Avant has been crooning his heart out for over a decade on records like, “Read Your Mind,” and “My First Love,” featuring KeKe Wyatt. After taking a hiatus from the music industry, he’s returned to his soul roots and reunited with Wyatt on their new single “You & I,” which became an instant radio hit and continues to climb the R&B chart. VIBE chatted with Avant about his seventh album, Face the Music, which hits stores on Feb. 5, his thoughts on the change in R&B music, and his special relationship with KeKe.
VIBE: You and KeKe last recorded a song together in 2001. What made you return to the studio with her for the new album?
Avant: People kept asking, “When are you and KeKe hooking back up again?” So coming out with a new album featuring her was one of my main focuses. She was doing a reality show at the same time (TV One’s R&B Divas) so it worked out perfectly for us. When I heard the track I was like “wow, this is the song right here.” It just fit us perfectly. I appreciate [the fans] for the love.
VIBE: Would you say KeKe is your musical muse?
Definitely. With her it’s seamless. It’s a whole different spirit when she’s in the studio. We have a chemistry and bond that can’t be broken. I’ve worked with a lot of different female artists and she’s the easiest to work with. When we did “My First Love” she was only 16, and never heard the original song, but she sang it like a champ. From that point on I knew there was something special about her. I’ll put her up against any female in the game, and I mean that.
What’s the story behind the album title, and how is it different from your last six albums?
The reason I named it Face the Music is because at some point everybody has to face some type of music in their lives. I’m older. I have a 9-year-old son and I see the world a little different now. Whatever album you get from Avant, you’re going to pull something away from it. I’m always trying to give people something to live through.
With most R&B singers embracing a more pop sound, do you ever feel pressure to follow suit? :
Not at all. The most pressure I felt was to step away from [music]. I had to step away so people could respect and love what I do. I was putting out records every other year. It was cool but the people can get sick of you. When you step away and come back with a real record, they tend to respect it more. I just thank God that a brother is still relevant.
VIBE: What’s your take on the changing sound of R&B?
I think the change in the industry is good because everyone is different. At one point everyone was saying [R&B artists] were trying to sex you to death. You had R. Kelly, and everyone followed behind that. Now, there’s something everywhere. I don’t care what kind of record you have. Quality is the most important part to me. Make the people say I need to hear that again. That’s the music I want to put out.