There was absolutely no way we could do an 90’s R&B feature and not include singing songbird Shanice! Shanice is best known for one of the biggest hits in the 90’s, “I Love Your Smile.” Her career started by taking the top prize on the world-renowned show Star Search, she also appeared on the popular Kids Incorporated, recorded 5 albums and was nominated for a Grammy as well as starred on Broadway in Les Miserables.
Shanice has won the admiration of many of the music industry’s most respected names by performing many notable duets including “Love Will Follow” with Kenny Loggins on his “Live In The Redwoods” CD, “Breathe Again” on Babyface’s MTV Unplugged CD, and “If I Never Knew You”, the hit single with Jon Secada from Disney’s “Pocahontas.” And just recently on Michael Jackson‘s “Behind The Mask” from Michael and Rahsaan Patterson’s “Crazy” also featuring Faith Evans. Shanice’s voice has been included on soundtracks from the movies, “Boomerang”, “The Meteor Man” and she sang a cover of Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “If I Were Your Woman” in the movie “Panther.” Shanice has also opened up for the pop group N’ Sync she graced the stage with pop icon Justin Timberlake at Atlanta’s Lakeview Amphitheatre, when he joined her in a duet performance of her memorable ballad “Yesterday”.
UrbanBridgez.com talked to Shanice for our 90’s R&B Interview Series and in part one of this two-part interview Aries talked to her about her huge 90’s hit “I Love Your Smile,” her obstacles from then to now, record label politics, her new management, working with Rahsaan Patterson & Faith Evans and much more!
UrbanBridgez.com: You released one of the biggest singles in the 90’s “I Love Your Smile,” looking back now how did that single shape your career or did it?
Shanice: Wow, that single actually shocked me because I didn’t want it to be the first single. Jheryl Busby (former CEO of Motown) forced it on me, I co-wrote it but it was just so happy. I was like people are going to think I’m corny and I was crying and was like please Jheryl don’t release this first. He said this is the first single and I’m not changing it! But because of that single I am still able to travel all over the world and tour in different countries. It’s amazing because this is 2011 and everywhere I go, I’m still hearing it. I really didn’t expect “I Love Your Smile” to be as big as it was. I was at the dentist in the chair and I never talk about what I do. The song came on and I said, that’s my song! And he was like that’s you, that’s you (laughs)! I hear it when I’m in the grocery store, I just hear that song everywhere (laughs). It was during a fun time and the industry was so different back then we had so much fun. It’s alot different now with the internet and for independent artists it’s a great thing. But people aren’t selling records like they use to, it’s just all different now. And at Motown it was like we were all family, I would go up and sit in everybody’s office and we would just talk for hours & just kick it. It was just fun, I didn’t feel like work it was a great time. The 90’s was the best, I’m glad I was able to come out in the 90’s. I’m happy I got to experience that because I don’t think the industry will ever go back to that, the way it use to be.
UrbanBridgez.com: You sort of just answered this, but what was it like being an artist in the 90’s compared to now, what obstacles have you faced being an artist from then to now?
Shanice: I know this is going to sound really crazy, I started out really really young. So when I hear old school, it makes me feel like I’m old (laughs). The only thing about being out in the 90’s and now is they call you old school and I’m like I’m still really young I started when I was 11. As for obstacles, not really. I am thankful for “I Love Your Smile’ and I’m still getting pay checks for it. And being an independent artist now that the business has changed is actually a great thing for me. Because now labels are doing these 360 deals where they’re taking a little bit of everything, from your touring money, endorsements or whatever. When you’re independent you don’t have to do that, so you get all of your money so it’s actually a cool thing. I’m also branching out and doing some television things, I’m getting ready to do some more TV. My husband and I are going to be producing a couple of shows together. So I’m excited about that and being an independent artist it’s gonna help promote my music.
UrbanBridgez.com: “Turn Down The Lights” is on our list of the essential ballads from the 90’s, to me that was the single that transformed you from teen artist to an adult artist.
Shanice: Thank you! When I turned 21 I was so happy, I even named the album 21 (laughs). I thought I was grown, I think people still wanted to keep me young because “I Love Your Smile” was so bubbly and happy. It’s hard to make that transition when you start out as a child, people still want to keep you so young. So when I turned 21 not everybody took it well because they wanted to keep me so young and bubbly.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s one of your best memories from back in the “21 Ways to Grow” era?
