Grammy-winning singer Brandy may have been in the public eye in recent years as a star of reality TV, but she wants people to know that music is still her passion. She is working on her next album, which she says she won’t release until she feels it is ready. But for now, her fans can still see her on reality TV. She is a mentor on “Majors & Minors,” a singing contest for children, which premieres September 23 2011, on The Hub, at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
Brandy has experience with evaluating contestants on a TV talent show, since she was a judge on the first season of “America’s Got Talent.” The winner of “Majors & Minors” gets a record deal with the RCA/Jive Label Group, a contract with Boardwalk Entertainment Group, a music publishing deal and a chance to become a featured star in a tour with the “Major & Minors” cast. In a recent telephone conference call with reporters, Brandy talked about her role in “Majors & Minors”; how she can relate to the contestants (since she is a former child star); and why she is taking her time in making her next album.
In “Majors & Minors,” you’re a mentor and you’re teaching young and up and comers to make it in the music industry and fulfill their dreams. Who were your mentors growing up?
My mentors growing up were Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson and I worshipped them. I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to move people the way they did, inspire people the way they did. And that’s one of the reasons why I got involved in “Majors & Minors” because I wanted to give that back what they gave to me.
Would you ever do a “Moesha” reunion show if given the chance?
Absolutely. I would like to meet back up with everyone that I worked with on “Moesha” and just continue in acting period because that’s a film that I love to express myself in. So, of course, absolutely.
Can you give us a preview of what “Majors & Minors” going to be like? What special guests are you guys going to have and everything?
Well, some of the special guests will be Will.i.am, Avril Lavigne, Jordin Sparks, Leona Lewis. It’s a great show about developing children artists that have wanted to do this all their life. You know, even though their life has been 10 years, maybe 13 years, 14 years, but they know exactly who they are and it’s about meeting up with people who have experienced some of the things that they want to experience and giving that back to them in advice and encouragement and these kids are amazing. So I don’t even know why we are there because they are already amazing.
Obviously, you’ve been really busy with the show and producing and everything. What can we expect from your up upcoming music career?
Well, my new music is going to be an exciting journey because I’m getting back to my R&B roots. And I haven’t sung R&B in a long time, and I think that’s what my fans have been for long time and I just want to give them an album that they deserve.
What was the biggest surprise for you in filming “Majors & Minors”?
Well, when I got involved, you know, I wanted to, of course, be a mentor and give the type of advice that could help further these artists along. But when I got there I think I was more moved and more inspired than they were because each artist there was just mind-blowing. I was crying every other five minutes because they know exactly who they are and they are all different and unique in their own way. And it was just exciting to see it. It reminded me of when I was 15 trying to become a star. So I could relate to them and I saw myself in each one of them and it was just an amazing experience.
What else can people expect from your next album?
Well, it’s a little hard to explain creativity. But I think the best two words to describe what I’m going for are “futuristic R&B.” I want to do R&B music differently than the way it is been done in the past and the way it is being done now. And I think it’s my responsibility, as an artist, to try to take risks in that lane and to stay true to my roots. But challenge it in a way where people can feel like it’s something new but not too new where they can’t relate to it.
So I’m working with some of the best producers from Bangladesh to Harmony. I’m definitely going to get in with Timbaland and some brand-new writers that are helping me capture that sound. And to be with a company that believes in me like, RCA and Chameleon, I really feel safe in my freedom to be able to express myself in that way.
And I am just so excited about it because this is another chance for me to get it right. I’m just excited and can’t wait for everyone to hear what we’ve been working on. So I hope that explains it a little bit better.
What attracted you to become a mentor on “Majors & Minors”? And what advice would you give to other aspiring musicians out there?
I was coached by the Bogarts [Evan Bogart and Tim Bogart, two of the show’s executive producers], as well as RCA, to be a part of this experience. And a lot of my advice to the young artists is basically to try your best to stay true to yourself. There’s going to be a lot of people in the industry that will try to sway you from being who you are, but there is an intuition that lives within all of us that we have to get connected to and to stay in touch with that so we can be guided and we can stay true to who we are.
And another thing was to keep honest people around you, because it’s very tough to find friends and find good people after fame because sometimes people want to get to know you and want to be around you because of what you have and not because of who you are. So those two things were the two most important things I feel that they needed to hear, because not a lot of people say that it’s all about the singing and the type of songs you sing, which is great as well. But I think the core of who you are should remain as solid as possible growing up in this industry and becoming a star at a very young age. I think that’s very important.
Since you started in the music business at such a young age, what do you feel the differences are between the music industry back then and for young artists today?
