Interview: Kristinia DeBarge
Thu, 24 Sep 2009 11:06:04
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On her Island/Def Jam debut, Exposed, Kristinia DeBarge goes back to the future…
She infuses a classic sense of soul into eclectic modern pop. Her sultry voice lights up massive melodies that take up permanent residence inside listeners' heads. There are some shower-singing pop anthems like hit singles, "Goodbye" and Sabotage," but Kristinia really shines during more contemplative cuts like "Disconnect" and "It's Gotta Be Love." The girl's got a lot to say and she's opening up…
At 19-years-old, Kristinia has got a very, very bright future ahead. Before she took the stage supporting Britney Spears at the Staples Center, she sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor Rick Florino for this exclusive interview about Exposed, working with Babyface, why the first love counts the most and showing her cards early…
Would you say that you're making "futuristic" R&B?
I'm a very "R&B" girl [Laughs]. I love rock music, and I love pop, but I've been doing R&B since I first started recording music at 12. When I was told that pop was a better direction for me, I was like, "If I'm going to do pop, I'm going to make sure that I'm still interpreting that soulfulness and that passion that R&B delivers." You're not off at all by saying that!
So it was always important for you to have soul?
Definitely, I want to make sure that people don't look at me as a bubblegum pop princess. I want to be looked at as a respectable artist that fans can appreciate and grow to really like.
The songs feel connected, and the album flows seamlessly. Did you have a general theme in mind for the entire record?
Yeah, I did. I wanted to make sure that the songs were relatable, and I wanted to portray everything that I had gone through in my life up to this point. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't talking about subjects that'd make people say, "Oh, how does she know about that she's only 19?" At the same, they'll see that I've definitely been through love before. Everyone has their puppy love or their first love. I want to make sure that people can understand everything that I'm saying and that it makes sense. It needed to be realistic. People in my age group, and older, can relate to the music—even guys. It doesn't have to be just for girls…
Well, your first love is usually the one you remember the most.
Totally! I don't know what it's going to be like 10 or 15 years from now, but I talk people in their 40s and they say, "I'll never forget my first love." They'll tell you a name, when they met—they'll probably even know the date of their prom. They talk about how after that they never really loved the way that they loved that first person ever again. It's a different kind of love. It's really interesting to hear these stories, because everyone will change and grow. Sometimes you grow to love more and sometimes you don't.
Do you watch a lot of movies or read while you're writing?
I just take from what I've gone through or what I'm going through at that moment. Then I work with the producer on the feeling of the song. I am a writer, and I love to write. I tell the producers what's going on in my head, what I want to write, what I think people can relate to and what I think would inspire. I don't really like watching television or listening to the radio. It's actually the opposite. I need my quiet time when I'm brainstorming about what I want to write about.
"It's Gotta Be Love" and "Disconnect" stand out. What's the story behind those?
I wrote "It's Gotta Be Love" at age 16 with Babyface. We did a whole album together that we worked really hard on. It didn't get released but we ended up keeping a few of the songs from that album and putting them on Exposed. The song is really about falling in love for the first time. I'd been a relationship for over a year, and I was feeling that it had to be love. I wanted to write a happy love song. It became my favorite song that I ever recorded with Babyface. I think it was because I was going through exactly everything that song was talking about. The passion and the emotion were there. My songs are meant to touch my fans, but if I'm not happy with them, what's the point?
"Disconnect" is basically about a long-distance relationship. At the time, I hadn't experienced that type of relationship but I knew that I would down the road. I wasn't sure how soon it was going to be, but I knew it would really break my heart. Who likes long-distance relationships? No one. That song was really for me though. It's something that I can go back to when I am in a relationship like that. I just took from my experiences and what I had gone through in relationships and wrote from there. Babyface helped me a lot, giving me certain situations to think about. I had a boyfriend at the time, and he was like, "Have you ever experienced being away from your boyfriend for longer than a week? Tell me what you felt." We just went from there. I'm not in a relationship right now, so I can't really relate to the song, but I'm hoping I can go back to it when that time comes. The songs I did with Babyface were for me. He allowed me to have a lot of leverage, and I took advantage of that as much as I could.
Why'd you call the album Exposed?
I wanted to come up with a name or a sentence that best described me discovering who I am and introducing myself to the world. I feel like there are characteristics of me on this album that you see for the first time—like my anger, my passion, my sadness, my happiness and my vulnerability. You get all of these different sides of who I am and who I'm becoming. Exposed was the perfect word for this album. I was going to title it a sentence, but I decided to go with one word that best describes the record. I'm introducing myself to the world for the first time and exposing who I am on the inside rather than who I am on the outside.