Alicia Keys is extremely focused these days. Like most women, she’s juggling many things at once: she’s promoting her brand new line of Reeboks, balancing a homelife with husband Swizz Beatz and raising her 2-year-old son, Egypt. Keys took time out of her busy schedule to speak about her latest album, Girl on Fire, out November 27. From listening to the music, it’s clear Keys is in a new space this time around. ESSENCE.com caught up with pianist to chat about the details of her forthcoming project and a revealing song called, “Brand New Me.” On top of that, Keys takes a moment to solve the mystery behind her long-awaited “Put It In a Love Song” video with Beyoncé.
ESSENCE.com: You have five albums under your belt with a catalogue of classics. Girl on Fire is all about a new you. How are you going to serve up a brand new sound while still delivering more classics?
ALICIA KEYS: I don’t think it’s really anything to be concerned about. I think that for me, I’ve always started my music mostly on the piano. There is a certain style of music that I just gravitate towards – that’s probably going to be a piano and a voice, and something kind of stripped back and simple. That’s going to happen naturally. Then there are other styles that come through or are new for me, or inspire me because they sound different. But nine times out of ten, they start at the piano. If they end up evolving and they have different sounds in them then it’s all good. The music always starts from home base. So you’ll always get what you’re looking for from me while also being able to grow with me to the next level. I think it’s a cool balance. When you hear the whole record, you’re going to love this one the best yet.
ESSENCE.com: There’s a song on the album called a “Brand New Me.” It’s also really revealing. Tell us about the inspiration for the song.
KEYS: It’s my autobiography. Every lyric is accurate to how I feel. It’s really about finding your bravery. Finding that strength to walk taller, to not stay under somebody any longer. I think in our relationships and our life, as we’re growing up, we naturally gravitate towards people and what they say means a lot to you. You might value their opinion very highly and all that’s good. That’s a part of learning. But at a certain point you have to step out on your own. This album and this time in my life is a real reflection of me stepping out on my own.
ESSENCE.com: How can someone be on fire like you?
KEYS: By being yourself. By finding your passion. I think that’s the cool thing about being on fire. It’s about not trying to be anyone else. It’s about finding your comfort zone. It’s about setting yourself free and releasing things that might have held you back, people that might not fit with you anymore. It’s about stepping into your confidence and knowing that you trust yourself, your thoughts are valid, you’re smart, you know what to do and you trust your own spirit. I think it’s about stepping into your light and owning it, however it is. I think that’s what being on fire is.
ESSENCE.com: Finally, fans have been dying to know what ever happen to the “Put It In a Love Song” video you shot with Beyoncé?
KEYS: Ohhh man! Y’all aren’t going to leave me alone about that! Sometimes with creative things [it] all comes together and it’s (makes perfection kissing noise) and sometimes things almost come together and it’s better to just leave it. So we love that song. We had a ball shooting the video. It just so happens that the whole thing, for some reason or another, didn’t quite come together so we just decided to leave it. And that’s what happened.