The 2012 Essence of Entertainment series at the Dell Music Center continues Thursday with an evening of sophisticated soul featuring Tizer, beloved balladeer Will Downing, and the gospel-inspired vocals of Kelly Price.
An accomplished singer, songwriter and producer, Kelly Price, a Queens, N.Y., native who has collaborated with such high-profile artists as Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, George Michael, Mary J. Blige, Brian McKnight, R. Kelly, Wynona Judd, Gerald Levert, and most notably, the incomparable Ronald "Mr. Big" Isley, recently talked about the ups and downs of a rewarding career, as well as her last bittersweet moments with the late Whitney Houston.
Kimberly C. Roberts: You're coming here to the Dell Music Center next Thursday with Tizer and Will Downing. How long has it been since you last performed in Philly?
Kelly Price: Actually, it hasn't been that long. I was there in September of last year with Kem. It was an amazing crowd, but I always like to come to Philadelphia. Philadelphia is probably as close to home as I can get without actually being there. The crowd is pretty much the same as the at-home crowd, so it's always really comfortable performing in Philadelphia, because it feels like home.
K.C.R.: You're a very talented writer and producer, but I think you really broke through when you started working with Ronald Isley. What did you learn, and what was that experience like - working with such a legendary artist?
K.P. - Honestly, the difference in working with Ronald than all of the other artists I had worked with - I don't know if it was because he was older, if it was because he was already legendary, but when I first came out, everybody said, 'Oh! That's Kelly Price's godfather!' He was really kind of that for me, even though I didn't know him from a child. He pushed me into believing that I could do for myself what I'd done for other people, and I'd had Top Ten hits as a writer for some of the biggest name artists at the time - during the 90s. But the industry has a way of making you feel like - particularly when it comes to imaging, and that was a big deal when I first came out - if you don't look a certain way, then it doesn't matter how talented you are. We had the conversation. He told me, 'I don't care if you weighed 2,000 pounds and you were blue, if you do for yourself what you have done for other people, you will skyrocket.' It was those kinds of conversations that we had that really, really pushed me to believe that Kelly Price as an artist was possible.
K.C.R. - Are you working on any new music right now?
K.P. - I'm always working on music, and it sounds cliche', but I am always working on something. I'm always writing something. This probably sounds weird. I was in bible study with my ipad last night, and a song came to me, so I'm trying not to look like I'm on my ipad Googling while the pastor is teaching the class, but I was writing a song! I'm always writing! I'm in and out of the studio, and developing ideas and concepts. The last thing that I had that came out just strictly on the writing tip is a song that I have on Bonnie Raitt's new project, but then the next collaboration that I have as an artist coming out is with Fantasia and Faith Evans, on the "R&B Divas" soundtrack to the television show. So that will be out in October.
K.C.R. - We all saw that bittersweet moment when you and Whitney were singing onstage that night, which turned out to be her very last appearance. What was that moment like for you?
K.P. - In the moment, elated, excited, happy to have her there with me. The whole talk leading up to that night was, 'I'm going to be there! I want to be there for you!' And even earlier that night, before I came to the stage to start the party and begin the show, she just looked me and told me, 'I'm so proud of you and I love you so much!' I wasn't expecting her to take the stage with me. I wouldn't have even asked her to. It just meant a lot that she would show up, because she didn't do a lot of that anyway. If she went, it was because she really either needed to be there because it was work, or she wanted to be there because she cared, and she wanted the person to know that she was there and supported them. That wasn't work for her that night. She came because she wanted to support a friend. I wasn't singing. I was talking and thanking her for being there, and thanking her for being a friend, and always being very honest with me, and caring about me as a person. That was the basis of our relationship. She cared about me, the person, outside of the industry, and she decided that she wanted to come to the stage and sing a little bit. In retrospect and in hindsight, I look at it, and for me, it was a gift. I feel like I had the opportunity to share that moment with her, and could have never known that it would have been her last moment. None of us would have known. But I feel like God gave me a great, great gift, and that I was able to share that. And then, how more appropriate than to share that moment, and sing about God's love? I was very, very grateful.
The Dell is at 33rd Street and Ridge Avenue. For tickets and information, call the box office at (215) 685-9560 or visit www.mydelleast.com.