Shanice: When I shot the “Somewhere” video, that was so much fun! Working with Travis Payne who recently choreographed “This is It” with Michael Jackson. He choreographed my video and I got to work with Antoine Fuqua who directed the video. I love dancing and I love the camera, so I remember shooting that video and having so much fun with Travis and LaVelle who also choreographed it as well. That was a great day for me, when I think back to “21 Ways to Grow” I think of the “Somewhere” video shoot because I had so much fun!
UrbanBridgez.com: That’s one of my favorite videos by you.
Shanice: Thank you! It’s funny because when I was younger my mother would put me in all these dancing and singing and acting classes, I use to be in all of those classes. So I’ve always wanted to be like an all around entertainer. I never wanted to just sing and that was it, I always liked to sing and dance. And the record company had a problem with it, because they said I was confusing the market. They were like either you’re going to be a singer or you’re going to be a dancer but you can’t do both. I’m like why can’t I do both? My idol is Michael Jackson, I looked up to him and what Beyonce’ is doing is amazing and no one is telling her she can’t do both. The label just didn’t get my vision so that was the only kind of down thing about it.
UrbanBridgez.com: Crazy label politics!
Shanice: Right, it’s crazy! Like people on the outside looking in think everything is all fun and great. But it’s so hectic and crazy. It’s not about talent either, it’s about who you know and things like that. Like you said, it’s a whole lot of politics going on. It’s kind of sad because alot of great projects go to waste because of the politics of the industry.
UrbanBridgez.com: You recently signed a new management deal, can you tell us about it?
Shanice: Yes, right now I’m working with a company named Ja-Tail. With a guy named Jeffre and Latoya Jackson is a partner along with a guy named Courtney. I’m really excited I really love my team, we all think the same and we’re all on the same page.
UrbanBridgez.com: You also recently appeared on Rahsaan Patterson’s newest album on the song Crazy with Faith Evans which is his new single, how did that come about and how was that experience of working with two of the best?
Shanice: First of all, me and Rahsaan have known each other since “Kids Incorporated,” we’ve known each other since we were 10 years old. I use to always get on him, I would say all these years we’ve known each other and I knew him before I had a record deal or he had one. And I was like we’ve never had a song together and he was like alright I want you to sing on this one I’m doing with Faith. And Faith, I’m like the biggest Faith Evans fan ever! The first CD she did, with me my mind is always going real fast and I got kids so I’m always all over the place. So usually when I listen to CD’s I kind of just skip to my favorite songs and I don’t really listen to a whole CD. But with Faith’s first CD I can put that on and listen from beginning to end without ever skipping a song. That’s like one of my favorite CD’s ever, I’m such a fan and I tell her that all the time. So I was really excited to be apart of that and Keith Crouch wrote and produced it with Rahsaan. It was really cool because Keith and I have always talked about working together as well. We had alot of fun, I had fun recording it, we laughed so much. I’m not a heavy drinker, but I had one glass of wine, I was like let’s do this (laughs)! I did it on purpose because people may not know this about me, but I am extremely shy! So I was like in order for me to not be so shy, I’m going to drink one glass of wine and that may help. And it did, I had fun, alot of fun (laughs)!
UrbanBridgez.com: I bet, recording music and drinking wine, yeah that does sound like fun (laughs).
Shanice: I had one glass, I wasn’t in there drunk don’t get it wrong (laughs). I had one glass and I was fine. That’s one thing I’m trying to work on is I need to stop being so shy. Like when I meet people for the first time, I am beyond shy. But once I get to know them, you can’t shut me up. Like now, I feel like I’ve been running my mouth (laughs)!
In Part II of our Exclusive Interview with Shanice, she speaks on the direction of her up-coming album release, the recent loss of her close friend Vesta Williams, being able to interact with the fans online, her favorite artists right now, her husband Flex Alexander and Shanice breaks news on a new DVD project and more!
UrbanBridgez.com Do you have plans to release your new album on your own label again or will you be releasing on a new label?
