Eight years deep in the
industry, R&B crooner Avant learned quickly that he had to craft his own
identity or risk being fazed out to prepubescent pretty boys or afro-sporting pseudo-soulquarians.
Over ten hit singles and four albums, the Cleveland-bred vocalist proved he
wasnt just another new millennium R. Kelly Xerox, and that talent backed by an
athlete as a label head could actually be quality. As his first album My
Thoughts rose to the top of the
charts powered by hits like Separated and the resurrected Rene and Angela
classic cover My First Love with songbird KeKe Wyatt, Avants inception built
a mounting repertoire difficult to match. Avant has watched his success both
soar and stall, yet this has the singer more determined to make bigger waves.
Avant has also added actor to
his title landing roles in 2004s Barbershop 2: Back in Business and David E. Talberts stage play Love in the Nick
of Tyme with Morris Chestnut.
However, picking up scripts hasnt stopped him from nearly breaching commercial
crossover success with the 2006s Director and taking part in the USO Tour singing to the men and
women in uniform overseas in Iraq.
Now returning with a new
single When it Hurts, a forthcoming self-titled album and pending duet album
with KeKe Wyatt, Avant has left the over-crowded Geffen Records roster for the
greener pastures of Capitol Records. Among the labels historic lineage, Avant
feels the way to make himself at home is to eternally remain true to his fans. Director – Avant
Alternatives: Your last album 2007s Director did well on the charts. Now its 2008, whats going
on with Avant?
Avant: I took a little time off trying to get into the
acting game. At the same token, I was working on a new album and also signing
with a different company. Im at Capitol Records now. Its a beautiful look;
Im happy to be there. The Geffen situation was like we both felt like it was
time for us to part one another, but I cant really be upset with them because
they gave me ten hits. Now its time for me to get some of this good music to
Capitol Records. Its a new Avant 2008, I had to name the album Avant.
AHHA: What are your thoughts on the success of Director? Do you feel like you have progressed as an artist
since your last project?
Avant: I thought it was a great record, but got lost in the
shuffle. It got missed thats why I felt it was that time to part ways [with
Geffen], but I got some great records on the new one though. I got the single When
It Hurts, I got another single with Trackmasters called Perfect Gentleman. I
worked with Mr. Collipark, Smurf from Atlanta on this album so you know this is
very diverse. It has a lot of everything on it and the baby making music, the
boy-girl friend type joints and its all consistent. I wanted to give them a
little bit of everything.
I didnt really go with a
blueprint on this album, because I wanted to go in and make good music and
thats what I came up with. The funny thing about it is that in 2000 it was all
about learning, the next album the fourth album is the same thing. Now I just
want to show everybody what I have learned being a songwriter and producer. To
me it was baby steps but it was huge as well because Ive been blessed to work
with a whole bunch of artists and to have the respect of your peers is a
beautiful look. It was all a learning experience.
AHHA: With so many people like Ne-Yo, The Dream and Keri
Hilson getting noticed for the production and writing side of the R&B game,
do you feel pressured to step against the traditional R&B singer role to
write more or dabble in more involvement in your projects?
Avant: Not necessarily; Ive been writing all my life
on every album I wrote every song. It is just something I do period. I
felt with this album I had so much that I learned that I just had to show
everybody. Its hard for me to put myself out there and try to be noticed. Its
cool and I appreciate people that notice me for it, but I just do whats in my
heart. I just do it for the love of what it is. I really dont try to get it
out there and get any accolades for it. I appreciate them for loving it.
AHHA: I also heard you were recently on the USO tour. How
was the experience doing that, going to perform in a country at war?
Avant: I was in Iraq for like eight days or so and it was an
amazing experience. The troops are going through some stuff. I just wanted to
go over and show love because I told them that I would come through. Just to
see them and their expressions on songs, like I did Christopher Crosss
Sailing, and just to see their expressions and what is going on in their
lives really made me respect living my life. Them over there fighting for me
everyday, made me respect everything. My whole thing I ended up staying in one
of Saddams guest homes and wow it was just an experience. It was really crazy;
theyre wondering why other artists wont come over here.
I tell them, I dont know,
its kind of hard for me to explain that one. I mean they are warring over
there, some people are just not feeling that. I made a commitment to go over
there. Im so glad I did it and I would do it again. I just wanted to go and
find out what was going on. Once I got over there, then I got to see everything
but I didnt go in with any thoughts. I just wanted to go over there and give
them a good time because I knew they were going through hardships.
Just talking to them, they
had a good head on their shoulders about the whole situation, because I asked a
lot of questions like, Yo whats the reason for us being over here, I would
really like to know and they were saying we were supposed to be peacemakers
through the whole ordeal. So Im like, Wow how can you be peacemakers in a war
that has been going on for like four hundred years? They understand their
mission and are doing their thing. I hope they send them home soon too.
AHHA: Over the years you have done quite a bit of
collaborations with rappers. What Rap and R&B collaborations are you most
proud or stands out to you?
Avant: The Snoop Dogg one I Can Read Your Mind was kind of
dope. Bone Thugs N Harmony was amazing with Making Good Love. I did a collabo
with Lil Wayne that was fun too, because Lil Wayne was like, Yo I aint never
seen this many girls, this was before he really became Lil Weezy, you know? He
was like, Wow, there are some pretty women, I want to be an R&B star. You
know its a beautiful thing to have history and have people respect your music.
