Vivian Green: Nobody Ever Tried To Mould Me


We have a few things to clear up about Vivian Green. Fresh from touring with Jill Scott, her debut album A Love Story was well-received in 2002 by the Soul crowd for it’s smooth and jazzy undertones. Sophomore release Vivian (2005) was questioned by many of those same fans for it’s more prevalent R&B backbone – and Green’s ‘new’ straightened, flowing locks.

‘The label must have made her relax her hair’, some people assumed, commercialising both her image and sound. Not the case – apparently it was quite the other way around. Discussing the real her, Vivian Green sets the record straight in this honest interview with SoulCulture.

Her third and latest release, Beautiful, follows the path set by her previous album. Made with complete creation freedom, this album lets her fans know exactly who she is – and, if you’re left reaching back for her debut, shows her exactly who her real fans are.

“It may sound new to fans but it’s not new to me,” Vivian says of her current R&B-pop leanings. “I started writing songs when I was 11. My parents always had music on in the house for as long as I can remember and I wanted to do that, make a song. It’s a gift I guess. I started off writing really sad ballads… ‘Somewhere’ might seem new to a fan that has my record, but that’s the kind of song I’ve been writing since I started. I have a thousand of them.”

The casual listener may mainly recognise Vivian for her debut single, “Emotional Rollercoaster,” penned by leading independent artist and and songwriter Eric Roberson. “We’re really great friends – he’s my son’s godfather,” the singer and pianist reveals. “Eric is really instrumental in my career, period. He really helped me to get to the point of having the first record even come out, he’s helped me out on the business side everything. He’s a dear friend of mine.”

Vivian previously spent a year on the road with Jill Scott when Words & Sounds Vol 1 was being introduced to the world. “What was most exciting about it for me was to watch how it happened,” Green recalls. “It was definitely an organic project that catapulted into this huge monstrosity of a thing. I enjoyed that. We started off doing clubs and then eight months later she was selling out the Symphony houses and I thought that was awesome how a small label that could, had a success like that.”

In the five years since her last album was released, Vivian took time away from music to focus on her son’s health. “We weren’t slaving over the record all this time,” she explains, “I’m a mom, so I’ve really been doing that. My son was born with an unknown syndrome so I’ve really been taking time off to be a mom and to deal with with Jordan. For the first few years it was really hard because he was in and out of hospital, a lot of surgery, all sorts of things that you can go through in a children’s hospital. One year he refused to eat at all and had to be fed through a tube.

“The minute that his health turned around it was like, ‘Ok, let’s go get a deal… Let’s get out there and get out to work.’ This happened in a couple of years – he just turned six. My son is amazing, he’s the smartest kid on the planet to me because they said he wouldn’t be.”

It’s a wonderful time in my life – and that’s why I named the album Beautiful. It’s how I feel about myself and life right now; I’m in a beautiful place in my life and that’s why I named the album that.”

New album Beautiful was predominantly produced by Vivian’s long-time collaborator Anthony Bell [also behind “Affected” and Nothing But Love” on her A Love Story debut LP]. “We have a fantastic relationship, he’s produced on every record I ever had,” she says. “Most of the album was made at his home which was really awesome because I don’t like to go to a studio that’s strictly a business with a bunch of rooms and a bunch of people – that’s not the vibe that I prefer, to go to a huge studio.

“I’m the godmother of his baby and our kids Jordan and Mark are about the same age – they play together – he lives in a lovely home with a basement in the studio so it’s a very wonderful environment… Not so uptight; that’s definitely a better environment for me to create in.”

ON CREATING ALBUMS WITH A SINGLE PRODUCER

“Sometimes a lot of different producers can create – I’m not saying in every case – but sometimes it can create an inconsistency in the sound. back in the day they used to make albums with one producer – Brandy made entire albums with Rodney Jerkins – and I think there’s something really magical about doing that because you keep the vibe of everything in one spot and it doesn’t sound like you went t three different states to make a record and there’s no cohesiveness. I love this way. It works for me. Anthony is very versatile – if you do’t read the credits I don’t think you would assume that one person did it.”

ON LEAVING SONY AFTER RELEASE VIVIAN

“The first two albums were with Sony music. They were supportive and so is E1… I think leaving Sony was something that was supposed to happen; when I was there the entire company like folded, there’s nobody there that was there when I first got there as an artist – I mean the people that worked there, secretaries, department heads, publicists, promotions people on the road – so it wasn’t just artists that got the brunt of that, it was the employees as well.

“It is what it is. I think being at a place with somebody that didn’t sign you or didn’t believe in you is kinda scary anyway so I was kinda happy that they let me know. there was like 6 months where they wouldn’t let me go – and nobody that signed me was there – and I was like, if the people that were instrumental in me having a little bit of success aren’t even there anymore then I don’t think I wanna be there either. But at the same time, they introduced me to the world so I have no ill feelings. Preparations sometimes fall and they re-organise from the bottom all the way up to the top. From the top attorneys and the top executives all the way down, no body was there on the Columbia side. Nobody. I’m really not upset about it at all.”

“It started with Vivian, my second album. I wasn’t happy with that one because they kind of threw it out there – and that’s when everything started to happen at Sony, during my second album being out there. So my album got caught up in that. There was also a digital glitch so they had to be recalled while I was on tour! It was an unfortunate situation but again, I’m in no way bitter about it.”

ON IMAGE

“Nobody ever tried to mould me. I think for the first record there were influences for… [sighs]… I don’t know how to say this. I think my first record was not completely me. Some of it was definitely me, but I think it left out an entire creative side that is absolutely me as well that kind of wasn’t on there. I think some of the energy was kind of… you know… not really how I like to dress!” she laughs.

“I think they were trying to jump on the soul bandwagon or something… I think once my second album came out a lot of my fans hated it – ‘What is her hair doing?’ – and I got caught up in this movement, this natural look movement or something, organic sound movement, where that’s just not who I am completely.

“When I first signed to Sony my hair was actually very long and I cut it off because I broke up with my first love and it was the worst time in my little, young life – and I just chopped it all off. I had just signed to Sony when I did that, but it was long when I got there and maybe 3 months in my manager was going crazy like, ‘You cut your hair, the label’s gonna go crazy!’ – but I didn’t care. But then I became known for rocking short curly hair so the minute I didn’t do that people got really mad. I was like, wow, that’s really amazing… I would have never thought that anyone would hold me to that as something I should do with my hair forever and ever!”

ON MISPERCEPTION

“I absolutely was not trying to say a daggone thing. Listen to the album – there’s not one song on there saying anything conscious or political or anything that would make you think that… But you just assume… And then you have a Jill Scott connection that people wanna make up a parallel – when we’re really nothing alike artistically.”

“Some fans are like, ‘I love that first album but after that I didn’t like her because she sold out’ or whatever – ‘She got commercialised’ – now I know you’re not my real fans: you liked me because my hair was short or you thought I was standing for something that I wasn’t standing for… I’m kinda glad. And now you know finally: it’s the third album, that I will change myself, I will change my hair.”

“I just don’t want anyone to think that I’m gonna revert back to something that I keep saying, ‘That’s not who I was.’ I’m not gonna go back to it! …I think [fans] definitely need to be more open. I think songs like “Better Man” could have been on my first record. “Caught Up” – everything is live. I think “Final Hour” could have been on this album! So there are little hints of me showing I have another side, so I don’t think it’s so different, so completely totally different. I just see it as something else; a little more of this, a little more of that. I’m really happy with it.”

Vivian Green’s new album Beautiful is out now via E1 Music.

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