about the intention of the feeling of the music. So what I was describing was like the way Janis Joplin is -- like you listen to a Janis Joplin record and she just puts -- she wears everything on her sleeve, whether she's completely drugged up, it's on her sleeve, if she's totally just passionately screaming at the top of her lungs, it's on her sleeve. You feel like whatever she's talking about and whatever she's singing about, she sang it with no cares, no second thoughts, no looking back. She didn't say, "You know what, let's take that take again." She sang it and she sang it with every bone in her body and that was that. You know what I mean.
And when you think of Aretha Franklin, you think of a woman who is very -- she opens her mouth that one second and the power and the passion that comes out, just gives you chills. So I just wanted to mesh more the intention, as opposed to saying it's a literal mixture between Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, it's the intention of that passion and that abandonment and that freedom and that rawness that just to let it be what it is. And I think that's really what I meant when I said that.
And I definitely think, "As I Am," is different from any other album I 've ever done, for sure, because for the first time I was able to have that abandonment when working. I've always been very -- when it comes to creating, very of the moment and capturing a particular moment. I've never been extremely, extremely calculating when it comes to doing vocals. I mean music should feel good and that kind of thing. I've always been of that school. But prior to this album, I definitely felt like I had a lot more to prove, as a woman, as a producer. I always felt like I kind of had to prove that this was my work.
So when I would start to create, it would be a little bit more like, "OK, I already sat in my room for 10 hours and here's the music I came up with. Alright, now here is what I hear and here's what I want to do," kind of a little bit more like I already have the idea of what I wanted. Whereas this time, there were situations where I just went into a session and we would have great musicians in there and maybe we'd have a couple of writers that I respect and we would just do whatever. And however it worked is however it worked. And some of the most freeing times of creating came like that. And I never really did that before. So in that way, it is a very different record, because I think I just set myself free. I unlocked any chains.
Q It's interesting you say you felt you needed to prove something going into this album. What was it that made you feel that way?
A. I didn't feel like I had to prove anything going into this album, I actually felt like that with past albums. I felt like people -- a lot of times people will see a young woman -- like I could be in a room with me and you and I' m in a room and we're playing music, and I did the whole song, I did every instrument, I played every arrangement, I wrote the song, I produced the song, I did everything and you're just sitting there, because you're visiting me. If somebody walks in the room, they will come to you and they will say, "Wow, this is a great song you did," just because of a male/female kind of expectation. And that used to really bother me. And so I used to feel very obligated to prove that I did it all, and I wanted everyone to know that.
So I think this time I was able to let go of that. I already know what I can do. So I don't really have to worry about whether other people know that or not. So I think that this was a growing process for me to become a bit more mature and then to open myself up more, because every time I held on to having to prove something, I kind of shut myself off from creating the greatest thing.
Q What is the status of you starring in the Lena Horne biopic?
A. This particular thing is so confusing to me, because in some ways I'm not officially suppose to confirm anything at this present moment, but things have been confirmed by other people. So I just have to say, I will answer that by saying that that would be one of my dream projects. My dream projects, I think that in many ways I was born to play Lena Horne, I would be so honored to be able to represent her life.
It is a very interesting, complex, diverse, historic life, legendary life and I think that it's such a wonderful story to learn about, because you realize how far we've come and how far we haven't come. And you realize the boldness and the vulnerability and the braveness of people that really, maybe they don't even realize. It's just beautiful and I would absolutely love to do it. So hopefully it all comes together and that will happen.
Q You mentioned earlier your Italian roots; most of us where aware of your African-American heritage and your Latina heritage, but we probably weren't aware of your Italian heritage. How do you think those various heritages are reflected in your life and in your music?
A. Actually I'm not Latina, even though I would love to be and many people do think I am. A lot of people think I'm Jamaican, as well; I'm not, although I'd love to be from Jamaica. I am definitely black and Italian and a little bit of Irish or Scottish or something like that. But we're all mixed up, so who can really keep track. But I think that being of a mixed background definitely influences everything in my life. And it definitely influences my music.
I think that I'm able to pull -- ever since I was little, I've always been able to really relate to a variety of people and styles and places. And I think that that has definitely opened me up to be really non-judgmental and to really embrace every side, from my classical music that I study to Tupac [Shakur] and Biggie-Smalls and to Nina Simone and Curtis Mayfield to Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. I mean it's like all across the board and I think that that really opens things up for what is interesting.