Amerie is as talented as she is beautiful as she is smart. In an age where singers are plucked from high school after posting videos of themselves on YouTube instead of doing their homework, she made sure to finish her education before she started her recording career. And what a career she’s had since hitting the scene in 2002 with her debut album, All I Have, considered by many to be a modern classic. But it was her infectious single “1 Thing” from the Hitch soundtrack that had everyone trippin’ and took her to the next level. Amerie is showing no signs of slowing down as she readies the release of her fourth studio album, In Love & War, this September on Def Jam Records. She’s on a new label, but her music remains an exhilarating mix of various styles that we’ve come to expect from the singer. In a revealing interview, Amerie sat down with Clutch to discuss her new album and her signature sound, how she manages to keep her name out of the gossip pages and her beauty secrets, including a surprising item that she always carries around with her. One thing that shouldn’t be surprising, however, is how down to earth this diva is, which is one of the many reasons why we love her and eagerly await her return.
Clutch: For those who may not know your back story, tell us how you got your start.
Amerie: In a nutshell, I was trying to get into the business for a really long time. And I was always working on a demo, and it took a lot of time. I was in DC and hooked up with Rich Harrison, and we were pretty much just trying to create a sound and create a vibe. We had really great chemistry so it came together really quickly. We ended up creating a demo and most of the songs on the demo ended up becoming my first album, All I Have. He knew someone who had the connection to Columbia, and I ended up getting signed by Don Ienner who was the head of the company at the time then came out with my first release.
Clutch: What exciting things do you have in store for us on your new album In Love & War?
Amerie: Well, I’m really excited about people just hearing the music. My last album, Because I Love It, which was just released overseas, was kind of a fusion of Hip Hop, Soul and ‘80s New Wave and it had some Funk and a Rock vibe in it. But this album is definitely Hip Hop, Rock and Soul fused together. The few friends that have been big fans of the first album—who just loved that album so much—they love this one just as much or maybe a little bit more. But it’s definitely a direct extension of the first album and an evolution from there.
Clutch: The first single and video are for the cut “Why R U?”, which we love. Any ideas on what the second single will be?
Amerie: I’m not sure, that’s the thing that’s tricky. We have a couple of ideas for the next one, but I think for the most part we’re just gonna kind of let people decide what it is. I don’t really have a preference for this or that. Well, I do kind of want one song in particular that might have a feature on it and I’m excited about that. But we’re gonna see. I say all that to say I don’t know. [Laughter]
Clutch: How would you describe the “Amerie Sound”?
Amerie: It’s hard for me to describe it in any kind of full sentence but more just like keywords. It’s hard and soft. It’s melodic. I love lush harmonies. It’s aggressive. It’s a great mix of aggression with a smooth finish. That’s the best way to describe it. It’s very soulful. And there does always seem to be a Hip Hop sensibility to it.
Clutch: How have you managed to escape the tabloids over the years when so many of your female contemporaries can’t seem to stay out of the headlines?
Amerie: I think some of it can be avoided and some of it can’t. For the most part, I like to go out, but most of my friends sorta like the same things as I do. We like to cook dinner in the house, we like to do movies, we’ll go to bookstores that have all the eclectic books and spiritual books. It just depends on who you run with I think. And I don’t hang out in bars and stuff cause I don’t drink. So to be in a bar and not drink, I think that would be pointless so I just don’t do that. Plus I like to keep things pretty private. But I don’t know, because even not doing all that stuff sometimes you might just be tabloid fodder. I don’t know check with me in like two years, we’ll see if it’s still the same way. [Laughter]
I was always on the path for academics. That was always something that I had done and I always believed in finishing what you started. That’s something that my parents really instilled in me.
Clutch: Okay, I’ll hold you to that.
Amerie: [More laughter] It’ll be like “Girl, I don’t know what happened! It’s crazy!”
Clutch: I know! I’ll be all “Oh my God! Did you see what Amerie did now? Gasp!”
Amerie: Hopefully I won’t be a basket case or anything.
Clutch: You’re an alumna of Georgetown University, how important was it for you to get your degree and finish your education before becoming a recording artist?
Amerie: I was always on the path for academics. That was always something that I had done and I always believed in finishing what you started. That’s something that my parents really instilled in me. So I was like I’m definitely going to go to the university because I’ve been doing all this studying and working hard all this time for that. Even before I decided that I wanted to sing. So I can’t stop short now. With that said, I have to be honest and say that when I was at college I did tell my parents, “You know if I do get a record deal, I’m leaving right?” And they were not really happy about it. Now, I’m not sure if that’s what I would have done, but I think that I had been working really hard towards that as well with the demos and everything. I didn’t really have a social life in school. It would have probably been very hard for me to turn down a deal if I had been offered one in the middle of being in university. That’s probably why God didn’t let me get a deal until later and I had to make that decision. Now if someone was presented a situation like in the middle of college with a deal and they might have to leave school, now knowing what I know I would probably tell them to go ahead and wait. Keep doing what you’re doing, but wait because it will still be there. So I’m really happy that I finished because it didn’t go anywhere.
Clutch: You have gorgeous hair, flawless skin, legs to die for and I could go on about how fly you are.
Amerie: Who’s that girl? I want to meet her. [Laughter] You’re talking about me?
Clutch: Yes, you!
Amerie: Aw thanks!
Clutch: So tell me, what does your beauty regiment and/or health and fitness routine consist of or is it all just good genes?
Amerie: You know what, I feel like a lot of it is genetics. I’m naturally thin and my legs are naturally muscular. Both of my parents have really muscular legs. But I think that also a lot of it is me watching what I eat. Not in the terms of calories because I don’t really concern myself with calories, but I do concern myself with what’s organic, what has lots of chemicals, etc. And that’s not because of weight but overall giving your body a break and letting it kind of just behave naturally. That’s important. Also, I love going to Korean spas. I grew up going there with my mom. But I’ll go there and be there for like five hours like “what happened to the time?” A lot of it is just water treatments and things like that that you do yourself and it’s just a healthy thing to do. And it really is great for yours skin and everything. And I drink a lot of water. I also eat Himalayan salt that I get from the Internet. It has like 72 minerals that are absent in regular salt, which is poisonous. But this salt makes sure that you don’t retain water, it can lower your blood pressure and it allows your cells to absorb water. It’s really good for you and I find that it makes a difference. I carry that salt with me. I’ll go to a restaurant and plop it down right on the table.
For more information on Amerie please visit www.myspace.com/ameriemimarie