[Interview] Marsha Ambrosius Talks “M.E. Tour”, New Album, Prince, & More

 

 

Photo Credit: Kieone Young

 

The phenomenal—Grammy nominated singer/songwriter, Marsha Ambrosius sat down with Soul Savviness to discuss the M.E. Tour, new album, her elite songwriting skills, and Prince. Her  sophomore studio album, Friends and Lovers was released in 2014.

 

 

Interview by Q. Lynn Green (@qlynngreen)


 

What’s that energy like in an arena/theatre compared to a small venue where it’s more intimate?

 

For me, it’s almost a power trip to reel you in and make as big as a theatre. Like, the House of Blues and make it feel like the same place. Like, no one leaves untouched. So, whether you were sitting in the back all boo’ed up. Or you’re the chick in the front like, “Yo, that’s my shit!” It’s the same feeling. So, to be able to take all these high/low moments—intimate moments—passionate moments, and I can bring you along the journey with me. Like, we went from being absolutely “turnt” to having a serious moment all in the same show. But it doesn’t skip a beat, because it becomes one-on-one no matter who you are. You could be in the front row, or you could be right in the nose bleeds. Still, I feel you. So, for me it’s still the same energy on stage. I feed off of it. I enjoy that part of it, because it really dictates where the show is going to go. So, you get what you’re giving.

 

“Friends & Lovers” conceptually is one of the best albums. It felt like a story.

 

It was. It was definitely an intimate moment in my life. And it was that fine line between, “Am I really going to be single forever?” Or am I going to find that one I can do it all with.

 

You have a new album coming out. Musicality wise, what’s the progression from “Friends & Lovers”?

 

It’s intimate. I haven’t switched up my style. I’ve been consistent with my penmanship, in my forthcoming concept of whether it’s love—loathe—whether it’s triumphant, or depressive. It’s all the same thing to me. It has been for a while, so I think with this album it’s where I am in my life.

 

It’s a good energy space?

 

Yeah, I’m in a good place, but the world isn’t. As happy as I am in my little bubble. I think everyone holds on to that, not ignorance but you kind of want to turn off the news sometimes. But it’s not going to go away. So, that’s what this album is. It’s the small moments. Where you know what, “I want to come home to you, and know that you’re safe.” I want to know that some cop didn’t pull you over for a tail light out, and he shot you while you are Facebook livin’ somewhere. It’s that real for ours. I want to contain what that is. And have the soundtrack that you listen, reflect, and remember where you were when you first heard it. Or who you are with. Or who you are trying to be with. (laughs) It’s all these little things—so I just happen to be in a relationship—I just happen to have my little baby girl.

 

Jazz musician, Sonny Rollins said that doing yoga/spirituality helped him focus musically. I wanted to know, what kind of meditative space you have to be in songwriting wise?

 

It’s not a space. It’s just a space in time, and it happens. It’s like a magic trick. I don’t know if I’m going to pull it out your sleeve, or go behind your ear. It’s that idea that sparks from nothing to everything. So, even if it’s the first word or melody. It didn’t exist before, so I’m in control of that. I’m in control of unveiling something new. “Oh, tah dah. Flowers.”

 

That is amazing to me how y’all come up with concepts.

 

You paint a picture. You tell a story. “Who am I?” It’s all like, when I wrote “Getting Late”. I wasn’t myself. It was a 49-year old woman who had been married three times, and had six kids. She’s in love with the first baby daddy, but he’s left her for somebody else. And the third one keeps coming back. Then she’s like, “Look, it’s getting late. Why you gotta be here?”

 

So, it’s like second person type of writing?

 

In some circumstances, because I was twenty-three when I wrote those songs. Twenty-three. I hadn’t been through anything. (laughs) In the grand scheme of things. I didn’t have a serious enough relationship to understand the type of depth where I was coming from. So, it was all character building. I love film. So, I think I approach it from a visual aspect. When I hear music I see it.

 

We can transition to Prince. Because I feel like you’re a Prince head.

 

Hmm. I am.

 

I treat Prince conversations like Fine China.

 

(laughs)

 

I’m still in denial.

 

I’m with you.

 

The anniversary is coming up (April 21st). What was that first Prince song that blew your mind?

