An interview with Marsha Ambrosius

I can still remember the first time I heard the powerful soul-filled voice of England’s Marsha Ambrosius. It was a cold day in 2002 and my friend and I made our daily walk to Virgin Records (when those still existed in Chicago) to browse around and spend pretty much our entire paychecks on the latest releases. At the time, they had these great CD samplers that would come free with one of the new releases and on this lucky occasion Floetry’s song, “Floetic,” was one of the featured songs. That year swiftly turned into my year of neo-soul.

Unfortunately, now looking back, it had been years since thinking about what a great album Floetic was. It wasn’t until recently hearing about the singing faction of the group, Marsha Ambrosius, releasing a solo album and then watching the powerful video for her gorgeous single, “Far Away,” that I put two and two together.

I jumped at the chance to talk to Marsha and was given some time just when the Chicago blizzard was starting. We talked about her her solo debut, Late Nights and Early Mornings and the making of her gay-positive video for “Far Away.” I wasn’t planning on doing the interview at home but I’m in Chicago and I’m bracing myself for the snowpacalypse. Were you in New York while they were hit with a ton of snow recently?
Marsha Ambrosius:
I’m in Philadelphia, just a few hours away but yeah we were hit hard. I thought last year was terrible but this year has been awful, it’s never-ending – I can’t take it.

AE: So what have you been doing to pass the time? I get a snow day tomorrow and I’m looking for advice about things to do.

I had a bout of cabin fever so I was UStreaming and Tweeting a whole lot. I asked random fans to tweet me their numbers so I could call them and sing them happy birthday. You know, just random little things you can do to pass the time with your fans that are anxiously awaiting Late Nights and Early Mornings.

AE: Oh my god, you actually called your fans and sang to them over the phone?

Yeah, I have over 60,000 followers online and people were tweeting me their real numbers, so I was like, the fact that these people sent me their real numbers and were like, “Just call me to say hello,” I was like, alright! Eh you know, it’s just giving back. It’s nice to have a direct line of communication back to people that really respect what you do.

AE: That’s awesome. Well first off I want to say you look phenomenal. You’ve done an incredible job of getting back into shape, are you going to be the next J-Hud?

You know what, I can’t be the next J-Hud because she had a whole baby! It’s not fair of me to say I could be her because I just lost weight. She had a baby and lost that weight so kudos to her! But you know, I put on the weight [Laughs] no ifs, buts or maybes about the responsibility in me taking a stance and saying that I lacked a little. I was a basketball player before I went into the whole music thing and then when I started doing music, I stopped doing basketball but continued to eat like a basketball player. So late nights in the studio resulted in pizza. After midnight I was like the Mogwai that turned into the Gremlin.

So I put on weight, decided that this was enough and I want to get back to being me. The me that no one knew prior to seeing a video I may have shot back in 2005 – which people are like, “Oh my god you’ve lost so much weight!” and I’m like, “It’s 2011! I could’ve lost weight since 2005!” But yeah, I got back to doing me. Weight Watchers definitely helped me, the Wii fit helped me because it made working out enjoyable and The Michael Jackson Experience is one of the best games ever made. I’ve just been enjoying it!

AE: I want to talk about your solo album, I know earlier you were going to work on a project with Dr. Dre but that didn’t end up coming to light. How different has this been than your work as part of Floetry? 
MA: For me with the Dr. Dre situation, when Floetry was no longer – you know, the Floacist left to pursue her solo career and her acting career and I was kind of left to pick up the pieces for myself.

My whole longevity in this business – I want to be a songwriter and a producer, so meeting Dr. Dre I wanted to kind of be taken under his wing to learn as much as I possibly could in order to be that staple in music that you go to when you’re looking for those kinds of records. So it was definitely put on the table to do something like that but nothing was solidified. I think that was complete media hype and blog-worthy rumors. We never actually got the act together.

So when I signed to J-Records at the end of 2009, that’s when I knew I was going to be making an album. And I knew it was going to be this album. It’s been a journey, but a nice learning process for me as I had to adjust to being solo. I hadn’t been a solo performer for a long time. With Floetry we were definitely two solo artists that came together to do something creative that worked. And coming into my own, it was like, “Wow I’m a grown woman now.” When I was singing “Say Yes” and “Getting Late” and all those other songs I wrote in Floetry, I was really young then, I was like 21, 22 then. Years later I’m like, what do I want to say now? So that was the beginning of the journey of putting together and album that will play from beginning to end and sound like one song. That’s what albums are supposed to be. An album isn’t supposed to be a collection of songs I’ve made through the years, to have a bunch of names and features, that’s a mix tape to me. An album is something you can play from beginning to end where the songs play seamlessly, like they marry each other. I know, Late Nights and Early Mornings does that.