I was putting these songs together, and they all tell a story about things that have happened in my life. I have a song on the album called “One of Nine,”— I’m one of nine children. It’s about my mother. When I played it for Ken and Belinda, everybody started crying, because my mother passed away. But fortunately, I had written the song and played it for her before she passed away. As I was going on, trying to think of what I wanted this record to be called, I started thinking about stories. Like, the second single, “Did You Wrong.” What that song is all about is, when I was a little kid singing in these nightclub. I wassinging one of my Aretha Franklin songs; and this woman comes in and she just hits this guy over the head with a beer bottle — because he was out cheating with somebody else. A big fight broke out, and I was taught just to keep singing, no matter what happened!
Yeah, right — the show must go on!
I often write about things that people tell me: “Oh, that sounds like a good song.” So, I finally figured that I was going to call this R&B 101. What’s your first class when you go to school? English 101. Your theory class? It’s Theory 101. I was just taking people back to the basics of what R&B music is all about. It’s a bunch of stories. There are songs on this album that talk about love; because at one point, it seemed like people just thought R&B was just negative stuff—like guys writing songs about women, calling them B’s, you know? And I’m like, “That’s not what R&B was born of.”
You mentioned being one of nine children. That must have presented a lot of stories from your early life. From what I read, for your mom, it was hard to make ends meet.
I started singing in nightclubs when I was six or seven years old. I had a band. When I first started doing it, my mother would come with me; and then after awhile I would just go to the gig on my own. A lot of people would question my mother, “Why are you letting this kid do that?” But my mother knew me. She would tell me, “When you’re not on that stage, where are you?” I’m downstairs in my dressing room. And so I got to see a lot of things that kids didn’t see, but I also stayed in a kid’s place: I wasn’t up there mingling with adults. And she knew it. She never worried about it one time.