Shanice: That’s something I’m discussing with my team right now, because they currently have major distribution under their belt. I’ll most likely go that route and use their distribution which is through a major label. I still may do it independent, like I said earlier I just feel free now. When you’re with a label, it’s crazy. Sometimes they’ll put out too many artists at the same time and your project gets lost and they also take all your money. I don’t need that, I think I will still do it independent. To be honest with you over the last few years I’ve been recording non stop, so I actually have enough songs to put it out now if I want to. So once we work out all the business stuff, I would like to put it out like the first quarter of next year. I worked with Warryn Campbell again and Steve Russell from TROOP…you know Steve he’s been featured on UrbanBridgez.
UrbanBridgez.com No doubt, the hit maker.
Shanice: I’m actually going in to work with The Fliptones soon also, who did alot of Jason Derulo’s songs. Then I have another project I’m working on. I don’t wanna speak on it just yet because it’s not all worked out.
UrbanBridgez.com Let’s talk about your upcoming album, what direction will you take this time?
Shanice: I love the up-tempo stuff because I love to dance. But I would also like to do real music. Songs where I can stretch myself vocally on. I love Adele I think she’s amazing, just real music. Like beautiful ballads, like Whitney Houston type; the big orchestra type ballads with David Foster. Who I’m actually going to reach out to because I worked with him on “Saving Forever For You” and Diane Warren as well. So I’m going to reach out to them, because I want some of those types of ballads on the new album.
UrbanBridgez.com You recently loss someone close to you and someone who we all loved Vesta Williams, can you share something about her to the many fans who are missing her?
Shanice: Vesta and I got discovered around the same time. John McClain discovered me and Vesta and signed us both to A&M around the same time. So I’ve known Vesta the entire time I’ve been in the business. I use to look up to her and tell her all the time because she was so…like I said I’m shy, but she was the opposite of me. She was very outgoing and between her songs she would do stand-up comedy at her shows. She was really bold, even vocally. I’m starting to come out of my shell now, but I’ve always been afraid to do adlibs off the top of my head. Like if I’m sitting in the audience and someone comes up to me with a mic and they’re like sing, I feel like I’m going to pass out because I get really scared. And I use to tell Vesta I wish I could be more like you, because when you get on stage you’re not afraid. And I would ask how do you do those adlibs like that, can you teach me to sing like you. And she would say, girl please I don’t have to teach you how to sing. So I remember we had to do this show for Robert Townsend and they put me on stage with Vesta and we had to adlib back and forth. Now I’m shy about adlibbing, but Vesta wasn’t. So she was coming up to me and doing it in my face, she was trying to get me to open up because she knew I was scared. I just kind of stood there like oh my god! Thank god it was a taping because I just froze and she was singing her butt off. So my mom ran backstage and was like Shanice, you have to stop being so scared. Just get back out there and if you can’t think of an adlib, just hit a high note and hold it, just hold it! So when we did the second take, I opened up and I hit this high note and I just held it, until I felt like I was going to pass out (laughs). And Vesta’s eyes got real big and she was like wow (laughs)! But I’ve always looked up to Vesta, I would always ask her for vocal lessons, because I’ve always been a fan. And her voice was so powerful and her personality was just so bold and out going. We use to go on double dates, me and Flex and her and her boyfriend at the time. I definitely miss her. I’m just so mad that when you have kids and things you just get so busy in life, sometimes you don’t spend much time with people. Because you’re so caught up in all of the other things that you’re doing. I just wish that I spent more time with her towards the end.
UrbanBridgez.com She was someone who I was such a fan of, I use to love when she would host Video Soul back in the day when Donnie would be away because her personality was off the chain (laughs)!
Shanice: She was hilarious, she would keep everybody laughing. She was really good at stand-up, she was a comedian (laughs).
UrbanBridgez.com You did a great tribute to her at Divas Simply Singing this year, singing “Congratulations!”
Shanice: Thank you. That was so hard! They asked me to sing at the funeral and I just said I can’t, I can’t. I kind of pushed through singing at Teena’s (Marie), which was extremely hard. I made it to the end of the song and then I broke down after. This year I’ve gone to like 5 funerals, I’ve lost alot of people that were close to me this year. So I just couldn’t do it. So yeah when I did Divas Simply Singing I just prayed and said God please get me through the song. It was really hard.
