Algebra Blessett is the Grammy-award winning singer/songwriter and instrumentalist whose musical prowess is behind hits for artists like India.Arie, Esperanza Spalding, and more. She released her own debut album, Purpose, in 2008, and it maintained a stronghold on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Albums Charts for 14 weeks.
Today, Blessett is back with her newest album, Recovery. The flirty video for her lead single, “Nobody But You” features reality TV heartthrob Chef Roble but also another skill that Blessett hones when she’s not creating music–aerial silks.
We caught up with the Atlanta native to chat about her latest album and her hopes for inspiring people to be better human beings.
There was a moment in your EPK when you were speaking about Recovery, and you mentioned that it was about getting to the next hour. Elaborate on that concept and talk about your creative process for this album.
This album is about getting from now to the next place in your life, be it an hour, a day or a month. As human beings we go through our good and bad but sometimes we forget that no matter what we’re going to recover and get to the next stage in our life, it’s just a mater of deciding that that’s what you want to do, and recover. I always give the example of, you lay down at night and your cells regenerate as part of our process. As human beings, it’s the aging process. It’s about recovery, recovering from heartbreak and pain. You can be in the happiest place in your life and then something happens and you fall and you’re hit so that’s what that’s about.
You were very intentional about the producers that you chose. Describe your selection process and your chemistry.
Before that I have to say, they’re amazing producers as you know. They have their accolades, Grammys and they are musicians so they understand that these are all guys that started off playing an instrument when they were young just because it was fun to do and turned it into a career and it’s not just a phase for them [Editor’s note: Some of the producers include Brian Michael Cox, Kwane Holland, Shannon Sanders and more]. Take Kwame for example, he was an artist first that evolved into being this amazing producer, so he was able to see where I was coming from as an artist along with Shannon Sanders, and the way that they produce, they have a way of—the message that I wanted to convey, me being a southern bell sometimes [laughs] and being a musician as well—they also understood the grittiness that moves me and also the passion in the lyrics that I wrote.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Everybody that I’ve ever heard. I believe that anything that we’ve seen, heard and done as we grow from a baby, to teenagers to 20-year-olds, you kind of have a tendency to be inspired by it. So, I grew up listening to whatever my mom listened to and then as the time changed there was this big hip-hop influence, so you just start adding all these different elements to everything that you’ve heard and you start being inspired by it and you kind of create your own, so I would say everything. Hip-hop to me growing up was Outkast and that’s so different from the average hip-hop lover who loved Afrika Bambaataa or Biggie or Tupac, so for me it was Outkast because that was home for me, but when I started to travel more I got exposed to all these other different types of hip-hop and I started to bug out so it all just started to grow inside of me.
As a creative, how do you nurture your ideas and get over mental blocks imposed by yourself or even outside forces?
[Laughs] Imposed by myself, you got that right! It’s a process. Sometimes you just have to be still. Sometimes you can force it. I was told, always write, always put your thoughts down so you can get accustomed to it but sometimes nothing really wants to get out on the page so sometimes you have to find something else to do to make that part of your brain work. I like to try new things anyway so if I can find anything to convey I will. I’ll write about a sandwich that I ate.
Who was one or two of the last musicians that you heard who really spoke to you?
I actually started reading more of Maya Angelou’s literature. That kind of moved me a lot. It’s different from when I read it when I was in grade school. Now that I’m an adult it has a different meaning to me so I have a tendency to go back to records that I got exposed to earlier on.
How did you end up with Chef Roble as your costar in the video for “Nobody But You?”
He was a sweetheart to do that for me. I think he was in his element and out of his element. If you’ve ever watched the show, he’s such a ladykiller, and this role required a guy like that. So, a friend of mine was like, “I have a friend who is the perfect guy for the video! It should be Chef Roble,” and I thought that him being the Schroeder in the video was perfect.
The other cool part to this is that you were doing aerial silks in the video. That’s impressive. How did you get introduced to aerial arts?
A gift certificate. I t was in New York for my birthday one year and my manager was like, “Alright you’re getting ready to go somewhere,” and I ended up at this trapeze school. Before you can do anything in the school you have to jump on this trampoline like a kid, so I’m doing it and looking up at the sky and saw these things hanging so my infatuation started there.”
Going back to your music, what do you hope your listeners take away from Recovery?
I really hope they walk away, after listening to this album a couple of times, wanting more and understanding the message and I hope to inspire other artists and inspire people to take care of each other to live and be amazing human beings.
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