I think there really aren’t a lot of differences because I think it’s all about expressing yourself. It’s all about being the artist that you want to be. But I think it’s just more artists now then it was back then. I think it was a little bit harder back when I was coming up. There weren’t very many artists, and now, pretty much everybody can get to this game.
But I think it’s harder for true artists because so many songs on the radio that are not that great. So I think the true artist, it is so important for them to do music that inspires them as well as others. And I think that’s the most important thing for the young artist on maybe the “Minors” to remember is that if they do songs that mean something to them as well as the people around them, then they will inspire the world as well. So hopefully, they took that advice and that meant something to them.
Speaking of you mentoring and dispensing advice, you were on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2010, so do you have any advice for the upcoming contestants?
Yes. Just take it by dance by dance. Don’t worry about winning. Don’t worry about the judges. Don’t worry about the audience. Just, you know, stay in the moment when you’re dancing. When I did “Dancing with the Stars,” my focus was, of course, on the dancing but it was also on everything else that was surrounding me. And your focus needs to stay on your feet and your partner and that’s it.
How will your next album differ from what we hear today?
Again, that’s kind of hard to explain … I can just say that it’s not going to come out until it’s right. And it’s not going to come out until it feels right to me, until it feels right to my team and some of my closest friends. I’m putting everything I have into this project because I feel like it’s a chance of a lifetime to really take music to a different place in the R&B lane.
And I just think people just want to hear real music and they want to hear music that is not just real but different than what they hear on the radio. And I think that’s a part of my responsibility and that’s what I’m going to dedicate myself to. I’m sorry I’m not able to explain like in terms of melody and notes and harmonies. It’s better if I showed you.
Can we possibly expect you to do another reality show, maybe documenting the journey along the way?
Absolutely. That is definitely in the works to do a docu-something around the album process because I think some of the fans they want to see that. And it’s all for them. So I want to give them what they want. So I would love for them to see some of the emotions that go behind creating an album, the frustration, the happiness, the sadness, the character that you have to become to express a song, to deliver a song. So I would love for them to see that. And plus, they feel like they’ve taken the journey with you. So I think that’s a great idea.
Who would be your dream co-star in the movies or dream guest star on a song collaboration that you haven’t worked with already?
Oh, I’ve worked with a lot of people. I would love to collaborate with Beyoncé. She’s one of my favorite artists. I think she’s amazing. I love Lady Gaga.
And in a movie role, I want to do a movie with Justin Timberlake. I like his style right now. He’s amazing. And, of course, Denzel Washington. He’s dope. I can keep going if you want me to because there’s about 20 people.
Do you have any big movie or television roles in the near future?
I do. I have been working on that right now. I can’t reveal because you know certain bills aren’t worked out all the way yet. I’m definitely on the path to coming back to television full-time and to do movies along with my music full-time. I’m definitely inspired and I’m ready to truly, truly get back to work and do what I love to do all the time.
Do you know how many episodes you will be participating in for “Majors & Minors”?
I want to guess all of them. I’m going to be on all 15 episodes. Yes.
How was it being a guest star on “Drop Dead Diva”?
It was an amazing experience. That was my first acting experience in a very, very long time and it was such a safe place to be able to come out as an actress again. It was so safely though. The cast was great.
The character was amazing. I could totally relate to her in terms of being a single mom, being caring, loving, and about her business. And I loved her. She had an innocence about her and I just loved the character a lot.
And I got a chance to do three episodes on “Drop Dead Diva,” and hopefully I can be back Season 4 there to finish out my story and to see what happens with J. Parker and Elisa and see what happens from there. So absolutely a great experience.
What music era that you would love to re-live?
That is so funny you asked that question. I was telling someone this the other day, I would love to be in that Diana Ross era. I don’t know, I just want to see what that feels like. You know, Ray Charles. That music, it was just amazing. I would love to sing that type of music.
I really would. And wear all the wigs and the hair and the makeup and dresses. That would just be amazing. I would love that.
Did you have any chance to interact with any of the other Majors, the others artists that were working with the children?
I did not. But I did hear about all the feedback from each artist. And, I tell you, some of the advice that they got from the other Majors I will write the advice down for myself because it’s such amazing advice. Like, things that Will.i.am told them I don’t want to reveal because I don’t want to spoil it.
But the things that Will.i.am told those kids were mind-blowing and artists today could use that for them. And Jordin Sparks — all of them had great advice. So, definitely, in my journal for my application, for my artistry. So absolutely it inspiring.
For more info: “Majors & Minors” website