Life for Vivian Green sure had its ups and downs. Just sit through any one of her tearful ballads. But with her latest album, Vivid, the singer/songwriter reached a peak in her emotional roller coaster, and wants audiences to fasten their seat belts and come along for the ride.
Green hasn’t always been consistent with putting records out. Her last album dropped three years ago, and similar time gaps separate her other three records. During these hiatuses, the singer gave her attention to her 11-year-old son with special needs. Green put songwriting on hold to homeschool him herself, tend to him after his surgeries, and advocate with a PSA campaign for children with special needs. The singer maintained a deep vocal register and an iconic grasp of Philadelphia-bred and Motown sounds once she returned to the studio. When fans watched her perform her ballads at the 2015 Essence Music Festival, they listened to the sweet harmony found throughout her entire 12-year career. Her experiences since have now given her the inspiration to shake things up and sing a new tune.
She teamed up with legendary rapper and producer Kwame to create upbeat tempos (the opposite of what she is known for) while still possessing the same essence of the artist known as Vivian Green. Vivid plays off her name and expresses her sense of empowerment with an album two years in the making. She wrapped up her fifth album last year and said she is excited to liven up her performances for her fans. Green dropped the LP’s first single, “Get Right Back to My Baby,” a few weeks ago, which currently holds the No. 14 spot on Billboard‘s Top 20 Adult R&B charts.
The singer-songwriter caught up with VIBE to give readers an exclusive listen of her second single and reveal a life more vivid than before.—Kathryn E. Jones
VIBE: How do you create a signature style?
Vivian Green: As a raw artist, I am the one who has loved music my entire life and began creating it when I was 11 years old. I’ve been very blessed to be still creating now and to do it professionally for 12 years. I put my life’s stories into my music. I purged my music, and I shared experiences that I go through that I know everyone else goes through as well. And I’d betcha that people would be inspired by that.
Your music often deals with loss and heartbreak. How do you make it through a song without wanting to cry?
When I perform, when I sing, it’s like I’m in this amazing place that’s always perfect, no matter what I’m going through in my life. I’m at one with the audience and myself, and I’m just perfect. And I love it. It makes me so happy when I’m creating, when I’m performing. It’s a wonderful thing for me to be able to have my creativity be my job. And I feel incredibly blessed to be able to do that and continue to do that through ups and downs.
How does Vivid differ from your previous work?
We wanted to make an album that was a reflection of who I am—this being my life as a woman. A lot of our past music was very sad. My first album was definitely really sad. Second one was very angry. [Laughs] What I think a lot of people don’t realize is when I wrote my first album, I wasn’t even 21 years old yet. And by the time it released, I turned 22. I was a young girl coming of age, and I just had this terrible heartbreak. That’s where Emotional Rollercoaster came from and every song on that album. I’m a very different person now. I understand that people love that stuff, but I want people to understand where I was at that point in my life, age-wise, everything. I can’t possibly be in that place now. I would like them to embrace the change, but again, it’s still me, the same creative person who purges through her music just the same—just not depressing.
What brought about this sense of empowerment?
I’m the mother of a special needs child. He’s 11 years old. They told me he wouldn’t live past a week. So I have so many reasons to feel just grateful for all of my experiences. He’s like the best kid in the world, and he can do so many things that they told me he would not be able to do when he was born. That whole journey of being his mother is just amazing. Obviously it’s a huge part of my life – the biggest part of my life, more than music or anything else. Life up until this point, those experiences have made me a strong, grateful person.
How did Kwamé get involved with this record?
We met through mutual friends. My last album that we did in 2012 called The Green Room, he contacted me just before that released. I said, well you know this album is already done, about to come out, already mixed, mastered, so let’s work the next time around. I was a fan of him as a hip-hop artist in the ’90s, and then he transitioned into a producer in the very early 2000s, and I just loved his work. It was definitely a different approach than other music I’ve done in the past so I thought it would be cool to team up with him and try something different. Once we got through the first song, we just kept going. Before I knew it, the whole album was done.
You and and Kwamé have different styles. How did the music-making process go so smoothly?
We didn’t just mesh well perfectly and that was it. Not at all. It had its challenges because once Kwamé and I got to know each other, he’s like, Listen, you are a completely different person than I thought you would be. You’re fun and loud, just a happy person and nobody would think that. You have to make a record that really shows who you are now and not so much who you were when you made your first album. It was a struggle because while I wanted to do what he was saying. I didn’t want people to not like the music. I’m known for singing ballads on every single I’ve had. I didn’t want people to turn away because the music had energy and was uptempo.
How do you feel about the changes in the music industry?
Major changes in the industry like social media, you kind of have to do that. It’s just difficult for me because I am not naturally an open person. It’s weird. I understand that people assume performers love the spotlight, and that’s not really true for me. I like it when I’m performing, and then after that, I don’t like it at all. Then other things of course, I’ll never do. I don’t think my fans are looking for me to do something crazy to sell a record. If I did something like a naked album cover, I would lose people.
What does “vivid” mean for someone who doesn’t like the spotlight?
Life has ups and downs, and when you’re experiencing the downs, I think the point is to come out of them stronger, better, and wiser. I’ve taken each flux in my life, and I’ve done that. I’ve been able to walk away from the difficult times being strong, being better, being wiser, and being grateful for those experiences because I know if I didn’t go through X, Y, or Z that I would not be who I am or where I am now. Life is full of constant change.
What do you wants fans to take away from this album?
I want them to be empowered by it because it’s a very powerful record. I want people to walk away feeling that way. No matter what the contents of the song, be it spiritual, strong, a sad love song, upbeat, they all have a message of empowerment that goes throughout the whole theme of the album. And you can workout to it, you can clean the house to it, play it at work, you can drive, do a long road trip with it. I want people to live with it.
Vivid hits stores on Friday, Aug, 7. Pre-order the LP here and receive a special acoustic version of “I’m Not Broken.”