Interview: Netta Brielle - talks Role Models & Struggles, Working with Tupac, and New Project
Netta Brielle belts its “More to a Kiss” on her new single from her recently dropped introductory EP “Will You Go With Me” but it just may be more to this bay area native who seems to remind us of great singers from the 90s. Signed to El Seven/Atlantic Records Netta Brielle, tells N2S why we should go with her on this musical journey. On the mixtape you will hear some familiar tunes which Brielle revamped in her own way, Mint Conditions ‘Breaking My Heart’ is an example of a classic which she added her soul-tinged vocals. Inspired by Mary J. Blidge, SWV, Envouge and Tony! Toni! Toné, Netta is ready to remind you why you ever fell in love with old school R&B. Brielle recalls the 90s music shaping her into the singer she is today...
Apparently you spent time in the studio with Tupac Shakur and danced for MC Hammer?
Yes, that's true. Being around them you learn its not just about being an artist. its about saying something in your music, its about perfecting your craft. its not just about getting on stage. You have to connect with the people and have something to really and truly say. When I met Tupac I was about 11, and I don't think at that time i didn't really understand what it was but now that I think about it, it was such a big deal. Being around people who've made such a stamp on the industry and the world. I learned so much at a young age. i knew I wanted to be an artist and i knew I wanted my music to say something and I wanted to touch people around the world. I think looking up to artists such as MC Hammer, Tupac and Tony! Toni! Toné! and all these musicians that come from the bay area it makes you also want to have the same effect on people.
How important was the two years you spent at performing arts school in Oakland and the time you spent studying at San Jose State University working towards your degree in Musical Theater in terms of shaping your vision for your future as a performer? What were some of the things that you found most valuable about those experiences?
Going to college was my plan 'B'. I never thought I would actually finish. I hoped about getting a record deal by the time I was 20. And some other plans that didn't actually go that way then I actually ended up finishing school. Then i got the chance to go to musical theatre which was good because eventually I want to do acting and plays, so much more than just be a musician. I want to be highly involved in the art. And Going to school helped me decide that I want to do more than just be artist. I want to be behind the screen, in front of the screen I want to do all of those things. And the area that i come from its not common that people go to college and graduate. I have a strong foundation from my family and them pushing me to do things that I didn't think I could do. its dope I could actually go to college and still got the record deal. So everything kinda just fell in place.
You taught acting to young children for a while, and have spoken of wanting to open a performing arts school when you are at the point that you are able to give back - why do you feel that the performing arts are so important for a community, and how important do you feel can entertainers be in acting as role models for younger members of a community?
Where I come from there aren't a lot of outlets for young kids. Its so easy to get caught up on the negative things begin on the streets. You feel like you don't have any other options in life but to just go the negative way. Luckily I did have my mom to stare me away from all the bad things. But, I did go through a lot growing up in the area that I grew up in, and I think a lot of it has to do with not having positive outlets for youth. So I definitely want to do something at home something involving performing arts just so kids understand that they don't have to apart of they wrong environment. And I feel like we don't have enough things like that in our communities. Being musicians is just as important as changing lives. Its all just as important.
You have overcome many obstacles to get to the point of signing with Atlantic - what do you think it is about you and your character that made you never give up and find ways to solve the problems that you faced?
Im a from believer that struggle builds character. I think if I didn't go through all the things that Ive been through I wouldn't be so grateful to be apart EL7 and Atlantic. I had an opportunity to possiby to go to Def Jam when Shakir Stewart, who was the president at the time wanted to have an artist from Oakland, he did a talent search. I actually won the talent search I went up to his office got ready to build with him, i thought it was my big break. Thought I was going to get a record deal. I thought i was going to buy my mom a house. I had all these big plans that i knew were getting ready to happen for me at this time. Then unfortunately his untimely death put everything to a standstill. I was back at square one. At that point I knew I had to do it myself. I started printing up my own cd's, I had a small team of people that were helping me. I just kept going. Then my sister was murdered. Things kept happening, but I felt like those things that were supposed to stop me from doing it made me want it more. Made me want it for my family. So many of the bad things that have happened in my life made me want it more rather than just giving up.
How different do you think your album might be from your upcoming EP in terms of trying to find a definitive Netta Brielle sound and lyrical content in terms of your original material?
I like to think of the mixtape it as an album sampler. The intro to what the album is gonna be. I kind of wanted to go back to the r and b place, which I feel like people aren't really focusing on what r&b used to be. A lot of artist are doing pop music, which I love and I want to do as well but I want to start with the kind of music that inspired me and it was definitely artists like Aaliyah, SWV, Brandy, Mary J Blige. I want to go back and recreate some f their somgs and put my own twist to it. I want to go old school but make it current and thats what i want my album to be. I want my album to be a strong, traditional r&b album. With a lot of flavour, in terms of style and things would think about in the 90's. My mix tape thats getting ready to come out is an introduction to that. I think the album is going to be amazing. I got to work with so many dope new producers and I wanted to prepare everybody for that. I wanted to use songs that people are familiar with but in that way introduce who I am through songs that they've grown to love.
We saw a recent pic of you and Bryan Michael-Cox (the producer). Was that hanging out? or was that working on new material?
Absolutely, He's going to be apart of my album. He's one of the producers I specifically wanted to work with and never got a chance to work with. I was able to get in with him last week and it was amazing. When I think back to my some of my favourite r&b albums from Usher; confessions, to Mary J Blige. He's done so many great traditional r&b records i knew he was somebody I really wanted to work with. So being able to get in with him and to create some r&b songs it was what we were missing on the album. The album was pretty much a wrap but I just felt like we still needed to bring it all together and being in with him brought everything full circle.
We see you have a working relationship with Andre Harrell..
My production company had presented my material to him and he thought it was really special and he was really excited about it, and he took us to Atlantic Records (before she was signed) and that's when I auditioned for them. And the rest is history. My a&r is Kawan Prather he is amazing at his job as well, he's been open to my ideas and hearing out what I wanted to do so this things are in place. But Andre Harell has been absolutely amazing too. He's one of the reasons I'm actually at the label.