Novel: The Audiobiography
Storytelling is a part of the musical art form that allows us to get to know artists in many ways. Some are filled with pain and some joy; nevertheless it shapes the person into whom they would become. With the moniker Novel, Alonzo Stevenson is giving us a sign that he has much to say.The Los Angeles, California born artist is the son of former Motown VP, Mickey Stevenson and grandson of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Solomon Burke. Though it seems as if getting into the music industry shouldve been easy for him, it definitely has been a bumpy ride.Novel will release his highly anticipated debut album on June 30th, via Rowdy/ Capitol Record, after being shuffled around on various labels including Rawkus, MCA and Interscope. People may not be familiar with Novel, but hes been behind the scenes in the music industry for many years.He is a multi-talented rapper, producer, singer, and songwriter, who is not limited to any one genre of music. If you asked him to pick one that he enjoys doing best, he says it would be difficult, though rapping is his first passion. During the course of his career, he has worked with artists such as Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, Leona Lewis, Stacie Orrico, Smokey Robinson, Talib Kweli, and Joss Stone among many others.Besides music, Novel also enjoys collecting and reading graphic novels and comic books; he is currently working on writing on one!AllHipHop.com Alternatives spoke with the talented musician about the release of his debut LP The Audiobiography, his relationship with Capitol Records and creating music dealing with social issues.AllHipHop.com Alternatives: When you were young, when did you realize that music was what you wanted to do?Novel: I kind of been doing this since before I can remember; it has always been in my family. My mother used to do backup for Chaka Khan; she was always on the road, my dad helped build Motown and my grandfather Solomon Burke, he sang. So it's always been in my family, we were born to do this and we were all brought up that way.AHHA: What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of having a connection in the music industry?Novel: No advantages, there was really no connection. The only connection is through my genes, my mother can sing, thats probably way I can sing and then my dad was a writer so I might have gotten that from him.As far as the connection goes, my dad and my grandfather - they were pretty tough. I had to shop my dad a demo, it wasnt like oh heres a deal. I really didnt even know my dad until I was much older, my mother and I spent time in shelters, I moved around from place to place and we were homeless at one point. So nothing was handed to us at all. As far as the connection goes, it was only what I inherited from them and the wisdom that I got from my dad.AHHA: How have the experiences in your life prepared you for your journey in the music industry?Novel: It prepared me a lot mentally; you cant prepare for it unless you experience it. I mean there was one point when my first single came out a long time ago, I think I was on MCA and I wasnt doing anything for a while because of the transition. So I was really depressed, because I havent really experienced it like that and loose a lot of things, that relationship, that money. I think the best thing you can gain is experience by being there and dealing with it, you know somethings you cant prepare for. I learned a lot from my father, watching him and seeing how he deals with things.AHHA: With your name being Novel, is the storytelling of your life experiences therapeutic?Novel: Definitely, it sounds selfish but it definitely is therapeutic. It's crazy because no two people are alike, but nothing is new under the sun. So I think that even though Im telling the story and its about my life, what Ive seen and what Ive been through, a lot of people can still relate to the same thing.I have two kids, I was young when I had my first baby, my daughter is ten years old and Im only 28. I went through some things with her mother, so I didnt know my daughter for a while. We were young kids, she was doing her thing and I was in love and all that. So I experienced a lot as young male. I think that with me sharing my story, yeah its about me but I think there are a lot of people that could have experienced the same exact thing.AHHA: Youve worked with many notable people in the music industry, who would you say was the most interesting?Novel: The best experience I had was with Alicia Keys - shes an incredible artist. It's weird meeting somebody that has the same work ethic that I have, a female, but she works exactly like how I work. She produced her own stuff, wrote her own stuff, at times others come in.Shes a beast in the studio, no sleep, work, work, work. The way she creates, it's just incredible, so Ive never seen anybody do it like that. Most of the artists that I produce for or have written for, they dont write, dont produce or it's one or the other.She plays instruments; she produces her tracks, so thats what I do. Seeing that was incredible, thats why the only