R&B Songstress Meli’sa Morgan inevitably broke into the music industry as the lead singer of the dance group, Shades of Love (“Body to Body”), but it was her solo move that brought her to bigger prominence starting with her #1 Prince cover “Do Me, Baby” and a string of top 5 hits that followed such as “Love Changes” with Kashif, “Fool’s Paradise”, “Do You Still Love Me?”. Back with her first album in 13 years entitled, Love Demands, I caught up with Meli’sa to discuss the project, the meaning behind it’s title, how she’s evolved musically and much more…
TERRANCE: I wanted to start by asking you about your new album, Love Demands. Conceptually speaking, how did it come together?
MELI’SA MORGAN: Well, I had been working with Cleopatra Records just doing a song here and a song there for their Christmas compilation album and they wanted to do some covers of my hits and I did that with them. They liked how I worked and asked me if I would be interested in doing a full album with them and at the time I was like, Yes! Because I had not done anything in a while. Last year I did just a single called, “So Good” with an independent label and we did a video and it was received really nice. It’s more of a House/Dance type of song, but to do a whole album, I was ready. My last album I Remember which was with Hush Productions, so this would be the first project that I had done outside of Hush in a long time. I jumped at the opportunity and their only stipulation was that I do six cover songs and six originals and so we sat down and agreed to the six cover songs. I picked some and they picked some. At first they gave me a writer from their camp and the original tracks that were coming in just wasn’t me and then the gentleman that helped put the deal together had a friend Brady Gozza who does beats and he started sending me tracks and those tracks just fit better to me for my vocals. Actually how I recorded which was just wonderful and I want to tell young people this and they’re probably already doing it, but he sent me the tracks and I would play them on my iPad and then I would record them on my iPhone in the recording mode and those were my demos. I would do the demos, save it and send them to the record company for approval and they would give me their opinions and most of them they liked and then we would go in and record them professionally.
TERRANCE: What does the title Love Demands represent both to and for you?
MELI’SA MORGAN: Love Demands is a strong title to me because relationships whether it be your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your fiance, love requires a lot of work and demands a lot of attention and so I thought that title was so perfect because everyone on this green Earth has gone through love demands in one way or another. When I came up with that title, I thought everyone is going to relate to this because love is just not as easy as people think. It takes work and it takes a lot of time and that’s demanding, so Love Demands.
TERRANCE: Are there any personal favorites or songs on the album that stand-out to you more than others?
MELI’SA MORGAN: “Decisions”. I think that’s the core of my Vocal-Soul-R&B spirit. The other songs I fit in with the beat and because I studied at Juilliard and I know musical theory and I have relative perfect pitch, you can make things and mode things the way you need them to be, but “Decisions” I just felt like vocally I was really, really relaxed on that song and I can just let my R&B spirit just come right out of my vocals and I really like the deliverance on that song. I love the cover songs as well. My favorite cover song of course is Al Green’s “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” and then after that it would be Sam Cooke’s “Nothing Can Change This Love”.
MELI’SA MORGAN: Can you believe that? I have loved Aretha since I was a little girl. I want to tell the story of my mother. Me and my sister in the living room dressed up in her clothes and her shoes at 6 and 7 years old and her telling us, if you sing “Respect” right I’m going to take you to the Apollo and put you on Amateur Hour and you girls might win (laughs). I have loved Aretha since day one and on my previous album, I Remember over ten years ago I did a snippet of “Ain’t No Way” with Valerie Simpson playing piano and I do that song on my shows all the time and people just love it, so I thought it was just really correct for me to do a full Aretha song and I didn’t know she was sick because we picked these songs over a year ago. I picked “Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” because I just thought the funkiness and vocal deliverance of that would be so great to do now and let the young people of now hear our roots and where we came from. The Queen is where we came from. If it wasn’t for Aretha and Gladys we wouldn’t be here expressing ourselves the way we do because they’ve opened up the door for us to be able to do that and I’ve always wanted to pay tribute to the icons who’ve done that for me.
