LONDON, September 29, 2014 (AFP) – Award-winning US singer Mary J. Blige told AFP she was hoping to broaden her audience with her soulful new album London Sessions and revealed she wants to write an autobiography.
“It keeps me living to express myself. We have to have some forms of therapy in our lives and this is it for me,” Blige said in an interview during this month’s iTunes Festival.
The blonde-fringed New Yorker said the album was a collaboration with a new generation of British artists including Disclosure, Sam Smith, Emeli Sande and Naughty Boy.
She said the album, which is coming out in December, had been an extension of her work with Disclosure on the single F for You for which she did a popular remix.
“It sort of blew up over here in London,” said the 43-year-old, a nine-time Grammy Award winner who has already sold 50 million records around the world.
She sang a few songs from her new album at a concert in London — the only one in Europe this year — in which the “Queen of R’n’B” turned soul diva with the more melodic tracks.
The audience appeared disconcerted as the performer, wearing high heels and dressed all in black, switched from her dance tune classics to the slower songs of her new album.
But Therapy and Right Now, two of the new tracks, received huge acclaim.
“This album is to broaden my audience,” said Blige, who listed her biggest influences as Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder and Caron Wheeler from Soul II Soul.
She hoped her audience would “get to know me on another level”.
Born in January 1971 in the Bronx in New York City, Blige was abandoned when she was four by the father who taught her to sing. She was sexually abused aged five.
She signed with Uptown Records at 18 and released her first album at 20.
In a stormy career, she has overcome drug and alcohol abuse.
She now plans to broaden her artistic activities with cinema and writing.
“I’m thinking about writing a book… The book won’t be fiction, it will definitely be about me, about my life.”
© AFP 2014