|Beyoncé's little sister Solange manages motherhood, music and a divorce.
This is shaping up to be quite a year for Beyoncé Knowles's little sister Solange. The 21-year-old single mom is relaunching her music career with Geffen Records and she's made her home in the hippest new district of Los Angeles: the heart of Hollywood.
After dedicating herself to motherhood in 2004 and dealing with a divorce in 2006 from her high school sweetheart Daniel Smith, sassy Solange is back in top form. Her classic soul sound now has a few hard-hitting lyrics. After all, the tough talker has packed a lifetime of experiences into the past three years.
With songs about world issues, relationships and dearly departed friends, Solange is sure to surprise with Hadley Street Dreams when the album hits stores this year.
***Kev: I know that Hadley Street is where [your father] Mathew Knowles's Music World organization is, but what does Hadley Street Dreams mean?
Solange: For me, my father—a lot of people don't know that he came from a really small town, Gadsden, Alabama. He grew up very poor and he had a dream for his life and his family. He beat a lot of odds; he came from a family of 10 and just to see him—hearing the story about him starting off with nothing and building this empire, building this future; it just started off as a dream for him. That's sort of what this record has been for me.
Kev: So it's like a tribute to your father?
Solange: It's not a tribute to my father, but definitely, he showed me that if you have a dream and you stick with it—and this sounds very clichéd and Disney [laughs]—that it could come true. I've always wanted to do a record that was organic for me, and that was my dream from day one, but I didn't know how to go about doing it. I was always scared. I always had pressure from the label or from people to create a certain kind of persona. But with this record, I went to Hadley Street—which is the studio—one day and I wrote this song called "Heartbreak" after a friend of mine passed away when I was 17. Then that next week I found out I was pregnant. I went to the studio and I just started freestyling with a jazz band, which was very new for me, and I came up with a great record and it made me feel things in music that I had never felt before. And it was on that street. So that had a very powerful meaning for me and that's what opened up the doors for me to say that I wanted to do another record.
Kev: So it started with the tragedy of your friend's death and then the hope of the fact that you were with child. Are you spiritual enough to think that when somebody close to you dies it always signals that there's going to be a birth in the family?
Solange: Definitely! That's so funny you've said that because I have a song on my album, "An Ode to Julez," and the very first line is, "They say when one life goes enters another one," and I have a tattoo of angel wings separately on each of my wrists. One is for the death of my friend and [the other is for] the life of my son.
Kev: You have a song on the new album called "Marsai Song." That's also dedicated to a dearly departed friend. Is that the same one or is that somebody else?
Solange: Yes, that's the same one.
Kev: Can you tell me a little bit more about what that person meant to you?
Solange: Absolutely. I met Marsai in the sixth grade in middle school and, although we were always friends—we always did sleepovers and little girly stuff that middleschoolers do—we lost contact. Then we got back in contact when I took a break from music and I stayed home and didn't have any friends that were my age because I was always on tour. She came back into my life at such an important time and we were inseparable. Every day she was taking me to high school games and [laughs] sort of reminded me that I was 16. I mean, we spent so much time together, and I definitely think that God knows what He's doing because it was no coincidence that we reconnected in the last year of her life. Actually, that night before she passed away, she came to my house and we spent the night watching this movie about friendship. Later on that day she went to a game and, just tragically, a stray bullet that—someone was fighting in the parking lot. It was really hard for me because, literally, she had just left my house. So that was a really difficult time in my life, but it definitely goes into the music. And her mother is like a second mom to me. I'm very inspired by her life and her legacy.
Kev: This album, I've been lucky enough to hear three of the tracks. It just seems that you've become a real woman since the last album and you're writing songs now that really mean something. I know you've always had the knack of being able to put your thoughts into song lyrics from an early age, but now you must be inspired by very different things.
Solange: I think, definitely, this record portrays my life. This is the first piece of creative art by me that [shows] I am a woman and I've gone through things that women do, and I've gone through reallife situations that don't involve dancing and partying and dating: "Boy, I like you. Do you like me too? I'm feeling you." [laughs] So I definitely think that's portrayed through the record.
Kev: Obviously no one regrets having a child but do you regret having a child as early as you did?
Solange: Oh, absolutely not. I have been so blessed, number one, that my son is the coolest kid ever. Of course, that first year of "nonsleeping" and just being dedicated to him had tough parts. But as far as motherhood goes, it's been a blast for me. A lot of people hear that answer and they have doubts, but when you have a child, I think it takes a really unemotional person not to—no matter what age. I've heard stories of people who were 14 that had kids and basically kind of snapped into it and got into the groove of motherhood. And I think that emotional attachment, there's nothing out of it that someone could regret.
Kev: There are some tracks on this album that suggest maybe you're a bit bitter toward love. There's sort of like an "agony aunt" feel to some of the songs where you're handing out advice to women and men. Do you think that your own relationship with Daniel has helped you give others good advice about relationships?
Solange: Actually, there's not one negative song about love on this record. Everything on this record, as far as relationships go, is very positive. "White Picket Dreams," which is another song that leaked—it doesn't come from a bitter place; it comes from more of a place of learning, and learning that, in life, love is not always going to be a white picket dream story. That's very rare. I haven't met one person who has fallen in love and had a long relationship that didn't have its trials and tribulations. That song is more hopeful than bitter. The lyrics say, "My white picket dreams are home and us," which means that I'm living happy right now in my life and I feel like in my own area and in my own band, I am living my white picket dream. Of course, I'm only 21 but I'm very happy where I am in my life right now.
Kev: There have been stories throughout the year about who Solange is dating. Is there anyone special in your life?
Solange: [laughs] No. Actually, I mean, I have friends but nothing more. I'm so focused now on my son and my career—and I know that's such a typical answer. Really, I could make the time if I wanted to, but right now I'm in such a hustler spirit. [laughs]
Kev: Has your verdict on men changed? The type of guy that you'd want now, is he a different type of guy to the type of guy you'd have wanted three years ago?
Solange: I'm 21, so I'm still figuring out exactly what I want in a relationship. [laughs]
Kev: Fair enough. I want to move on to the business side of your career. Is it true that in five years time you'll take over from your father, Mathew Knowles, as the head of Music World?
Solange: My father has always wanted Music World to stay in the family. This was something, like I said, he started from nothing in an extra bedroom in our house, and now, on Hadley Street, he has 30 employees all over the United States and London. It's very important for him to keep that legacy within, and I've always been the one out of all of us girls wanting to go to the office, wanting to sit in A&R meetings, wanting to research marketing and keep up with the industry. That's always been me out of all of my sisters, so naturally my father has always said, "When I want to retire, you'd better run my company well." I'd love, love to run Music World one day. [My] only fear in that is it's really hard to run a label when you have such an artistic ear.
Kev: Yeah, ask Jay-Z; I think he'll tell you how to do it.
Solange: [laughs] I know. I have a lot of people to look up to and learn from.
Kev: I guess you'll have to decide as to whether you concentrate on your career or whether you'll concentrate on Music World, because it must be difficult to do both.
Solange: Well, my father thinks he's going to retire at 60, which is where the five years came into play, but I seriously doubt it. [laughs] I respect him so much; for this record, for him to go out on a limb and me tell him, "Dad, I want to do a '60s/'70s vintage soul record with hints of electronica," and he's looking at me like, "Huh? What?!" I expected him to be like, "Those records don't sell," coming from a marketing standpoint. And he looked me in the eye and said, "I want you to do whatever it is that you wish to achieve with this record."