TERRANCE: Are there artists inspiring you right now or that you’re currently listening to?
MELI’SA MORGAN: Daniel Caesar is inspiring me vocally and H.E.R. Those two are really, really touching my spirit right now with what they are doing with their vocal abilities and their music and the fact they even worked together is amazing, so those two are really inspiring me right now.
TERRANCE: Do you feel you and your approach to music has changed a lot, since you first started?
MELI’SA MORGAN: Yes and it’s funny with this CD I’m coming out with a single called “No More” which is a real funky, rocky, edgy, spooky and hard edge kind of single and it’s different. I get comments from some of my fans saying, oh don’t stray away from smooth R&B because that’s where you come from and we need to band together and continue to do that. All that’s wonderful, but if that is the only expression you have then you’re in trouble. You don’t wear the same clothes and same color everyday and same shoes everyday, do you? You would want to express yourself and be seen differently. Some things you like and you stick to it, but other than that you want to change your hair, clothes and you want to wear different shoes. When you’re taking pictures you want to smile differently and wear your makeup different. That’s how music is. Music is creative. You don’t want to do the same thing over and over and over again. You know what your core is, but yes I want to do Rock & Roll if I can. I want to do Jazz. I do songs with Najee and he got nominated for a Soul Train Music Award for a song we did together called, “In the Mood to Take It Slow”. I do songs with Full Force and they are a group and that’s a whole different flavor than what I’m used to. I like to do songs with other females. Me and Cheryl Pepsii Riley did a duet called, “Thank You for Leaving Me”. If I did the same thing I did 30 years ago I would want someone to smack me and wake me up, because musically I have more in my arsenal and in my vocal ability than that. I didn’t study at Juilliard’s to do just one type of music. R&B will always be my core. I love Gospel music. That’s where I grew up. I’m going to use these tools I have to be creative and do all kinds of music.
TERRANCE: I don’t recall you ever giving a bad performance and so with that being said, what’s your regimen for preserving your voice before performing?
MELI’SA MORGAN: No drugs, no alcohol. I try to get as much sleep as I can and I try to stay stress-free, enjoy life and being loved and feeling loved. That’s really, really important.
TERRANCE: Everyone have their perception on what success is. How would you define it?
MELI’SA MORGAN: Success to me is sustaining the level that you can and not trying to do and be something that you’re not like competing with the Joneses. Success to me is being at the top of your game, appreciating that and knowing how to nurture it. I think “Do Me, Baby” was the pinnacle of my success, but I still think there’s more to come. I enjoy that part of my success and I want to enjoy the level of success that I’m going to have now, because it’s going to be different than what it was in the 80’s.
TERRANCE: Right. I feel there’s always something to prove and room to grow no matter what you’ve accomplished in the past.
MELI’SA MORGAN: Yeah and right now I don’t think I have anything to prove to my fans but I have something to prove to myself and the levels that I want to achieve, like right now we’re trying to get the recognition because I never got my Gold record for “Do Me, Baby”, so now we’re going to fight for that with Capitol Records because when I left Capitol Records that’s when Soundscan and all that stuff started. I think when it ended it was at like 485,000 and now we’re going to fight with Capitol and RIAA to certify “Do Me, Baby” gold, so that would be a successful achievement for me to get that done. I never won a Grammy, so with me putting music out in all the wonderful R&B Traditional categories and things like that. I’ve re-joined the Grammy membership and my record company’s last artist was nominated for a Grammy and so I’m working with people that know how to get me nominated and know that if we do it this way and structure it this way, you’ll get nominated and hopefully win, so that would be a successful thing for me in my career to win a Grammy. Those are the kinds of accomplishments that I’m going for, but sustaining it and being at the level that I am to be able to go for it, that’s a success in it’s own right.
TERRANCE: What have been the highlights of your career or greatest achievement thus far?
