Interview: Ginuwine – Singer and Songwriter

Posted: March 18, 2009 in interview, music
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Ginuwine

Date of Interview: 03/18/2009

© 2009 Clayton Perry

When Ginuwine made his grand appearance on the musical stage, the world was smitten by “Pony,” his provocative, Timbaland-assisted smash.  And for more than a decade, Ginuwine’s adoring fans have watched him evolve through his private emotional battles, as he coped with the death of his parents (“Two Reasons I Cry”), transition from bachelorhood into the married life (“Differences”), and public life in the spotlight (“Same Ol’ G”).

Although he has five gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums to his credit, Ginuwine’s influence on contemporary R&B has been largely underrated.  In fact, many of the genre’s younger artists have incorporated elements of his video performance into their acts—dancing, singing and serenading, all at one time.

On June 2, 2009, Ginuwine will release his sixth studio through Notifi Records, with distribution being handled by Warner Brother Records.  In preparation for the release of A Man’s Thoughts, Ginuwine managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on fatherhood, “Last Chance,” and The Life.

Clayton Perry: In June 2009, you are set to release your sixth studio album, A Man’s Thoughts.  With four years passing, since your last release, I’m curious to know about the life events that served as inspiration for the title.

Ginuwine: There’s not necessarily a particular event but more so the growth with me as an artist and me as a man. It just was inspired with a level of maturity that I want people to identify when they hear this CD which is totally different from ’96 when I first came out. There are things now that I look at in life that are totally different than I used to when I first came out. Pretty much it’s a title that will show people that follow me, have been following me, that knew me from back in the day just telling a growth period, just showing me in a different light, a positive light still but just growth really.

Clayton Perry: How has marriage and fatherhood helped you become “the best man you could be?”

Ginuwine: I’m in a different light and apply things in my life differently than I would as a single man or a young dude that doesn’t have any kids. Now I realize and see the effect of the things that I do on not only my kids but kids in general. Not like back in the day when I’d just like to do it and I do it. Now, it’s more like, “What is the drawback of this? How else can this be perceived if I do this?” Taking on a marriage and fatherhood definitely had me view things differently in life. I think it’s a good thing always because when you’re an adolescent, you’re young and you don’t view things the way your parents view them, you know what I’m saying? That’s pretty much it with that.

Clayton Perry: One of my favorite poets is Ralph Waldo Emerson and he had this quote where he said, “Music first before the thought.” He thought the music was always an inspiration to great thoughts. When you were making this album did you start with the music or did you start with the thought? How did you process this album?

Ginuwine: Processing this album from the beginning was more of just going in there and letting everything come to me, as it has throughout my career. With every CD, I knew sometime in the middle or towards the end I will come up with the name — which happened. I didn’t go in and say, “Okay, the name of this CD is going to be A Man’s Thoughts.” We’ve done over 40 songs and every song I started pulling out to make the CD started reflecting a man’s thoughts, how we think – things that women don’t know. This CD will – in some shape, sort or fashion – will tell them the ways that we think sometimes, not in all situations but in some. A Man’s Thoughts just fit. I was looking at a lot of the titles and I was like, “Wow, A Man’s Thoughts would be hot for this.” I came up with like four, to tell you the truth, but that one stuck out. I even wrote all four on a piece of paper – it might just be three, I don’t remember – and showed them to some of the people that were at the studio. I said, “Don’t think too much about what you’re looking at. Just tell me what pops out at you.” 95% of the people picked A Man’s Thoughts – there’s just something about that name.

Clayton Perry: The lead single for this album is “Last Chance.” Why was this track so special to you?

Ginuwine: “Last Chance” is significant for many reasons. When I come up with names of songs on a CD, it might actually mean more than what it’s actually talking about. In this one, it really signified how I feel about the game and how I feel about myself in the game: If I don’t do it right this time, this is my last chance. Another reason was because it was to me a hit done by Bryan-Michael Cox and written by Adonis. When I did it the first day, I knew that there was something special about that song. I still feel that regardless of how much success it has. In my heart I just felt that it was a special song. I always believed that if you’re going to sell a song, you should be able to perform it and believe in it. That’s a song that I can perform and believe in. People will feel that when they hear me sing it and see me perform it. For me, it is a smash and that’s pretty much why I picked it.