Then you look up and see
theyre doing wonderful things too. Then with Bone Thugs N Harmony, I was such
a big fan of them to watch and see how they create is amazing. And then Snoop
Dogg, he was like, I dont know why my wife loves you but she does, and from
that point our relationship blossomed. Working with 50 Cent as well, and Puff
Daddy, and its been a great look. These people, I have so much respect for
AHHA: One of your biggest hits and fan favorites has to be
My First Love with KeKe Wyatt. How did the idea for the remake come about?
Avant: I used to lay on my sisters lap and listen to that
song. I was like, Wow this song is amazing. I really didnt have an idea of how
special the song really was. I just liked the arrangement, the strings, the
whole nine. I was so young though, it made no sense to me. Once I listened to
it again, when I was doing my first album, it was like Wow this song is
amazing. I decided to do the record; I was working with my man Steve Huff at
that present time. He was like, I got a girl, she is dope, she can kill it.
So I was like Alright, let me hear. When I heard her I was like, I got to
step my game up. She is ill.
AHHA: Have you ever got any feedback from Rene Moore or
Angela Winbush about how you guys tackled it? I know you performed with Angela
on 106 & Park a few years
back. Are there any more remakes in Avants future?
Avant: Angela Winbush, she loved the record, she is big fan
of mine too. I call her my other mother. She always showed me a lot of love and
I thank Angela for that. I might do another one of their records just because I
like the vibe. They had a wonderful connection, and Im all about a connection
and a vibe. This album right here, I did Sailing by Christopher Cross
Ive been hearing that they really respect this record as well. Im blessed to
be able to take somebodys record and put my own twist to it, and people
respect it. So that is what I will try to stay consistent in doing, also giving
them great hit records from my mind as well.
AHHA: Almost immediately when you stepped on the scene you
got some R. Kelly comparisons. Do you feel you have etched your own path in
music from the sexy ladies man crooning cookie cutter?
Avant: Never. You have about think about it, dude ran the
whole 90s. I came in 2000, so for me have my first record come out and people
be like he reminds me of R. Kelly, that is one of the biggest compliments I
couldve ever gotten in my life. From that point on, I knew one thing I
had to stay consistent and continue to put records out so people can understand
this is my voice, get used to my voice and know who Avant was. That was my
whole focus in putting records out in 2000 and 2003 banging out records, so
people know my voice. So now its 2008 and people are like, When is that new
Avant album coming out? It really worked and I was blessed to get in the game
and be acknowledged with even sounding like dude. Just to be acknowledged is a
beautiful look so now I stand alone by myself.
AHHA: I heard youre getting more into acting do you have
any scripts in front of you? Will that mean you might be neglecting music after
this next album?
Avant: Well actually I am reading a couple of scripts. I did
the role in Barbershop 2. I also
did the DVD version of First Sunday.
Love in the Nick of Tyme
just me and Morris Chestnut. If its a good role, s**t, it can go straight to
DVD, I dont care. Im with it.
What was so fun about the play is that everybody is a new cast member.
The only person that was a real veteran to the game was Ella B. English, from
the Jamie Foxx Show. Everybody
else was brand-new like rookies to the game. It was a beautiful look
AHHA: What situation in the industry, do you feel you
learned the most from in the past eight years?
Avant: This changing of the record companies, I think I have
learned a lot from that, because its a difference. Even going through the
whole rigmarole of getting signed. I didnt know it would be so rough getting
out of a deal. You have to go through paperwork and you really have to make
sure its the right look for everybody. The company has got to make sure they
want to let me go and they want to make sure I got with not owing them
anything, so that was a beautiful thing. Then re-signing again and picking a
company that is the right one for you. It was rough.
AHHA: What has been your biggest achievement in the
industry so far?
Avant: My biggest achievement is to get in front of my fans
and perform, the way they lose their minds over my performance and my music
really. Youre going from city to city and people are like, I love you, thank
you so much you got me out of a relationship or you helped me build my
relationship even more. Its like you feel like Dr. Phil or something.
AHHA: There is no question your music has probably made a
baby or two. How do you feel about being able to affect the most intimate parts
of peoples lives with your music?
Avant: It takes you to a level you have never been to
before, but you have to watch that because you might be feeling yourself too
much. What I do is gear everything by fans. If theyre not satisfied, then Im
not satisfied. I just try to give them everything I got.
AHHA: So when you got your own date, do you ever put on
your own tracks?
Avant: Actually I cant listen to my own music; not when Im
with my girl. Because honestly I listen to [my] music for flaws basically or
what I couldve done better. I am so critical of myself; Im hard on myself all
the time. You know were supposed to be having conversations about each other
and Im thinking about this dumb ass music. Thats not going to get us nowhere.
AHHA: Everybody has great artists growing up whom they
wanted to be like as adults; who was yours?
Avant: Really, my uncle who passed away a couple years ago.
He was trying to get in the music game; his whole fight was to get into the
music game. I really wanted to be like him honestly. He never made it in the
music game, and he passed away from cancer. But he told me a long time ago
before he passed away, Look nephew, you got what it takes to take what they
I was like wow, here this guy
is dying of cancer and hes like live life everyday with a smile. Sometimes
he couldnt even walk he had Myeloma and what that does is eat at your bones. I
always stick with that statement; it holds really heavy in my heart. You got
what it takes to take what they got.