MELI’SA MORGAN: I would think being a good writer and always being a part of the music that I have sang and recorded. That has been a great achievement for me and a wonderful longevity for me to sustain my lifestyle with income (laughs). I don’t want to put no shade or bring attention to anyone, but when I read that someone like an R. Kelly putting out albums talking about he was broke and he didn’t own his publishing and people took advantage of him and he’s living in hotels. We look at these people as idols and icons and it’s very hard to understand that you didn’t have a lawyer or someone like that protecting you, your music and your rights for your retirement and your income? So I’m very, very thankful that my father and the people that I started out in this industry said, get a good lawyer. Get a good lawyer, show me your contract, this is what you need to do, you know? Protect your music. We’re now even fighting for the rights to get my sound recordings back, so God has been really good to bless me with friends in the industry and lawyers and people that can teach me about the business and not just about the “show business”. Teach me about the business of show.
TERRANCE: Considering your knowledge and expertise now. What advice would you give the aspiring artist who aspire to do what you do?
MELI’SA MORGAN: Perfect your craft and study because you can have a natural talent but it still needs to be perfected. I’m watching kids now that are talented but they don’t know how to perfect their pitch or their tone, you know what I’m saying? When they’re performing they don’t know how to control their vocal because when you’re performing in front of thousands, hundreds or ten people, there are nerves that come with that and you have to learn how to control that in your vocals, in your breathing and all that, so I would say learn your craft, pitch and tone. Train your ear. The second thing again, get a good lawyer and make sure your business is together.
TERRANCE: Can you share with us any upcoming special appearances, events or performances?
MELI’SA MORGAN: Yes. It’s so wonderful to have magazine covers and interviews like this one coming out with RnB Junkie (laughs). I will be doing the Soul Train Music Cruise in 2019. They said that Gladys Knight and Smokey Robinson will be on that cruise, so you know I’m going to be lurking in the hallway (laughs). A couple of TV shows and just a whole lot of good things. San Francisco and Oakland next year. We’re pushing for the Essence Fest and all those good things and Capital Jazz and all of those festivals that kind of looked right past me (laughs), but we’re getting great reviews and people are calling and now we’re hoping to be a part of all those wonderful things.
MELI’SA MORGAN: I hope that this album proves that again you’re able to be creative in different levels of your life and be accepted and loved for it and not be judged for one thing you did 20 or 30 years ago. It’s very important to be loved and respected for the person and the artist who I am now. I’m not the same Meli’sa Morgan I was 30 years ago. I’m the same person but I’m not the same artist. I have grown, I have lived life and experienced different things and all of that comes through in my music and how I deliver my music and how my vocal style is and how I deliver that through song and I hope that is appreciated for now. Who and what I am and what I’m delivering and what I’m giving to the audience now. I hope they love and appreciate that.
TERRANCE: Any final words you would like to share with your fans and the readers?
MELI’SA MORGAN: Yes. You know 30 years ago you could put a record out and people could go down to their local record store on the corner and pick it up and play it. We don’t have that anymore, so the only way you can support an artist is by going online, ordering the product and downloading it. It is so important for my fans to know. Go on social media and follow me. I always put the link where you can go right to the link and order. My CD Love Demands is everywhere. It’s on Amazon, iTunes, Target, Barnes & Noble, Spotify, I could go on and on. It’s not like it was back 30 years ago. You can’t sit back and say, Oh I like that and I’ll go pick it up later. You have to get online. Thank God to my good friend MonRay. At 12 midnight when Love Demands was available he was like, I like this song and that song and this song and I was like, how did you know? Did you get it already? He said, I downloaded it at 12 midnight, so we have to get with the times and stream it. I have a video out for the new single, “No More” on YouTube. You have to go to YouTube and like it. We need numbers. We need those Drake numbers, you know? The people go and stream it, and like it on Vevo and YouTube. These are the things the fans now have to get with and do to support the artist now and not just me, but anyone, because times have changed and this is how we order and how we support and this is how we get music now.