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EXCLUSIVE: Amel Larrieux on Making a Comeback with New Album

The neo-soul singer opens up about her forthcoming, and fifth, studio album, Ice Cream Every Day.

Amel Larrieux broke out onto the music scene back in 1995 as one-half of Groove Theory. Her effortless vocals and thoughtful songwriting, coupled with Bryce Wilson’s production produced hit songs like “Never Enough” and “Tell Me.”

Larrieux released four albums since Groove Theory disbanded in 1999—including her most recent, 2007’s Lovely Standards, a collection of classic jazz songs. She released “Afraid,” her first single in five years this week (listen in below). ESSENCE.com spoke with Larrieux to discuss her five-year absence, what makes a song album-worthy and her forthcoming album, Ice Cream Every Day.

ESSENCE.com: On your Facebook page, you wrote that the new album title, Ice Cream Every Day, is about finding something to indulge in every day. What’s a “treat” for you?
AMEL LARRIEUX: Honestly, I find that I’m happiest when I’m outdoors. If I wasn’t singing, I could see myself as a park ranger. I love fauna and flora, all of it. I’ve gone to the Redwoods twice and I’m so envious of the rangers’ jobs. Nature is like an incredible miracle around you. It gives you room to breath, think, to not do anything at all. My mood can be so gloomy but when I get outside and tune into nature it makes me happy. I try to indulge in it as much as I can when I’m working.

ESSENCE.com: This album has been, what, five years in the making? When can we expect to hear it?
LARRIEUX: I can say now that there’s a date. The album will be released August 27 and the first single, “Afraid,” will be out on June 13 [see below for new single]. It took five years for a number of reasons. First, I’m raising two amazing teen daughters—which is a job. I’m not one of those people that say I can do everything. Throughout making the album, I’ve had to stop one thing or the other to focus on what needed my attention at that time. Funny enough, it was easier when my kids were younger but now there are different things I have to be available for, questions I have to answer.

And there were other things. We’ve moved a few times. We’ve always had our own studio and, when we started moving around, it made it difficult. We’re independent. I don’t have a machine behind me. I have a beautiful, small group of people that I work with. Not having a studio at home created some problems. That can make it take a little longer. Lucky for me there’s the Internet and people who support me. Having that support extends how long you can take as an artist and gives you new life because more people are constantly discovering you.

ESSENCE.com: In terms of the creative process, what makes a song album-worthy? How do you decide what stays in the notebook and what gets recorded?
LARRIEUX: It doesn’t always have a bunch of reasoning behind it. Often it’s just how I feel. Sometimes there will be something, a lyric or another piece of work we’re doing that’s just dragging along and [my husband] Laru is very good at remembering things we’ve worked on that we should pick back up. The way I work is from my heart. I’m probably way too in touch with my feeling but it informs who I am as an artist, who I am and how I write. How I feel effects the way I’m going to write or the song I want to present.

ESSENCE.com: When did you first realize that you had a talent for writing songs?
LARRIEUX: I’ve been writing songs before I could even speak. I would just make them up. My mom is a professor of history and a researcher. All of her work was around chronicling things with tape recorders and she would record them. Before long, I was writing my own stuff. The moment I realized it could turn into a job was when I was working for Karen Durant, a music publisher. I was her assistant. I was actually labeling the cassettes. Bryce Wilson was signed there as a producer. He was trying to get a group together and shopping a deal. He said, “Well…look do you want to try writing one of the tracks?” When he heard it, he said why don’t you just be the singer too. And that was the beginning of it.

ESSENCE.com: So Groove Theory was born just like that?
LARRIEUX: It wasn’t quite that fast. There were years when we were in a demo deal. We signed to Sony when I was 19 and the album didn’t come out until a few years later but it didn’t feel prolonged. My nature is very Buddhist. I never really thought about the future so I don’t remember being too upset about it. I knew I was broke but I was always able to eat and pay my rent. I kind of just went with the flow. It never dawned on me that anything incredible was happening.

ESSENCE.com: You’re currently touring. What can the public expect out of an Amel Larrieux show?
LARRIEUX: I describe the atmosphere at my shows as energetic and vibrant. It’s what I give and definitely what I get from the audience. I’m lucky to have that kind of support base. They’re great. We interact and enjoy the moment. I have a show coming up at B.B. King’s in New York (June 20th). I like the venue and I’m excited to perform.

Check out Amel Larrieux’s latest single “Afraid” below and let us know what you think.