Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Vivian Green

PressPassSuccess is a relative term. For some, simply snagging an elusive recording contract with a label could be considered success in its highest form. For others — for artists like Vivian Green — success is achieved only when you’re happy with the final result. And in her case, that means that her ultimate success should be realized in early April.

Success is a relative term. For some, simply snagging an elusive recording contract with a label could be considered success in its highest form. For others — for artists like Vivian Green — success is achieved only when you’re happy with the final result. And in her case, that means that her ultimate success should be realized in early April.

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Vivian Green (Photo: Chris Stanford)

A gifted musician early on in her life, Green stood out as a classically trained pianist with some golden pipes. Flaunting a voice that could cover the works of demigod divas like Whitney Houston and Donna Summer without flaw, Green blossomed in the Philadelphia music scene. However, Green’s gifts extend beyond her beautiful voice, standing out as a songwriter as well. In fact, she received her first songwriting credit for penning “Dear God” for Boyz II Men’s blockbuster album, Evolution.

Sony snapped her up, signing her to a record deal and setting the stage for her debut album, A Love Story, which was released in 2002. A major-label follow-up, Vivian, was released three years later to glowing reviews from the press. But as she sits here some eight years after her first CD hit the streets, she looks back and is far from satisfied with her former work.

“The first album, at that time, I was managed by someone and worked with producers who were doing a lot of soul music, so it just kind of happened that way. And when you’re making a record for the first time, and you’re young, you’re just not sure of what to do. You think, maybe I should be doing this because everyone else is doing it. You’re just not as mature and I think I fell into a genre that’s not who I am at all,” Green recalls. “But I’ve been writing songs since I was 11, so I think I always knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted to sound.”

On her latest release, however, she’s about to roll out that sound in full force. Beautiful, her debut on new label E1 Music, set for April 6, blends in more elements of R&B and pop, a mix that resonates more closely with Green. For the first time she feels she’s found a sound that demonstrates who she wants to be as an artist.

Finding that sweet spot stylistically greatly improved the recording process, according to Green. Another element that added to the studio experience was the participation of Green’s younger brother, Solomon, who is also looking to make his mark in the music industry.

“He wants to be an MC, he wants to be a rapper,” Green says. “I’ve told him not to a million times, because I’m his big sister and I know better and I’ll tell him to go to college and be on the straight and narrow. But he wants to do it, so I wanted to encourage him.”

Part of that encouragement was advice to diversify his income streams … by helping script songs for his big sister.

“He’s just a fantastic writer,” Vivian says of her baby bro. “I just knew that he could write a song. He’d never done it before, but I just knew he could do it. He adds a certain special something that’s totally him. He’s younger than I am and he’s a boy, so he adds a kind of swagger to the songs. When you combine that with what I do, I think it really comes out hot.”

And for the record, Green is right. The “swagger” Solomon brings ignites her music with a tone of confidence and defiance that separates her from the down-on-my-life divas and vaults her into Sasha Fierce territory.

Green claims she can point out every one of his lines on the album, and she beams as she sings a favorite from “Better Man,” to show how it bounces to a hip-hop cadence.

“He brings something that’s so him,” Green says. “And working together was so easy.”

Well, most of the time.

“I’m not usually focused on rhyming when I write, but he does it was everything. So we’d argue about that. I’d say ‘Everything you write does not have to rhyme!’ and he’d say, ‘But if you make it rhyme it’s hot!’” Green laughs. “It was all love though and we learned how to complement each other.”

Solomon’s influence may extend beyond this album as well. Now confident in her sound, she’s eager to explore some new directions, including some hip-hop-influenced tracks she recorded but didn’t use for Beautiful. While she regrets having to shelve some of those songs, she’s more than excited about the quality of the final product.

“I was writing songs that were me. I wasn’t trying to fit into any particular genre or trying to make a point. I was just doing the album I always wanted to do,” Green says. “I wish this was my first record.”

• Vivian Green performs April 5 at the Birchmere in Alexandria. Tickets are $35. For more on Vivian Green, visit www.viviangreen.com.

 

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