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Avant – No Limits

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Cleveland native Avant landed his first recording contract in 1998 when he was barely 20-years-old, and in 1999 MCA Records released his song “Separated” on a summer compilation. Avant signed a deal the following year with Magic Johnson’s label, which was distributed through MCA Records. In 2000 they released his first full album, My Thoughts, which went platinum. The contract with Magic Johnson Music was short-lived, and MCA took over with Avant’s second album, Ecstacy, in 2002.

With his new album, Private Room, Avant hopes to highlight his songwriting abilities. The first single “Read Your Mind”, released in September 2003, set him up nicely for the new year. He is maintaining hope that the third time will be his charm.

AHHA: Over the course of three albums, how far do you feel you’ve actually come in your recording career?

Avant: I’m still not where I wanna be. I want to be in this game for fifty years, like the life of Ron Isley. I think I’m on a good pace though, growing and understanding my fan base, and them understanding me as well. The first album was a special album because it was my first – it went platinum. I think in marketing and publicity that MCA Records didn’t deal with neither one of them records the right way, so it kind of left me a little mixed up and scorned, but coming into this third album I wanted to make it real personal. I wanted to try to beat the odds. If I’m not gonna get the publicity I wanna make it personal so when the ladies listen to it they feel like I’m right there, wherever they are – the bedroom, bathroom… wherever – so they can call their friends like, ‘You need to pick up this Avant album’.

AHHA: What does Private Room room represent to you?

Avant: I’ve grown as a person, so there’s more to talk about in life. I try to make every scenario a little different – talking about taking you to heaven, or just having some fun, or maybe just having some phone sex. I tried to combine everything and make a great album.

AHHA: Who did your songwriting on the album? Who did the production?

Avant: I wrote like 95% of the songs. I didn’t write ‘Heaven’ or ‘Have Some Fun’ – I wrote everything else on the album. I’m very in tune with that – I’ve been very blessed to write every last one of my albums. I’m glad to be able to grow and give people what they want at a constant level. My man Steve Huff [produced] every song except two songs too.

AHHA: What was it like being signed to Magic Johnson’s label before Geffen?

Avant: Magic started me out – I thank Magic for everything. He just felt like he didn’t want to do music anymore. He has his hands in a lot of stuff. He was like ‘I gave you a chance to open the door, now it’s on you to kick it down and to stay in the game’. I really appreciate everything Magic has done for me. I was also signed under MCA Records, but they turned that into a catalog label, so now I’m just with Geffen Records. The publicity is getting up and people are starting to notice me as a person and as an artist, and that’s all I can ask for.

AHHA: Did it affect you to have Keke Wyatt get so much attention from your work together? Do you have plans to work together again?

Avant: It was kinda weird, but on the same token I never looked at it like that, but I did get a lot of press on that. I wrote the song “Nothing In This World” and everyone thought it was on my album, but it was on her album. Her album went gold though off of one single, so I’m blessed to be able to help her out.

My album came out and ‘Makin’ Good Love’ did wonderful – it actually sold 600,000 units of that single – it sold what the album had sold at that point. I did the [song] ‘Don’t Say No, Just Say Yes’, but it was Hip Hop driven on the radio at that point, and the company didn’t want to stick it out. That kind of hurt my feelings because everybody that listens to that song to this day is like, ‘Yo, that is one of the hottest joints you ever wrote’. Those are the things you have to deal with in life – everyday you have potholes and things that don’t go well. It all depends on how you’re gonna deal with it. I try to just continue on, because I know that everyday is not gonna be peaches and cream. KeKe and I are about to do the Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell song ‘Your Precious Love’.

AHHA: Are you doing any touring this year?

Avant: Yeah, real soon actually. It’s gonna be me, Jagged Edge, Joe, and Ginuwine. It’s gonna be one of those old sexy tours.

AHHA: Sounds like a panty dropper tour…

Avant: Haha! That’s my goal! My goal is to drop a couple of panties, or to have a couple of them on stage when I get off. I’m not gonna pull my own coattail, but you must see me perform.

AHHA: You mentioned that it’s been such a Hip Hop driven market. Do you think R&B has been set to the side when it comes to touring?

Avant: We’re trying to show with this tour, to let people know that we can, as R&B artists, go out together… Just like how Jay-Z and them did the Hip Hop thing, we want people to know that R&B can do the same thing.

AHHA: What are your plans with your songwriting? Do you have artists hitting you up, or how does it generally happen for you?

Avant: It’s kinda weird you know, I have artists calling, but it’ll be more like new artists that need good records. I’m ready to work with anyone. I don’t want to give an artist my style, I want to give them their style. That’s what I really respect about writers such as Babyface – whenever he wrote a song for you, he wrote a song in your vein. That’s what a good songwriter is. I don’t want you to sound like me.

AHHA: Seeing that it seems to be the new trend, did the label or anyone else try to push you to get an R. Kelly song on your album?

Avant: Naw. My success speaks for itself. They had a write up in Billboard that out of the last ten years, I was consecutively in the Top Ten with like five Top Ten hit records – and only four other people done that. That was Aaliyah, Ginuwine, R. Kelly, and myself – but they said I did it on my own merit. I was the only one who didn’t use a rapper to do every last one of my records. I think they respect it at a certain level, but on the same token they don’t know what they have yet, and that’s just me having to prove myself more. I’m not mad – I know what my goals are.

AHHA: Is there anything you’ve ever wanted to do aside from singing and songwriting?

Avant: Actually, I’m in the new movie Barbershop 2. I’m Cedric The Entertainer’s best friend Dexter – me and Ced is on the El-Train singin ‘Your Precious Love’. It was fun. Also I just did the sitcom One On One. With me singing all the time – I used to be in the Cleveland School Of Arts for acting, so I’m kinda rusty on my acting but it all started to come back as we did takes. When you go into an arts school it prepares you for entertainment, so I branched off and did some of everything.

AHHA: Where do you see yourself going in the future?

Avant: My focus is basically just to give people great music – great albums. I tell people all the time, it’s not hard to write a song, but it’s hard to write hit records. A lot of people get it twisted. It’s gotta be something that’s very intriguing to people, and that they feel like you wrote the song about them. I wrote the song ‘Read Your Mind’ listening to Teddy Pendergrass… {singing} ‘Come on and go with me, come on over to my place’… I wrote that joint – I wanted to write a 2004 version of that song, so I came up with {singing} ‘I can read your mind babe, I know what your thinkin’. The whole thing was to have the same scenario, just a new day and time of trying to get the girl outta the club. Times change, but peoples’ thought process really don’t change.

The song ‘Don’t Take Your Love Away’, which will be my next single, I was thinking on a Kobe Bryant level of him in the press conference with his girl… he sounded so sincere. I don’t commend nothing negative that went on in that whole thing, but the sincerity came from that it’s really between him and his girl at the end of the day – we as the media have nothing to do with it. I felt him on that level of ‘I made a mistake, but don’t take your love away from me’.

The growth process on this album came from just growing and meeting a different year and focusing on different things on going on in our world.

AHHA: Is there anyone in the industry that you’d like to work with that you haven’t been put in touch with yet?

Avant: Well, by me working with Ron Isley or the Isley Brothers, and working with Charlie Wilson of the Gap Band, that’s fifty years in the game – almost a hundred years. I don’t close the door to any entertainer that wants to work with me.

AHHA: Any final thoughts?

Avant: I wanna take the time to thank everybody for supporting me as an artist, and getting to know me – coming inside my private room and getting to know me.

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