Words: Raeven T. Bostic
You know you’re in the presence of musical greatness when you come face to face with the woman behind mega hits for music’s biggest divas like Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez and more! With almost ten years in the music game Decatur, GA native Crystal Nicole has solidified herself as one of the most demanding and valuable songwriters today. Ready to solidify herself as a powerful songstress, Crystal Nicole is gearing up for the release of her new album ‘I Am Crystal Nicole.’
I had the esteemed opportunity to chat with Grammy Award winning Singer/Songwriter, Crystal Nicole about her experiences writing for the likes of Beyonce and Rihanna, her new music, what fans can expect to hear on her truth telling new album and much more!
The IMC: If I’m not mistaken, you started writing in 2006. Where was that moment that you realized you had a gift?
CN: Well I got my first publishing deal in 2007 but I had been writing way before that! It wasn’t until around 2005 that I started taking it more seriously because I really wanted to be a singer so I kind of fought against writing. But I did it more and more and here I am.
The IMC: You’ve written for some of the biggest artists in the music game like Beyonce, Mariah Carey, and Rihanna. Thinking back on it, what were those moments like?
CN: For me, every moment, every time and every artist… it never gets old to me. From Beyonce, Rihanna to Mariah, I approached each situation fresh and as if it were a brand new situation. I approached each moment like it was my first time writing.
TBR: You wrote Rihanna’s “Only Girl In the World.” Can you describe what that experience was like working with her?! What was the inspiration behind the song?
CN: Oh man. That was a new sound for Rih. I honestly didn’t think she was going to like it! I had already tried twice to get a song for her and it didn’t work so I knew this third time, it was it and I had to come with it. As far as the inspiration, I’m a visual writer, so I can see something and create an idea or song based off of what I’ve seen. So for Rihanna, as far as the video, I envisioned her with a lot of color and walking down the street with this sense of empowerment like “I’m the only girl in the world.” And luckily, she loved it and everyone else loved it!
“Working with Beyonce is more of a moment than winning the Grammy!”
The IMC: You got your first Grammy award for your work on Beyonce’s album [I Am…Beyonce], in what ways was that a career defining moment for you?
CN: Honestly, working with Beyonce is more of a moment than winning the Grammy! Being in the studio with her was just great. She is truly one of the few who’s talented and professional. She was always on time, always respectful! She was so nice, she’d go to each of the studios and speak to everyone before starting the session! Her work ethic is insane too. She’d get in the studio and record like four or five songs in a day… it was like clockwork to her. So if I learned anything from working with her, I learned how to be a woman in this business and being professional.
CN: That song…is on different levels. When I’m writing a song… I’m inspired by different concepts, words and ideas and I’ll put that word in my phone and save it. So for this song, I was inspired by ‘ugly.’ I typed different meanings for it and left it alone. A couple of months went by and my husband made this track and I thought it was perfect. So I came up with the line “I took and…” and that line set the tone. The song isn’t about haters but it’s about not knowing who you are and defining that. Re-defining things.
The IMC: On your new album, what would you say is the overall theme? What message do you want listeners to take away when they listen to your music?
CN: My album is titled “I Am CN” and it’s a declaration of who I am. I’m giving you the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s honesty, it’s the negative things, it’s transparency and I’m using the gifts that I’ve been blessed with. It’s saying ‘I am human and I make mistakes, so it’s something that everyone can relate to.
The IMC: Not to spoil the surprise, but do you have a favorite song on the album you can dish details about?
CN: My favorite song? Ok I have one, and I’m not going to name the title but it’s very… it’s real old school, very soulful and R&B about people in situations they shouldn’t be in!
The IMC: Are there any features on the album? Or will it be just you so that fans get to know you for who you are?
CN: You know, I thought about features and reaching out to friends to be a part of it, but the more I thought about it, I decided to not include features. It needs to be Crystal Nicole and it needs to be authentic for old and new fans.
“When you chase something, you lose sight of what works for you and who you are!”
The IMC: As an R&B singer/writer, what is your take on the stance that R&B is no longer? Critics say that R&B is no longer and now R&B artists are fighting to land on the charts and are competing with hip hop artists or collaborating with them just to land on the charts. What is your opinion on that?
CN: The cool thing about music is that it goes in cycles. Certain genres are at a high, while others are at a low. I personally wouldn’t say R&B needs to come back because it hasn’t gone anywhere. However I do think there is a shortage of those who are really singing and really writing. I think that so many people are trying to chase something and when you chase, you lose sight of what works for you and who you are. Music is going in all sorts of directions, but I think especially for me… I don’t want to go with the crowd. I want to go against the crowd, so if everyone is going right, then I’m going to go left [laughs]. When you follow the crowd, there ends up being confusion! So for me, I think when you stay true to you and true to what you love, you’ll be fine.
The IMC: What tips/advice do you have for up and coming singers? Especially those who don’t have industry connection who feel that’s the only way?
CN: Well for me, I grew up regular. I was just a young girl from Decatur who loved to sing. I was focused on music and I had a dream and I basically didn’t take no for an answer. There was no plan B for me because to me, having a plan B means you’re not willing to work to make plan A come true. You know, life is a living test. No matter where you’re from, live you’re dream! Even after winning a Grammy, people were still telling me what I couldn’t do! Dreams break barriers and you have to protect your dream. God gives us dreams and it’s up to us to make them come true.
“No matter where you’re from, live you’re dream!”
If you want to be a singer or writer, get people to hear you! If you want to be a writer, study your craft, study the people who inspire you, listen to all genres of music, write – write all the time, find things that inspire you. I know me, I love going to the movies because before that movie is up, I have been inspired by something that gives me an idea for a song. So just focus and another thing I’d say is don’t ever chase a check. You don’t have to move to Atlanta or Los Angeles to be a songwriter. The money will come to you and when it does so will the people. If you want to move afterwards, then fine, but it’s not a necessity. Once you’ve mastered your craft and you’re prepared, everything else will come to you.
The IMC: Words to live by!! Do you have any last words for your fans? When will your album be dropping?
CN: Yes! My album will be released first quarter! But my lead single is out so everyone go take a listen and just be ready for the album!
Make sure you keep up with Crystal Nicole: