Music lovers take note: Brandy, the sweet and coquettish pop star, is a full-grown woman. And the ambitiously soulful sound of third album Full Moon Atlantic Records, which drops March 5, stands as a testament to her musical and personal growth. Moon, is a sexy, deeply personal and introspective map to her life experiences. After a three-year hiatus, the 23-year-old has blossomed into a musical force free of the girly-girl sound that marked her previous works.

Her new full-bodied vocal range has not gone unnoticed. “Brandy’s invoking her ancestors when she sings,” says the seven-time Grammy nominee India.Arie during a recent visit to ESSENCE’s Manhattan offices. “Her album is incredible.”
Music is not the only transition Brandy has made. The once-cutesy sitcom staple of the early and mid-90’s — whose TV credits include Thea and Moesha — is now a wife and mother-to-be. Even with all her new responsibilities, the singer and actress’s mass appeal hasn’t ebbed. Her first single “What About Us,” an erotic techno track about getting over ex-beaus, is steadily blazing the pop charts. caught up with Lady B to get the low down on her new album, married life and her new look.

Your new album Full Moon is downright infectious. How has your sound evolved from your debut album?

As an artist I have grown creatively. I used to be afraid to try new things with my voice because I was young and unsure — afraid of what people would think and how I might sound. I just stuck with what got me signed and never went outside my element. Now I am more confident and open to experimenting. I don’t have a particular tone or style [my voice] can be nasal, raspy, loud, soft or quiet. [Vocally] I’m more aggressive and I sound more mature. I play with my voice like an instrument — tuning it up and down. Anything you can do with an instrument, I can do with my voice.

What’s your favorite track on Full Moon and why?

I love all of them. I am singing from my heart and I hope [my fans] can tell. I have never done anything like this before — it’s a new sound for me — very futuristic. There is nothing on the radio like this. The [songs] are radical, serene, cool, strong and fun. They are all very personal and reflect my life — what I’ve been going through in the past three years in love and life and how I’ve handled it. And most importantly, how I’ve come out of the difficulties to find a wonderful person.

Congrats Ms. Newlywed! How is married life treating you and how will you balance family and career?

Married life is great! I’ve been married for six months now and it feels so good. It’s like if the love were to ever die, this person would still be in my life. I feel great about my husband [Robert Smith, the cousin of mega producer Rodney Jerkins]. I am free to be myself and do what I want. In some relationships people feel trapped like they can’t be themselves, but it’s not like that with us. The things you do when you are all by yourself, I can do in front of him. My husband did three songs on the album. I think we work really well together. We have such a great relationship and musical chemistry. We are both young and we are growing as friends, lovers and musicians. I am not worried at all about balancing my career and family. I am used to having my family around me and it’s comfortable. I want to be a mom and bring my children into my career so they can see what their mother does. (Note: Brandy’s baby is due in July)

Girl, we love your new look. You’ve gotten rid of your braids and lost weight. I understand you’re a vegan now which requires major discipline. What inspired your makeover?

Well, I’m 23 now and I’ve grown into this woman. I feel sexy and more mature. I wanted these inside changes to be reflected in both my look and music. I am a vegan now and it was a conscious decision. I studied a lot about African culture and health and the best way to take care of the body. I really wanted to be healthy. At first I was just trying to challenge myself; I thought it was a phase and that I would grow out of it, but it wasn’t. I found out a lot about the body and what [hormones] they put in meat. My taste buds started changing and I didn’t crave [meat and dairy products] anymore.

Taking care of yourself from the inside out is the best way to improve your physical and spiritual well-being. Are you equally committed to your spirituality?

My spirit is constantly growing — it’s limitless — there’s no destination only a journey. I am really into my soul advancing and becoming more involved as a person. I love how everything is interconnected. There isn’t a set place that I am trying to get to, I just keep evolving.

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