What Motivates Kelly
KELLY ROWLAND IN NEW YORK LAST NIGHT. PHOTO COURTESY OF MOËT ROSÉ LOUNGE/GETTY IMAGES
Here I Am might seem like a strange title for a third album, but for Kelly Rowland, it represents the culmination of a personal journey; she’s discovered qualities in herself that even she didn’t know were lurking under the surface. (If you’re wondering which qualities, exactly, the video for the album’s first single, “Motivation,” should clear things up.) On Here I Am, Rowland emerges as an artist fully in possession of herself—she sounds as good as she looks, and that’s saying something.
At last night’s party for the album’s release (more on that here), we sat down with Rowland to talk about her mom’s reaction to her raunchy lyrics, how she maintains that body, and even what we might expect from her next album.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: Can you tell me about Here I Am? Where was your head at when you were working on it?
KELLY ROWLAND: Oh, gosh. For me, it’s been a journey to get to Here I Am. When I did my first record, Simply Deep, it was rushed. When I did Miss Kelly, I was going through different personal things that I was battling with myself. And then with Here I Am, I just found another side, a different side to me. I’ve embraced them all. And I put it on an album, and I was like, “Here I am! This is me!” I want to people to know. For me, this is a defining record, personally—and I wanted people to take that experience and journey with me when they listen to all the songs. Like, I’m that chick that’s got more of a sassy, aggressive side, which I didn’t know existed either.
ROWLAND: So songs like “Motivation,” I’m like, “Oh, my God, my mom has to hear me say, ‘I don’t want to feel my legs!'” [laughs] You know, to “Turn It Up,” which is just a fun record that just feels so big and loud and good. I just love this album, I really, really do, and I’m so happy that it’s finally here.
SYMONDS: I actually wanted to ask you about “Motivation”—that’s definitely a side to Kelly that we haven’t seen before.
SYMONDS: Do you feel like you’re playing a character when you perform that song?
ROWLAND: Oh, no. It comes out. And it’s really cool because at rehearsals, it comes out of everybody—my dancers, on the set, when we did the video, it was like that. I was like, “This is almost scary!” [laughs] Because people were kissing and touching all over each other—I’m like, “This is uncomfortable for a second!”
ROWLAND: But it happened, and everybody has embraced that side of them, as well. I’ve watched women do it, too. Oh, my God, this one woman walked up to me the other day, she goes, “That song kind of makes me horny!” [laughs] I was like, “Well, all right!”
SYMONDS: Just a woman you didn’t know?
ROWLAND: Yeah! I mean, I met her before in passing, but it was so funny, she was like, “I gotta be honest with you,” and she told me, very quietly. I was like, “I’m happy it does that! We all need to tap into that side a little bit more!” Absolutely. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy sexual appetite.
SYMONDS: So what was it like working with Nelly again on this album?
ROWLAND: I love Nelly. I really, really do.
SYMONDS: You guys have such a storied history at this point.
ROWLAND: We do. And I think the cool thing about working with Nelly is that it’s just so natural with him. We get in the studio, we bang it out, and then it’s just—it’s something really special. So it’s cool that we got a chance to collaborate on the remix. And it was Rico’s idea—he was like, “Yo, we need to go back and get with Nelly on this!” I was like, “Done, let’s do it.”
SYMONDS: With your voice, you could very easily go in the ballad direction, but instead you’ve done more in the urban and dance genres. What inspired that decision for you?
ROWLAND: It wasn’t even so much that it was a decision. It was just, performing in the studio, and listening to tracks that different producers will have, and being like, “Oh, I like that,” “I’m not crazy about that,” or, “That feels right. Ooh, let’s try this on this record, can you put a piano there?” Whatever it might be. But as far as ballads are concerned—I want to do that on the next record. I love big ballads!
SYMONDS: You can enjoy the release of this one! You don’t have to think about the next one yet!
ROWLAND: [laughs] Yeah, I’m already thinking about it! Isn’t that awful? I am enjoying this record, but I’m so excited, I’m thinking about the next record. It’s exciting—music is exciting, at this time. Everybody can try and do anything they want.
SYMONDS: What are you going to follow up “Motivation” with? It’s such a strong statement about this album.
ROWLAND: Yeah. Well, there’s a record that I have called “Lay It On Me.” [laughs] My mom’s like “Lay It On Me?” “Motivation?!” It’s called “Lay It On Me,” and it’s a fun record. Big Sean is on the record, Ester Dean wrote it, Hitboy produced it. And that song feels good, and it’s perfect in the time, for summer just closing off—it feels like that great summer party. I love it.
SYMONDS: Can you tell me anything about your workout regimen? You look amazing.
ROWLAND: Yes, absolutely. First of all, Jeanette Jenkins is amazing. [Rowland’s phone rings] Do you hear that? That’s my phone ringing—that’s La La’s little boy singing the beginning of “Motivation.” Listen! [laughs] Um, but—what was I saying? Workout! So [Jenkins] makes me do this thing, “Tread and Shed.” Tread and Shed is where I’ll do like three minutes of running on a treadmill, then I’ll bring the incline up, and do it at about 10, and walk it while I’m lifting weights. So she makes me do that for about a good hour. She’s brutal, but it works! And then the next day she’ll do like a whole cardio workout. We focus a lot on abs. I mean, for me, I just want to feel good. It’s not about a specific size; I don’t care about that. I just feel good when I work out. I feel good when I can put on a dress and be like, “Oh, thank God, I feel good in my skin!”
HERE I AM IS OUT NOW. FOR MORE ON KELLY ROWLAND, VISIT HER WEBSITE.