With her arresting good looks and smart, eclectic updating of classic R&B, Alicia Keys became the darling of the music world in the past year, winning five Grammy Awards and gracing numerous magazine covers. Her Monday night show at the Rose Garden will be her first in Portland, though she does recall visiting the city to promote her album “Songs in A Minor” to radio stations. “I really loved it there — just the vibe of the city, and the people were so nice. So I’m definitely excited about coming back to play there.”
She spoke recently by cell phone from a Los Angeles department store.
Interviewer: A lot has been written about how accomplished you are for someone so young, but what’s most interesting is that your music seems to speak to 14-year-olds and 45-year-olds alike. Was that something you strived for?
AK: One of the things I said even before I had an album, back when I was scrabbling, getting my thing together, was that I wanted to reach everybody. People used to ask me, “Who is your audience?” And that used to irritate me. I always just wanted my music to reach anybody — the natural, normal, compassionate person. And now at my concerts it’s so wonderful because I look out and I can see the 60-year-old woman and the 4-year-old boy, and it’s like my dream come true.
Interviewer: How early did you start writing songs? And did you have to write lots of bad ones before you could get them to really capture your thoughts and feelings?
AK: I started dibble-dabbling when I was 12, started getting my flow when I was 13 or 14. It definitely is something you have to try and experiment with. A lot of those songs I wrote back then I might listen to now and think, “That’s terrible.” But that’s where I was at the that time and that’s what got me where I am now. So I don’t think anything is ever in vain.
Interviewer: As someone who started taking music seriously at a young age, have you had a long-term plan, or does your muse lead you?
AK: I’d have to say both. I have very long-range plans, in that we have a company, KrucialKeys Productions, that Kerry “Krucial” Brothers and I started, that I really see as a multimedia production company that can get involved in a lot of different things. I see myself scoring movies and even writing songs for the theater. There are all kinds of possibilities.
So, in some ways I’m led by God, or by my muse, as you say. And in other ways, I just try new things and then other things present themselves and I see that, “Hey, I can go in that direction, too.”