other artist thats my favorite of all time is Lauryn Hill. To see people so creative, there are cats out there that are like that. I come from my dad's era, the Motown days, when you had to do everything yourself.AHHA: So how do you prepare for each of the different elements [rapper , producer, singer, and songwriter] of Novel?Novel: If Im doing it for me, I dont really move unless Im inspired to move. If Im producing and writing for somebody else, I dont really have that option because its on their time, but you have to feel their situation and put yourself in there shoes. So the only time I really change the hats is when Im producing for another artist, or Im writing for another artist, and its cool because I dont have to be myself for a moment I can be them.AHHA: Talk to us about your up coming album The Audiobiography.Novel: The Audiobiography is coming out June 30th, it has Chrisette Michele, Leona Lewis, not too many guest stars, Joell Ortiz, Spree Wilson, a new artist. Most of the records are produced by me, but I did some production with No I.D., DJ Toomp, and Dallas Austin. I did some writing with Robin Thicke, but I dont know if the song is going to make the album. So the writing is done by me and most of the production is done by me.AHHA: What is your favorite song on the album?Novel: My favorite song is the song right now called F**k With My Mind the person that, well I cant really explain it [laughs]. It's just about being in a relationship and being in love with this girl and shes messing me up so I gotta let her go, I cant let her f**k with my mind.Another record thats my favorite is the last record on the album called "Here To Stay," it's more like an Alternative record. I would say it has a Cold Play vibe, but now its like cool to say that, but their one of my favorite bands. Some people say it because they think its cool and its supposed to sound eclectic. Im a Coldplay fan; their very first album changed my life, it was a great record.AHHA: Since youve created so many hits, do you feel any pressure to make sure that your album is even better?Novel: No not really! You know it's funny I made this statement in another interview and I think people took it out of context, I was saying that one of my favorite records is the Illmatic record. When it came out it was such a prolific album and Nas had gained so much respect from everybody else. It didnt matter what he would do next, sales didnt matter at that point, and it didnt sell anything.I think it's more important that people understand where you coming from as a lyricist in that point. As far as making money, I got kids so; I have to feed my kids. I truly mean I dont care about the sales because Ill go produce and thats whats been paying my bills anyway. Me as an artist never paid my bills really, because Ive been on five labels and Ive been in the game for like ten years. A lot of people think Im new, but Ive been behind the scenes in the music industry.So I really feel like an old head at the end of the day, I just never got a chance to put the album out. Ive gained some respect from my peers, I would like to get it from listeners, and hopefully theyll understand it too. Thats all I really care about, so Im going to keep writing, producing for other people and Ill make the records for me.AHHA: Youve been through many label changes, how is Capital Records treating you?Novel: Capitol is the best, I have the same A&R as Katy Perry, Chris Anokute, so it's kind of different for me because I think the Alternative side of Capitol gets me, but also the Urban side over there that works really great. I have my own people that Ive been working with on my album since day one at Rawkus, which is this kid Mike Heron who manages Joell Ortiz, hes been with me since day one, so hes still a part of my project.I have the right people around me, Capitol has been the best because they move and they understand it like an independent would, so I like that. Out of everybody that I have signed to, theyve been the most understanding and they support me the most, so I love Capitol.AHHA: You have the song Mad World Rm and the EP I Am Future Black President. How important do you believe it is as an artist to touch on issues that are effecting our society?Novel: I think its very important, at the end of the day were like the voice of the youth, the voice of the generation. Most people are not listening to anybody anymore, we got a mic in our hands and we got a stage so I think it makes it really easier especially for young people. Music touches so many people, so I think its very important when you get on that pedestal or whatever talent you have to project out something and get a message across.I dont care if you rap about this or that, I think if you have the power to do it send a message out there. Some of the artists out there when they write songs that touch people, like when Jay-Z wrote that song about Katrina ["Minority Report"], I thought that was great for an artist at his level to do something like that, because he has so many songs and so many listeners. Like Kanye West did with "Jesus Walks," I think its really important.