Alicia Keys The 23-year-old singer-songwriter’s sophomore album, “The Diary of Alicia Keys,” entered the Billboard albums chart at No. 1 in December.
That makes two No. 1 debuts for the New York City native: Keys’ first album, “Songs in A Minor,” topped the charts and scored five Grammy Awards for the singer.
Keys feels like she has evolved a lot since her debut in 2001.
“I have a better idea of what I like and what I want to hear and how I want to get to that point,” she said.
TMR sat down with Keys late last year to chat about the new album and what inspired the songs.
TMR: What was in your heart when you started recording this new cd?
KEYS: Oh, a lot of things were in my heart. I started writing a lot of the stuff on the road. I wasn’t sure how I would do writing on the road because of the constant motion and movement and travel from here to there and late nights and early mornings. I said, “How in the world am I going to hear what’s in my head with all of this motion?” I came to find out that it truly triggered me to write constantly. I was constantly writing on the road.
So, what was in my heart was everything that I saw, all the new things I was discovering, feelings of missing things, just excitement and all of the day-to-day things that one feels, especially young ladies feel. Pain and joy and confusion and everything in this entire world was in my heart when I was writing this album.
TMR: Why did you choose to call the album “The Diary of Alicia Keys”?
KEYS: I chose it because everything was leading up to that. The songs are very personal to me. They are all, like I said, written on the road from my life, from my experience, from my growth, from my growing pains, from my growing joys, from the world and society and thoughts and pains and pressures, and fantastic joyous feelings. So just like a diary. A diary seems to constantly evolve, the pages constantly turn — it never will really end. It’s just like my music, each day may be a little different, each day feels a little different.
TMR: Can you tell me the name of the first single?
KEYS: The name of the first single, I’m happy to say, is “You Don’t Know My Name.” I love that song very much. It’s very — I like to call it “Back to the Future” sometimes, which tends to be a little bit of a theme on my album. A lot of times the songs and music that inspires me the most is music that was done in the late 60s, mid-70s …
Sometimes I notice that that is where I naturally tend to feel comfortable and those are sometimes how my songs very much sound. It’s almost like taking that and mixing it with who I am and all that I am today and where I am today and get a little bit of what you’ll taste on this album. It’s definitely very creative, and it’s a little different. And I love that.
The song, “You Don’t Know My Name,” is about when you first see somebody, and you see them and you’re admiring them from afar and you start imagining all these things. “I wonder what he walks like, I wonder what his conversation would be like, I wonder what it would be like if we went on our first date.” You imagine all these things, but you don’t even know my name, and I don’t even know your name. That’s the feeling of the song.
The fun part is that in the middle of the song I decide to call him and say, “You know what, I’m just going to call him. I can’t wait, I need to go ahead and seize the moment.” I have this whole conversation of me on the phone with him, in the middle of the record. So it’s a lot of fun and it tells you a lot of stuff. So I’m very excited about the song and I’m very excited about the album.
TMR: What’s the most important thing to you when you communicate a song to an audience, be it large or small?
KEYS: The most important thing for me when I communicate a song to the audience is that they transcend to this place that the song originated, that I am able to make them feel what made me feel that song enough to write it and sing it. I always pray for that before I go on stage. I pray that I can communicate with the people out there. That we can feel each other, that we have some type of understanding of each other, and that we’re both swept away in the moment. That’s one of the most important things to me — that it comes across in its true essence.