Thursday, January 18, 2001

Who's that lady?

If you haven't heard of Pru yet, you will soon. The sultry R&B singer-songwriter recently has ignited the airwaves with the release of her self-titled debut album, an offering that sits comfortably alongside those of Macy Gray, Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. Covering a wide range of styles and sounds, Pru's debut is a rock-solid work that sounds like a seasoned artist at the top of her game. Containing billowy, Prince-esque tracks such as "Prophecy of a Flower" and Pru's own flair for lyrical swordplay, the album is light years beyond that of your everyday R&B diva. There's even a nicely ghettofied remake of the Sade classic "Smooth Operator," a song that probably wouldn't have fared well in the hands of a lesser artist.

In part, Pru's artistic savvy comes from her background ? she's an established poet who studied psychology at Texas Southern. In part it comes from experience ? she spent her formative years paying dues as a waitress at The Shark Club, a celebrity watering hole in Los Angeles. Pru's main strength though, is her ability to translate that knowledge and experience into music that matters.

Who's that lady? Pru's that lady.

How do you put songs together?

"It can come from all directions. I first try to establish a general idea. It's almost like writing a paper, like a thesis. My thesis is usually the title of the song. The energy, the poetry, the meaning of the song, the main idea kind of stems from that one line. From there, I can write the chorus and the verses, almost as if I'm creating a picture. Then I can feel the sound of the instruments coming out of whatever the mood of that song is."

Did you grow up in a musical family?

"Pretty much, kinda-sorta. We found some old pictures of my mom playing in a band. I also have a brother, Paxton, that's really into music. He plays a lot of instruments and he's a singer-songwriter. He's one of my major influences as far as really starting to sing and write music. I was a poet first and he said, "Hey, I can put some of this stuff to music." So that's where the whole thing happened where I put music to poetry."

Do you see a similarity in the creative processes of poetry and music?

"There's a lot of similarity. I think songs are just poems anyway. It's pretty much the same except that the kind of poetry I write is really standard poetry. If you read the song "Hazy Shades," it's really a poem. It sounds kind of weird to me to hear a song where the main idea came from a poem. A lot of times in poetry, if it's really deep, people might miss the meaning or the interpretation."

What do you think of the current state of R&B?

"It just is what it is. There's different styles of music and different music for different people. I try to offer a variety, especially in R&B. There are people who listen to R&B who would like a different sound as opposed to the repetitious things that are playing on the radio. I don't think there's enough different styles of R&B out there."

You were a psychology major in college. Has psychology informed your music at all?

"No, but I think psychology helps you in general. This business is about people; it's a very social business, so psychology can help in that respect. It just depends on how much you're out there, how many people you meet and the kinds of relationships you build. If you're in the right place at the right time, you can use it."

Do you think being a female is an obstacle for musicians?

"It can be. Sometimes in R&B, the music is really producer-oriented. When you write and produce and do your own thing it can be difficult to get producers to really listen to what you're doing. I was fortunate in that respect ? the songs were so strong that they were able to follow along and enhance rather than tear down. So I was lucky to find people that liked the music and the songwriting, so they were able to lay a good bed around the lyrics and the melodies."

Do you find yourself compared to artists like Macy Gray or Erykah Badu?

"Yeah, definitely. In an industry where you're automatically categorized, people have to relate it to something in order to even relate to it. But I'm a really big fan of Macy Gray, Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu, so I don't mind being compared to those artists. What I think is being classified as the neo-soul classic movement has artists that are individually different in their own right, but aren't different from modern R&B. That's why I think we're lumped together and compared so often."