Interviews

Published on April 9th, 2000 | by Gerry Galipault

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The Time Finally Comes for Anastacia

Even if her first single, “I’m Outta Love,” hadn’t debuted last week at No. 92 on Billboard’s pop chart and didn’t have new fans wondering “Who’s the woman behind that big, bold voice?,” Anastacia would be okay with it. She’s a fighter and a survivor who is appreciative of everything along the way.

She’s not sweating the small stuff. Other more important things keep the big picture in perspective.

“I have Crohn’s disease (chronic inflammation of the digestive tract), which is like colitis,” the R&B-inspired pop singer-songwriter said recently. “It has sparked me to be a lot more intuitive, like an AIDS patient is. When you meet someone with AIDS, they have a very wonderful settled calmness about them, like ‘It’s okay.’

“I’m not dying anytime soon, that I know of, but it does make you aware that every moment is very important and being present at all times, trying to be positive and trying to be a good person, because if you’re taken out tomorrow, what’s somebody going to say about you? Is it going to be that you yelled at somebody on the street because they cut you off or is it going to be ‘She was really great’?”

The native New Yorker is making her mark in a big way with “I’m Outta Love,” the leadoff track off her debut Daylight/Epic album, “Not That Kind” (due May 9).

It shouldn’t be too surprising. Anastacia, born Anastacia Newkirk, has been turning heads since the late 1980s when she danced her way onto “Club MTV” and several videos, such as Salt-N-Pepa’s “Everybody Get Up” and “Twist and Shout.”

Several producers saw enormous potential in the striking blonde, but they all made the mistake of trying to streamline her sound and alter her titanic, soulful voice.

“Every time I would work with a producer, he would want me to stop singing the way I sing, like ‘Take out the growl, the nasalness, this and that,’ ” she said. “I never understood what they meant because I always sang like that. It was a trip. I didn’t fall into the category of somebody wanting to take a risk on me, as opposed to being at the time now where the Christina Aguileras of the world are coming out and, to me, making more of a path for the union for pop and R&B, making a fusion that’s comfortable without people going ‘I can’t listen to that.’ “

Then came “The Cut,” MTV’s answer to “Star Search,” in 1998. Among 160 contestants, she reached the finals and eventually lost to rapper Silk E.

“Throughout the show, she and I pretty much weren’t on the same show until the very end for the finals,” Anastacia said, “but we would share dressing rooms because we taped on the same day together. We got to be close; her real name is Erica. She was a rapper who incorporated a little singing, kind of like Lauryn Hill, and dressed similarly to her.

“She wanted it so bad; she wanted to win so deeply in her heart, she was really out for the win, but not in a bad way … in an honest, sweet, gorgeous way. I really wanted her to win. It got so strange at the end of ‘The Cut’ because so many people wanted to win it so badly, so that’s when it started to lose interest for me. It wasn’t about the beauty of singing anymore, and it wasn’t about ‘I really enjoyed your performance.’ It was about who’s going to win.

“I might have sabotaged myself on the last show. I can honestly say it got less fun for me because it became more of a competition rather than a really exciting event. MTV was the bomb, and the show itself was a great experience, but it’s too bad it couldn’t end after you win the first time, because that’s all I needed. That’s when all the calls started coming in.”

She quickly was courted by some of the biggest names in the business – Tommy Mottola, Doug Morris, even Michael Jackson.

“Two months later, when we were deciphering all the messages and doing the interviews and meeting the (label) presidents, I was speaking with Michael’s president (of MJJ Records) and he wanted to find time in Michael’s schedule for us to speak,” she said. “We finally did it over the phone and it was a wonderful conversation; he was a doll and I was completely flattered.

“But I knew I was probably going with a sister label from Sony; I had to pick one of the three that were interested in order to start negotiations. I narrowed it to Epic purely and solely from my meeting with David Massey, who swooned me and really got it. He’s such a gentle soul that I felt so at home and comfortable.”

Epic wasted no time in surrounding Anastacia with top-class producers and songwriters: Grammy Award winner Ric Wake (Mariah Carey, Celine Dion) produced the ballad “Nothin’ At All,” the rocked-out “Cowboys & Kisses” and “Wishing Well”; Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers (who wrote N ‘Sync’s “{God Must have Spent} A Little More Time On You”) produced and co-wrote “Same Old Story” and “Black Roses” with Anastacia and produced “Who’s Gonna Stop the Rain,” and Sam Watters of Color Me Badd and Louis Biancaniello produced and co-wrote with her “I’m Outta Love,” “Made For Lovin’ You” and “I Ask of You.”

“I’m very proud of this album and the producers I was able to work with, who all actually had the same dynamic,” Anastacia said. “They were wonderful men, gentle souls. I laughed more during this album in three and a half months than I have in my whole career. I got to choose my energies. I found energies that were similar and luckily they all came from the same table when it came to giving me music.

“They didn’t even listen to each other when they were doing their thing; we still made an album that made sense to each song. It didn’t sound like four producers who really don’t get it. I’m very lucky on a lot of different levels.”

Anastacia has fought the odds since she was 13, when doctors told her she had Crohn’s. Determined not to let it sidetrack her, she’s open and honest about having the disease, even telling viewers of “The Cut” during a bio interview.

“I’ve been growing up with this disorder and learned how to understand it and try to stay healthy most of the time,” she said. “I can’t run myself into the ground or I’ll get sick. My record company knows, my management knows, my agency knows that I will work as hard as I can possibly work humanly without getting ill. I’m so in touch with where I’m going, if I know I need rest, I let them know. I’m not being a diva or anything; ‘I’m tired, I need to go acupuncture and need a little medication, or maybe I need a bath or not answer my phone for a night, so don’t worry about me.’

“I’ve heard success goes so fast that you either don’t enjoy it or you get so caught up you get involved in the wrong things and make the wrong decisions. I’ve done those things already. Been there, done that. When I speak, I feel like one of those people who’s had 40 albums out; I feel my soul is that because I feel like I’ve been through the mill trying to be in this business for so long.”

Anastacia is so upbeat, she jokes about the trademark dark, thick-framed glasses she wears.

“I wear glasses because I need them; I don’t wear them to be the fashion victim,” she said. “I have to have them because I have a stigma in one eye and I’m blind in another. But I make it fun, I make it acceptable to fit in society; I’ve always worn crazy, goofy glasses, it’s just what I do. This is who I am. Love me or leave me.”

THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “I really didn’t buy any music. I listened to a lot of radio. In my house, I’ve probably got about 10 CDs.”

THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “I totally remember that. It was The Police and Andy Gibb at some place in Chicago. It was probably one of those radio things where there’s a bunch of acts performing, and they were the only two I remember. I was really young. I was a big Andy Gibb fan; I had the biggest crush on him as a child, and I was devastated when he died.”

THE LAST CD I BOUGHT: “Beth Hart and the CD before that was Macy Gray. That shows you where I’m at; I admire the artists who don’t go mainstream. I admire the artists who either have a twist to their voice or to their style that’s like ‘You go.’ I’m a tremendous fan of theirs; they don’t sound a thing like me, but I’m a fan of their art.”

BWF (before we forget): For more on Anastacia, visit www.anastacia.com.

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About the Author

Gerry Galipault debuted Pause & Play online in October 1997. Since then, it has become the definitive place for CD-release dates — with a worldwide audience.



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