 

It happened in stages. I think I recalled hearing the outro to “Computer Blue” first. (starts singing the outro). First of all, I’m five. (laughs) at the time. I’m like what is that chord change?! What is it emotionally doing to my insides? I’m too young to understand what that is. Growing up on that then, understanding as I grew up let me know that I was on to something. Let alone him. For my ear to understand that was it. “Take Me With You”, the opening drum lick—the strings—and the bridge. The video, like I can see that mansion. And I’m on that bike. I am Apollonia. Too young to be Apollonia (laughs). I wanted to purify myself in Lake Minnetonka.

 

(laughs) Right.

 

My favorite Prince song is on “3121”. And it’s called “The Dance”. When it gets to the outro, I have a rose in my mouth. I’m doing the tango, listen. Listen.

 

I think every “So, so” Prince fan loves “Purple Rain”. They love that “80’s Prince”. But his new stuff is just as good, and people sleep on it.

 

It’s like the ones who aren’t awake, if you will. Sleep. Because it’s more for me (laughs). I’m so selfish, like I don’t even want to put you on. Because if you don’t get it, it’s not for you. (laughs)

 

Yes, exactly.

 

And yes, it’s only been a year. I remember being on the tour bus, and I thought I was dreaming. I could hear it in the background someone told me Prince is dead. And I was asleep in my bunk. I’m opening the curtain like, “I didn’t hear that.” I just went back to sleep. I was like this is not the world I’m waking up to. I was pregnant at the time. I woke up, and I just remember seeing my fiance’s face, and then I knew it was true. He just held me. To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever done an “RIP” (on Twitter), or anything. I have for certain celebrities that have meant a lot to me coming up. Like, when Robin Williams died. Heartbroken. I loved that man. I loved those movies, and I grew up with him doing what he was doing. But Prince. Still to this day, I cannot. It’s not that I will not. I cannot place him not being here. This is someone, not just my idol/icon/legend to so many. I had tears running down my face opening that Essence (magazine) where he says my name. And I’m like, “He acknowledged me. He knew me. He sees me as his sister. Like, look it’s in writing.” This is an article for us, this is ours. This is our world. I can’t believe this is happening. And then on the same tour, having to play the same place. I went to the Fox Theatre. I was like “He was just here.” Two weeks after. I’m there in the same place, that he just played. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t do it.

 

What defines soul music to you?

 

Soul. The essence of you. That’s your soul. And wherever that place is within you. That’s what that is.

 

That’s it, just soul.

 

Just soul. Your soul.

 

Musically. What keeps that core of you when you want to venture out, and do different things?

 

I’m just myself. Like, I’m not an artist. My family, people who’ve been my homies forever. Like, that’s what makes me okay to go, “Hey, I just did this song with Train. Oh hey, I got this stuff with Dr. Dre called “Compton”, and we’re doing the “Straight Outta Compton” soundtrack”. That happens. Then, “Oh me, and Mary J. Blige are going to do a duet.” I’m just making music. I’m just being me.

 

So, it’s just strictly the music and everything else is just what it is.

 

Absolutely.


 

 

Marsha Ambrosius/Eric Benét (M.E. Tour) dates:

 

4/20 — Tampa, FL, Ferguson Hall
4/21 — Miami, FL, The Fillmore
4/23 — Orlando, FL, House of Blues
4/26 — Jacksonville, FL, The Florida Theatre
4/27 — Greensboro, NC, Cone Denim Entertainment Center
4/28 — Richmond, VA, The National
4/30 — Norfolk, VA, The NorVa
5/2 — New York, NY, B.B. King Blues Club & Grill
5/3 — New York, NY, B.B. King Blues Club & Grill
5/4 — Philadelphia, PA, Keswick Theatre
5/5 — Baltimore, MD, Rams Head Live!
5/6 — Washington D.C., The Howard Theatre
5/9 — Washington D.C., The Howard Theatre
5/12 — Indianapolis, IN, Murat Theatre at Old National Centre
5/14 — Chicago, IL, The Metro
5/18 — Minneapolis, MN, State Theatre
5/19 — Kansas City, MO, Uptown Theater
5/23 — Anaheim, CA, House of Blues
5/24 — Phoenix, AZ, TBA
5/25 — Las Vegas, NV, House of Blues
5/26 — Los Angeles, CA, The Wiltern
5/27 — San Diego, CA, House of Blues
6/1 — Seattle, WA, Moore Theatre
6/3 — Sacramento, CA, Crest Theatre
6/4 — San Francisco, CA, Yoshi’s
6/6 — San Francisco, CA, Yoshi’s
6/7 — San Francisco, CA, Yoshi’s
6/8 — San Francisco, CA, Yoshi’s