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Interview: Ciara – Singer and Songwriter

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Since 2004, Ciara has amassed 11 top ten singles on Billboard's R&B charts: "Goodies," "1, 2 Step," "Oh," "Like You," "Lose Control," "So What," "Promise," "Get Up," "Like a Boy," "Can't Leave 'Em Alone" and "Never Ever." Such plentiful successes tend to overshadow the fact that Ciara has accomplished a great deal in less than five years. At the age of 23, one thing is for certain: her career is just beginning.

An all-around entertainer, Ciara's talents are famously known for extending beyond the studio and spilling onto the dance floor. Although the "First Lady of Crunk & B" is oft-compared to Janet Jackson, her musical icon, Ciara's music videos are memorable for their high-energy performances, which tend to showcase elaborate displays of her strength and flexibility. With Ciara's creativity, music lovers will always be entertained.

In the midst of preparation for Fantasy Ride's promotional tour, Ciara managed to squeeze some time out of her busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry—reflecting on Missy Elliot, Japan's embracement of "Go Girl," and the origins of her "Super C" persona.

 

Over the past two years, Fantasy Ride experienced a few setbacks and false starts. What do you consider to be the biggest professional lesson you learned along the way, as you were preparing for the album's final release? 

No matter what anybody says, it's all about staying positive. It's all about staying focused. When I sent out my first record, it really was more like an exercise or a warm-up or a little tester because my whole album wasn't complete at that moment. More than anything, it's all about patience. We had a date set for the release of Fantasy Ride, but realistically, the date wasn't real because the whole album wasn't completed. That's why the album was pushed back. It was only moved one time but a lot of dates were going out loosely. I didn't confirm any dates until I knew for a fact. With this album, I really learned how to take my time. Of course, it can become difficult at times, because it is so easy to become anxious. Even though I want to share my work with my fans, at the same time, I had to take my time and really get everything the way I wanted it to be.

Originally, Fantasy Ride was supposed to be divided amongst three discs, but the final product was whittled down to one disc. What artistic challenges did you face, when consolidating the tracks onto a single disc?

Well that's one of the things that happens when you speak too early. Musically, everything has to make sense, in order for the album's concept to work. So a lot of the changes came from that.

Well, the final product is definitely unique, especially the packaging. As I flipped through your liner notes, I was impressed by the artwork. What insight can you give on the comic book inspiration, as well as your relationship with Bernard Chang, who helped you create the Super C character? 

I kind of want to create my own comic book, so Bernard helped me create the artwork. That's pretty much how that went. It was really a fun process, because I really love his style! I learned a whole lot about the actual drawing process. I didn't know it was such an extensive process!

So how would you describe the "Super C" character? Do you consider her to be an alter-ego or an extension of Ciara? 

Well, Super C is not my alter-ego. It's just another nickname you can call me. That's my nickname because Super C is the inner strength you find in God to help you overcome obstacles. Really you have to do that everyday, whether it's in my relationship or in my work world, just pushing forward and trying to do my best. I have to be Super C all the way around. It's just another nickname. We were kind of having fun with the whole superhero concept. That's where my inspiration came from. 

You are known across the globe for being a super-dancer. And this past year, you released a music video for a promotional track called "Go Girl." The video was crazy, especially the split you performed with a chair. When you are preparing for a video shoot, do you start with a vision in mind or does that come later?

You know, it depends. When I was doing this record, I wanted it to be a reflection of my strength. I feel like as I am getting older, I'm getting stronger and much more confident. That record was all about power and strength and confidence and all these elements that I'm becoming and embracing. Sometimes you get inspired by a visual. Sometimes you get inspired by a feeling. It's all about where I am at that exact moment. 

Although "Go Girl" was not an official single, you included the track on the international version of Fantasy Ride. Was there a reason why you left it off the U.S. version?

It was really just one of those things where we tried it early and I wasn't really finished with my whole project. And after some time passed by, I had a better idea of what I wanted. There are some territories like Japan that really loved the record. It was in the top five, so I wanted to give it to my fans that I knew were really, really into it. That record is still available for all of my fans though and they can get in on iTunes. It's not like it's completely gone. That was important to me – to not totally get rid of it. It is a good record. It is just one of those things that we were experimenting with at that moment.

