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EXCLUSIVE: Alicia Keys Talks Producing 'Mister & Pete' and Love with Swizz Beatz

The talented singer, writer and director opens up about producing her first movie and a possible duet album with Maxwell.
EXCLUSIVE: Alicia Keys Talks Producing ‘Mister & Pete’ and Love with Swizz Beatz
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Is there anything Alicia Keys can’t do?

It seems like everything she touches or contributes turns to gold. That’s certainly the case when it comes to her newest project, the gritty film The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete (out today), starring Jennifer Hudson, Skylan Brooks and Ethan Dizon. Although Keys is not in front of the camera this time around, she agreed to not only score the film, but co-produce it as well.

ESSENCE.com caught up with the ever cool and relaxed songstress at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City to chat about Mister & Pete, love with her husband and to get an update on her duet album with Maxwell.

ESSENCE.com: Anybody that follows your career knows you don’t sign on to projects you don’t feel a connection to. What was it about the Mister & Pete script you couldn’t resist?
ALICIA KEYS: It just got me from the jump. I met the director, George Tillman, maybe five years ago. He was like, ‘I have this script and I think you’re going to love it.’ And when I read it, it was so powerful. I read it in one day. I was devastated and at the same time mesmerized with how the characters were. I was rooting for them. Then I was laughing. Cracking up. I just fell in love with the way it was so human. It was really honest and real. Also, it had these complex emotions that came out. It was engaging.

ESSENCE.com: This film is about survival for two kids in the projects of Brooklyn. If you had to create a film about your childhood, how would you describe it?
KEYS: The movie about my childhood would be two sided. That’s the thing I remember the most. Being right in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen. It was filled with drug addicts, prostitutes, pimps and x-rated theaters. It was a very dark place. And even the people that came to 42nd street at the time were like misfits. But then at the same time, on the other side of the street, it was Broadway. There were all these restaurants. And you would see these lights and the shows! It was totally two different worlds. If we were doing a movie on my childhood it would be about those two different worlds and how they inspired me to do something.

ESSENCE.com: Maxwell shared that you two are working on a duet album together! What’s the progress on that?
KEYS: Maxwell has such a big mouth! (Laughs jokingly) We’ve spoken about a couple of different things. We’ve spoken about definitely doing something creative together. But which way that comes together… I’m not sure yet.

ESSENCE.com: Are you beginning to think about your next album?
KEYS: For the next record, I’m realizing that I love music. I already know how much I love music. I’m realizing more and more how much it means to me. I think that’s what happens to me. You put all this time into a record and then you go out and tour the record. And I always feel this longing to go back to that beginning space when you’re making it again. I would really like to make something new. Not new as in it’s not me. I’ve been hearing all these sounds in all these places. There’s so much soul and content. So I’ve been more open to hearing new things.

ESSENCE.com: What would you say your husband, Swizz Beatz, loves most about Alicia Keys and what he loves most about Alicia Dean (her married last name)?
KEYS: That’s a good question! I’m going to ask him this question tonight. I think what he likes most about Alicia Keys is that I really put my time into [music]—that I produce, that I create, that I write the songs. He’s always bragging that I’m a better producer than most producers. He likes that I create my own thing. What he would say he likes most about Alicia Dean… I think he would say how good of a mother I am. He would also say how I care about him and our family.