Together as Floetry, Natalie Stewart and Marsha Ambrosius burst on to the music scene in the mid-90s as coveted songwriters. The duo penned hits for Michael Jackson, Bilal, Jill Scott and more. But by the turn of the millennium, they debuted their own style of music, which they describe as “floetic” (also the name of their debut album). Their sound was described as neo-soul but there was no denying that their unique interplay between spoken word and soulful singing blended with jazz was something that the masses craved (they have the Grammy nominations to prove it).
Although their sophomore album, 2005’s Flo’Ology, reached top-3 upon release, Floetry split the following year. Natalie, the floacist, was more low key than her singing counterpart who still toured and made cameo appearances but after four years of taking a break from the spotlight she’s gearing up for her solo debut, Floetic Soul, dropping November 9. Here, she opens up to VIBE about the Floetry split, her relationship with Marsha and why she still embraces the term neo soul. ⎯Starrene Rhett
VIBE: How was it collaborating with Musiq on your first single, "Forever"?
Natalie Stewart: Musiq was one of the first people I met when Marsha and I had come to America in 2000 and I’m a complete fan of what he does. I think not enough of us neo soul artists collaborate together and I’ve really been looking forward to working with him. I made the song out in L.A. and at the end of recording it I was sitting down listening to it and I could just hear Musiq’s energy. It was like his spirit was in the space and I felt I just needed to get him on there so I gave him a call and he said he would love to get on there. It was a very quick process but I suppose, over a long time due. So the song is about companionship, union and just how over the years in love we can do more than just be in love we can be supportive of each other.
What have you been up to all these years since your departure from Floetry? Were you touring?
If I had been touring you would have known about it [laughs]. I’ve been being creative. I did a few different shows over a few years but more so on the spoken word side of things. But ultimately I’ve been cultivating my craft, recording, trying out different energy. I’ve been building my music company. I’ve been learning and growing as a person. Living. I’ve been away from my husband and my son; I’ve been living away for so long. I came home, I got married, I’ve lived a beautiful life. I’ve always been creative. Art is not an "it’s time to make an album" kind of thing for me. It’s a day in and day out thing. It’s not only what everybody hears. I have journals upon journals of books and sketching and writing⎯all different types of things. I’ve pretty much just been chilling and gearing up to have something new and fresh to say. It’s not always about putting albums out. Sometimes you have to⎯in order for the content of the record to come together you may have to live a bit to have something to say. So in a whole, personally, that’s what I’ve been doing since the end of Floetry, and just trying to understand and formulate in my mind how I can continue the floetic ethos, the energy, floetic delivery, musical intent and just music that makes you feel good.
Talk about your music company.
I’ve created my own production house. It’s Free Sum Music. It’s a creative outlet. I work in collaboration with a few producers that I have and I produce myself. My business partner is also my husband. We all produce over here. We create the sound. We’ve executively produced this project and we work with other people and get other sounds out as well. So it’s a nice production outlet. It’s quite similar to A Touch of Jazz.
What was the reason behind Floetry's split?
It’s not as razzmatazz as I supposed it could seem. I left Floetry in 2006 in December. That was when the last show had occurred. Marsha had signed to Aftermath earlier in 2006 and Marsha and management were more so pursuing a gangster rap creative outlet and that’s just not what I came in for. So I wanted to stay in the direction of Floetry, which is poetic delivery with musical intent but that’s not musical intent. Creatively the sounds were different and I fired management and that was when we stopped working together with them.
Do you think you guys would ever come back together?