In the U.S., the official lead single for Fantasy Ride was "Never Ever." The chorus states: If that boy don't love you by now, he never ever will love you. I'm curious to know what other lessons you learned in the game of love.

This is another area where I had to learn patience. Not everything falls into place like it's supposed to. Love is about having good communication and trust. It takes time to really build a foundation in a relationship. At this point in my life, whoever it is that will become part of my life, I just want to take my time to get to know them. You know what I mean?

Oh, yes! [laughing] Throughout the video, you have an interesting way of incorporating your dance skills without taking all of the attention away from your vocals. As a dancer and a singer, what relationships have you found between the two art forms? 

They go hand-in-hand. And for me, they're very, very important because it's what makes me an entertainer. Not only is singing a way of expressing how you feel, dancing is a way of expressing how you feel, too. There's nothing more cool and more fun than merging the two together.

On the bonus DVD, which was included with the deluxe edition, I noticed that your grandparents were on the set for the video. How much of a presence does your family generally have on your music video sets?

I always call my family whenever there's a chance for them to come out. My family is really supportive – the best supporters I could possibly have. They're really just thrilled and enjoying the ride. My mom and my grandparents are very proud of everything that's happening. It's just cool to know that I make my family proud. That's the best feeling in the world! 

Shifting gears a bit, I want to talk to you about some of my favorite tracks on the album. "High Price" – the production on that song puts an interesting twist on your vocals. When you were recording the track, did you feel like you were being pulled out of your comfort zone? 

When I heard that track, I automatically gravitated towards it. I felt like, "What in the world is Super C going to let out?" I knew the record was a smash when I first heard it. It's on a whole different level!

Whose idea was it to put that operatic twist on it?

The-Dream. When I heard his idea, I knew it didn't even need to be touched.

Another one of my favorites is "Pucker Up."

Yay! I love that record! [laughing]

When you're in the studio with a musical legend, like Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, what goes through your head?

Rodney is always a lot of fun. We chat with each other from time to time and I can definitely say that I think he's truly one of the best producers of today's music. He really knows how to make records. Some people just know how to make good songs; he makes great records or albums. I have a lot of respect for him. It's just awesome because he was also very successful at a very young age and it's just really cool to see him finding ways to reinvent himself.

Another one of my favorite tracks is "Work." You have a certain chemistry with Missy Elliot that you rarely have with other artists. When the two of you are together, why do you think such magic is always made?

When Missy and I do a record, the energy is on a whole other level. I can't explain exactly what it is. It's just the energy, I think. She knows how to really make a party a party. That's what I want – to make this record to be the ultimate party record. That's pretty much how that all came about. I don't know. I guess each time we work together, we give 100% of our energy to each other. It's crazy. Sometimes you can't explain what the chemistry is. It's just how you feel.

Since your album is entitled Fantasy Ride, I would like for you to compare the album to your favorite theme park ride. Which ride is the perfect reflection of Ciara's Fantasy Ride experience?

Well, let's see. I always love doing the Acrophobia at Six Flags in Atlanta Over Georgia. Acrophobia is 250 feet high. You sit in a chair and it drops you really fast. It's really fun! When you get to the top, a lady starts to sing to you and you don't know when she's going to drop you. And as soon as you start to relax, off you go! It gives you a crazy rush, and people will just start screaming. I'm used to it but I still scream, too! [laughing]

What song do you think will give your fans a similar rush?

"High Price." That's one of my favorites.

You close Fantasy Ride with "I Don't Remember," which has an interesting premise: finding yourself at home, without knowing how you got there. What does that song mean to you on a personal level?

That song shows a person at their most vulnerable level. I haven't quite experienced that literally but it's one of those things, like imagining what could happen if I drank inappropriately. I'm not a drinker—and I say that on the second verse—but that does happen to people, where they drink and get so far gone that they are no longer aware of their actions.

Many artists are scared to tackle such sensitive issues, so what message do you have for young ladies that look up to you as a role model?

Take your time. Understand your value. You're a very, very valuable being. As the Bible tells me, a woman is a prize. Always remember that. Stay focused. Books before boys, my young girls.

For more information on Ciara, visit her official website.

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About Clayton Perry

  • Gregory

    By reading this article, I feel like I have been afforded the opportunity to learn more about Ciara’s creative process while making an album. I loved her response to the last question that Mr. Perry asked- it goes to show where her roots are buried (in the Bible).