Clayton Perry: I really love the single. You mentioned that it was produced by Bryan-Michael Cox and you have worked with him in the past. I’m curious to know what kind of connection do you have with him that you rarely have with other producers?

Ginuwine: B. Cox is real cool. When we’re in the studio, he respects who I am in the game and I respect who he is in the game. We both got faith and we give each other that respect. He’s cool to talk to. He’s quick on the tracks. When work is said and done, he inspires me just to watch him do what he does. We just gel real good in the studio. I hope we get to work together again on the next CD because it was real quick and it was real easy – that’s the best thing. A lot of times you can go in the studio and you have egos and that’s something I don’t deal with. We’re supposed to gel together or it just won’t work. If you can’t handle that, there’s no need to really go anywhere with somebody just to see who stands out more or who’s the biggest star. That’s stupid to me, you know what I mean? He’s not on that and that’s why I really like working with him.

Clayton Perry: You’re one of the few artists who managed to have some longevity in the business. What do you think it is about you or your personal or professional characteristics that help contribute to this longevity?

Ginuwine: Really I think it’s just the right timing and the right people when I first came out, doing the right thing and staying hungry. I don’t really know what the blueprint is for staying in the business, especially now in our country and in how we view music and how we accept it. Everything is very fickle. They could be a huge star today and tomorrow you hate them. It’s really just one of those things where you go to the studio and you do the best you can and stay true to yourself, reach out and listen to music and just try to stay current. I think it just helped me as an artist by bringing dancing back, and being not too scared to do certain things or bring in a new sound with Timbaland – all that kind of stuff. I think all that played a major role in my longevity, as well as me being able to get out here and write my own music. That way people can identify with me as an artist because I’m actually saying things that people go through, but I’m telling it from my perspective. People grab a hold of that. To me, there’s no blueprint. It’s just you getting out there and staying current and getting involved in the things and the sound that is happening today, doing what you’re supposed to do as an artist. That’s what kind of keeps you out there. I do know that once your time is up, your time is up. I don’t care how current you stay with the new producers or whatever, if your time is up, your time is up. I don’t believe mine is up right now but I believe they’re waiting and this is like a do-or-die moment. That’s why I’m like, “Even if this is not your last chance, approach it that way.” That way, you won’t leave nothing behind. You go in with all force. That’s how I’m doing it, you know what I mean?

Clayton Perry: Is there one piece of advice that you think shaped the course of your career?

Ginuwine: I think just being down-to-earth and cool. No one likes – although it’s newsworthy sometimes – no one likes an a-hole. I just think that me not burning bridges, me being genuine – that always helps. Make no mistake: everybody is going to come back down. If you don’t burn your bridges on your way back down, your fall is not as quick. If you burn every bridge on your way up, you will fall flat. For someone to be in the game for as long as I have, that’s the kind of advice that I would give: don’t burn bridges.

Clayton Perry: From …the Bachelor all the way to A Man’s Thoughts, how would you describe your evolution as an artist? In what ways have you changed and in what ways are you still the “same ol’ G?”

Ginuwine: The thing that hasn’t changed is how I approach the stage and how I approach my shows and what percentage of myself I give to my shows – which is 100%. That hasn’t changed. I approach my shows and people that come out to see me like this could be the last one and these people paid their money so you give them the show that they deserve and leave nothing on the stage. You give it all out on the stage. That’s what I do. As far as what has changed: as you get older, you view things and you approach things differently. That’s the only thing that I could probably say that has changed – the way that I view things. Everybody can adapt to that because everybody views things differently as they get older.

Clayton Perry: The bulk of your musical catalog revolves around your experiences in the game of love.  When you look back on your personal life, what do you consider to be the hardest lesson that you had to learn?

Ginuwine: Oh, wow. The hardest lesson in the game of love? I guess that would be when you lose someone. I’ve always respected women but what I’m saying is when you take into account what their feelings are. In earlier days, I didn’t. It was all about me, me, me, me. I’ve learned throughout the years now, it’s not about me; it’s about us and how someone else feels. You don’t live for yourself; you live for the two of you. I guess the lesson of love is probably to be more considerate, to not take for granted what you have, always view things from both angles and not just your side – that will hurt, that will kill you and then that will kill the relationship.

Clayton Perry: One of my favorite songs out of your entire catalog is “Differences.” I’m curious to know the setup for that song.

