As one half of Groove Theory, singer and songwriter Amel Larrieux emerged in the '90s as one of the decade's brightest talents. The duo achieved chart success with the classic "Tell Me" in 1995, and since then the chanteuse has found success as a solo artist. She released Infinite Possibilities in 2000 and Bravebird in 2004, two albums that convey Larrieux's eclectic sensibilities. Bravebird marked another milestone for the singer: She stepped away from her major-label deal with Epic to release her music independently on Blisslife.
With a style all her own, Larrieux has continued to redefine what contemporary soul sounds like. Folk, African, Middle Eastern, funk, jazz and soul influences blend harmoniously in her music, held together by her versatile and soaring vocal style. Larrieux returns to the forefront of soul with Morning, her best work yet. The album, released in April on Blisslife, is a stripped-down affair of bohemian pleasures that soothes from beginning to end. And with plenty of projects upcoming, this Grammy-nominated artist is just hitting her stride.
What prompted the decision to leave a major label and release your music independently?
Amel Larrieux: I had wanted to leave well before my first solo project, but it took many years to get the label to let me out of my deal. I'd liken it the child who blossoms in a small school with more individual attention: I was in a "school" where I was swallowed up and lost in its enormity. Independent labels are known for spending more time working a project and generally supporting artist development.
How has that decision changed your life and your music?
Amel Larrieux: There's an overall sense of acceptance and belief in how we do our "thing" in the atmosphere and, personally, this has loosened up the tension built up by feeling trapped and misunderstood at the other label, lending to a happier, more confident work environment.
Would you ever return to a major?
Amel Larrieux: It all depends. A partnership would be more likely.
What was the inspiration behind Morning?
Amel Larrieux: The hopes, fears, joys and stories that inhabit my life and the lives of those people I know well, have a chance meeting with or maybe just read about. Musically, Laru [Larrieux, her husband and musical partner] and I open all our creative channels and try to sculpt and mold whatever pours out into something comprehensive and distinguishable.
When crafting your sound, where do you begin?
Amel Larrieux: Unfortunately for me, I have no resolute "process." I would say the one surefire way to get to your own sound is to be oblivious to trends, or at least steer clear of them. I love live performance and improv, so I'm sure I've honed my singing skills and adopted a style of sorts by doing stuff like two sixty-minute sets a night, three nights in a row at smaller jazz venues.
Will there be tour dates to support the release of the album?
Amel Larrieux: I can't see why not. Live performance is the apex of this whole album-making deal.
How do you translate your music into the live arena?
Amel Larrieux: Anywhere from four to eight musicians and lots of energy. It isn't unusual for me to stretch each song out for a good ten to fifteen minutes in an impromptu fashion.
I hear you want to enter the world of acting. What type of acting roles are you looking for?
Amel Larrieux: I'd take something that doesn't call for me to compromise myself or offend any of the folks who have supported my music and have come to expect certain standards from me.
Have you ever considered re-teaming with Bryce Wilson of Groove Theory?
Amel Larrieux: He talks with Laru quite often. He's the one that introduced Laru and I, but we both agree not to settle for something that isn't as close to ideal as it gets.
What projects are on the horizon?
Amel Larrieux: A live album, a lullaby album with my oldest child (Sky) and an album of covers.
Amel Larrieux Web site (streaming audio/video)