VIBE Exclusive! Bridget Kelly Talks New Music, First Grammy Win, & Learning Patience From Jay-Z
Bridget Kelly is hard at work churning out hits for herself & others. We got a chance to catch up with Roc Nation's other princess backstage at NYC hotspot SOBs—her first headlining show. Just a little over a year ago, the R&B vocalist was embellished under the radar covering tracks like "Thinking About You" (written by Frank Ocean) and Jay-Z & Alicia Keys' city anthem, “Empire State of Mind." However, when it comes to her work, BK plays no games.
In wake of her first Grammy win, we chopped it up with Bridget on the production behind her upcoming album, artist comparisons, and how Hova taught her the value of patience.
VIBE: Congratulations on the big Grammy win for penning Kelly Clarkson’s “Einstein”! Were you expecting that?
Bridget Kelly: It was really unexpected honestly. I wrote the record initially thinking that it would be a part of my project. I don’t really know what I thought. I think, as a writer, you just come up with ideas in songs and you never know what’s going to happen to them—you just do them off inspiration. I didn’t know what kind of life it would take, but I’m really happy it ended up with Kelly & became a Grammy. I’m excited for her because she works really hard and I’m honored to be a part of that project.
Over a year ago, you actually dropped your EP, Every Girl—which was widely received. How does the sound on your upcoming compare against that?
I think this album is much more soulful. With the EP, I experimented a lot with the music part of it. I wanted to do some rock type stuff, a little more alternative more or less. I think with this album, I really kind of matured a lot. Between doing the EP and doing the album I really think I had the chance to get to know myself a little better. I went to studio with different people and got to play around with sounds. What felt the most organic for me was to really doing more of an R&B record.
What was the inspiration behind your single “Special Delivery?”
I tell a lot of stories in my records and I think “Special Delivery” really hit home for me and struck a chord. It’s one of those songs that kind of just strips you down to the basics. It wasn’t dealing with any type of cheating situation or baby-mama drama, it was really about just the lack of communication and that being the reason why the relationship fell apart. I think as an R&B singer, it’s really cliché to talk about how a guy has totally destroyed your life. With “Special Delivery," it was just really a record about foundations, about basic fundamentals of a relationship, and once they break down there’s nothing left.
When you last talked to VIBE, you mentioned that you were extremely impatient—
It gets the best of me sometimes. I’m very impatient. My team is willing to deal with me when I start to panic, but I’ve been so blessed to work with the label that I’m with. They’ve forced me to take my time with things and forced me to completely make sure I’m completely confident and convicted with what I’m doing. [They don't just] let me run rampant putting music out. They’ve really helped me hone in on what I want to say as an artist, who I wanted to speak to, and what stories I wanted to tell from my own life—and also speaking to other women and telling their stories. I think over the course of last year or so, I’ve had to continue to find patience with myself. It’s been a struggle—it’s still a struggle sometimes—but, nonetheless, I’m here. At this point, I’m so happy with where I’m at. The impatience is sort of subsiding a little.
How did you deal with the impatience during this wait for your upcoming album?
I’ve been working throughout, so the time has been passing so quickly with the promo of “Special Delivery," shooting the video, going on tour with Brandy, and having all of these really incredible doors open for me. It's totally distracted me from the fact that we’re now six or seven months into it. As far as I’m concerned, creatively I feel like the album is done. I feel like I’ve recorded everything I need to record for it and it will find its way out this year for sure.
Nice. Being signed to Roc Nation, you work closely to Jay-Z, and even Beyonce to an extent. Do you ever feel like you can go to them for advice, creatively or even emotionally?
Yeah, absolutely. For [Jay-Z to be] the head of my label and an artist makes it so much easier for me to just hit him up and be like, “Yo, what do you think about this?” or “Did you listen to this? What about that?” I can bounce ideas off of him at any time, which is incredibly rare. Most artists don’t even get to meet half of the people that work at their label, and I get to talk to the head whenever I want to. It’s really a gift and a curse, because there is always that fear of him saying “Oh, this song sucks”, or he thinks it’s terrible, shoots it down and there’s no more discussion. At the end of the day, it’s worth the risk.There’s so many times where I’ve said, “How do you feel about this?” or “What do you think about that?”, and he’s like “Yo, it’s dope, why don’t you try something like this and see how it comes out.” It’s fueled my confidence, which is the most important thing.
Did he touch on a lot of that work for this album coming up?
Man, he forced me to be so patient with him [Laughs]! It was no joke. He was like, “Just chill out, just calm down” and, “Lady Gaga didn’t put her album out until almost six years after she was signed, so take your time—it will be worth the wait.” The promo we've done with all the fans that have come out, all of the new fans I get to meet, and all the fans that have been checking for me since way back when I was doing “Empire State Of Mind”, it’s very encouraging. I feel like the more I’m out there and performing whatever records there are—whether they're EP records or album cuts—I feel like my fans are really supportive. That feels awesome.
Some people have frequently compared you to artists like Alicia Keys, or even Joss Stone. What are some of the most outrageous comparisons you’ve received as an artist?
I haven’t been compared to anybody [recently], thankfully. The Alicia Keys comparison is really flattering for me, because she is somebody I really look up to a lot and whose albums I’ve completely played out in my iTunes. To be compared to her, of course is a complete honor. I think as more time goes people compare you to artists they either like or don’t like, and I’ve never got a comparison to anybody that somebody didn’t like. If it’s an Alicia Keys comparison, it’s because Alicia Keys is dope. It’s not because they are hating on her or whatever the case is. I’ve never got any comparison where it’s not positive, so I appreciate that.
Who are some of your favorite songwriters or producers who have been your go-to?
Crystal [Nicole] is definitely one. She wrote “Special Delivery." Same Dew is another one. He wrote actually half of my album. He’s phenomenal, and also in a band called Cloudeater—which I like. James Fauntleroy is another favorite of mine. Red Styles, Eric Bellinger, Shae Taylor producer-wise, and Jerry Wonder. Of course, Ne-Yo, The-Dream—you know we’re scraping the barrel [Laughs]! Those are my favorites; I’ve been really blessed to work with them on this first project.