UrbanBridgez.com Well you did her justice!
Shanice: Aww thank you!
UrbanBridgez.com Who are some of your favorite artists on the radio right now?
Shanice: I love Adele, I think she’s amazing and I love that…because everybody wants the next Beyonce’ and Beyonce’ is amazing. But instead of putting out something that is different and original they want the next Beyonce’. But with Adele I love it that she has her own style and she’s not like a size 0 and her voice is just amazing. I’m really feeling her right now. I just think she’s dope!
UrbanBridgez.com How is Flex and the family?
Shanice: We’re good, really good. Flex has been doing alot of writing, because in this business you have to create your own opportunities. Alot of times you have to wait, after you audition for everybody else’s stuff and it’s kind of disappointing. So actually when Flex and I first met I told him after he was auditioning for some shows and didn’t book them. I asked him if he had any ideas of his own that he could pitch, instead of waiting for everybody else. I was even preaching that to myself because you just can’t wait on everybody else. So when I said that to him, he was like I actually do have an idea that I’ve been wanting to do. A show about me raising a young daughter, I even know who I want to play my daughter Kyla Pratt. At the time she had a huge commercial running at the time and he was like I want that little girl. So I said well write it out and he did and pitched it to ABC, they were gonna pick it up and didn’t. But to make a long story short that’s how One on One came about. So right now that’s what he’s doing and he’s creating other shows and he just wrote an amazing film and there is some interest as far as getting it picked up. So he’s doing really good!
UrbanBridgez.com What goals do you have for yourself in the near future?
Shanice: I definitely want to put out more music for sure, but I want to become a successful business woman. I don’t want to just depend on record sales and stuff, so like I said earlier me and Flex have been creating our own shows, so I want to get into producing on TV and just branch off into other stuff. I would also like to have some endorsements and things like that moving forward. Of course with my music I would like to keep going and actually win some awards! I would love to win like a Grammy and stuff like that, I just have to keep working hard!
UrbanBridgez.com Definitely, you’re so underrated! I think next year is going to be the year of the underdog!
Shanice: Yay (laughs)! I think also what happened with me is when I got pregnant, the record company really changed on me once they learned I was pregnant. They got really strange, I think they thought I wasn’t going to be able to be sexy or I don’t know. Maybe they thought I was going to be out of shape I have no clue. I just have to keep pushing through you know. I’m in a good place though, being an independent artist is really a plus! And I love the internet because I can actually talk directly to my fans. I love getting on Twitter, you know you see me on there all the time. I love talking to people on Twitter and YouTube, I think it’s really cool I can talk directly to my fans!
UrbanBridgez.com Anything else you would like to share with the fans before we go?
Shanice: I just want to tell my fans that I love them so much. I’m really just not saying this because it sounds good! I mean because there are times in this business when you feel like you don’t want to do it anymore because of the politics. But I want to tell my fans that I’m still performing and signing because of them. When I read the positive comments and people asking when are you coming out with something new we miss you, all of that is very encouraging. I just want to thank everybody for hanging in there with me and supporting me over the years and I’ll be back, real soon! And tell everybody to go pick up Rahsaan’s single “Crazy!”
UrbanBridgez.com Will do, I’ve been wearing that song out!
Shanice: You know a song I heard today and thought of you? “I’ll Be There.”
UrbanBridgez.com I love love love that song, it has such a personal meaning to me!
Shanice: I know it’s crazy because I never listen to my older songs much, but my cousin made me this mix CD and I’ll Be There came on and you popped into my head and I listened to it in a whole different way now for the first time, because you told me the whole story on why it is so personal to you.
UrbanBridgez.com Thank you that means alot that you remembered (I use to sing it to my Grandmother on her death bed)! One of my goals in life is to see you perform that live and my life will be complete (laughs)!
Shanice: You know what, that is another goal of mine to do in the very near future, to record a live DVD in L.A.! And I want to have my #1 fans there, I want to do this for my hardcore fans who’ve been following me since “Discovery.” And I want to do those songs like ones on my albums that were not released as singles, like “The Way You Love Me” and “Just A Game,” all of those songs! I actually want to have that worked out to do like in the next month or so.