Ginuwine: That song was really during a time when I was going through a depressed state because of my dad and my mom had passed. We’re writing a whole bunch of songs and what helped me out a lot was my wife – she wasn’t my wife then but that’s what helped me out. I said, “I’m going to write a song about her,” and it happened to be a song that a lot of people wanted to sing to their wives when they were getting married. It’s just one of those songs that will always be here. I’m just happy I’m the one that did it.

Clayton Perry: Some would argue that “Pony” is probably your signature hit. Do you recall your initial reaction, when you heard the final mix?

Ginuwine: I always knew even before we’ve done it that it was a hit. Don’t ask me how or why I knew it. I still remember in ’94 when I was in front of the mirror practicing it. I just knew that it was a hit. I was so proud of it and I was just so happy. I just knew it was a hit so I’d been practicing it and getting ready because I knew as soon as they hear this song, that was it. That was it.

Clayton Perry: You’ve had a string of hits over the years. Is there a particular song that you wished you had pushed for release as a single or you wished people really had their hands on?

Ginuwine: Oh, man. I remember the song that we did on the same CD as “Differences” – a song called “Why Not Me.” That’s just another song I really, really loved. I just felt like that should have been the opening song, the introduction to Ginuwine. But we didn’t go with that. They went with “There It Is.” It was okay, but it wasn’t what I thought it should be. It was just saying so much. It was a song I felt like I could dance to, the video and all that kind of stuff.

Clayton Perry: When you look at your catalog, is there a particular album that’s reflective of a special era in your life?

Ginuwine:The Life.  That’s kind of like the switch point to maturity and me leading life in a different light. So it would probably be The Life.

Clayton Perry:The Life – I think – is one of your most underrated albums. As a matter of fact, there was something in the liner notes that I want to talk to you about. You said that you knew you had a purpose on earth and now you know there is a reason for you still being here. I know it was a traumatic experience for you just losing both of your parents. From there, what kind of strength have you gotten yourself after the fact?

Ginuwine: Man, just knowing that life is going to throw you for a loop, putting obstacles in your way, in your path and you just jump over them and keep going. I live for my kids. You can’t just say, “Man, I want to kill myself.” I wanted to do that, too, but you’re going to bring hardship to your kids, to your family and everybody. So why do that? It’s not about you anymore. It’s about you being there for your kids. Death is a part of life. You’re never ready for it but you have to accept that it’s coming for everybody. Once you realize that, of course you’re going to be sad but you got to take it. Once you know that and understand it, it is what it is. It’s just something that’s going to happen to everybody. You just kind of be ready for it. That doesn’t mean you have to shorten your life any time soon just because someone else is gone. You have to realize they wouldn’t want you to do that and they want you to live your life to the fullest. That’s pretty much what that note was – knowing that there is a purpose for me to move on and keep going and realize that life is going to end for all of us. You have to be there to do your part. That’s pretty much what it was, man.

Clayton Perry: What do you consider to be the wisest decision you ever made that prepared you to be in the music industry? Is there a particular moment where you were just like…

Ginuwine: To leave, man. To just get out on my own and be able to withstand letdowns, you know what I mean? I left home early when I was fifteen or sixteen. I experienced many things. I saw many things. It’s the situation that made me strong. My dad was really tough. That made me just strong. So I think leaving home at an early age – for some people, that may be bad – but I think for me, it made me stronger and a better man, a better person.

Clayton Perry: Since you came out with your first release, the music industry has evolved tremendously. When you look at the current state of R&B, what are your thoughts?

Ginuwine: The state of R&B right now I think it’s on the come-up. It dropped for a long time. I think it’s on the come-up. The R&B has to be delivered correctly in order for it to be received the way we, as artists, want it to be received. I feel like a lot of people haven’t delivered it correctly. There are a few that have but the ones that haven’t outweigh the ones that have easily. For me, I think R&B needs a pick-me-up and I’m a part of that. I love Ne-Yo. I love Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Keyshia Cole, Alicia Keys – all of them. But there’s so much more garbage than good R&B that it weighs on people’s thoughts and ways that they can listen and feel like that’s good R&B when it’s really not. If radio is playing crap like that, then it’s hard to decipher the bull. I just feel like I’m a major piece of puzzle that’s going to put back R&B.

Clayton Perry: What do you think you’re bringing to the table that other male vocalists aren’t?

Ginuwine: I think as far as R&B, man, I’ve always brought all elements of R&B to R&B. I bring the swag to it. I bring the act into it. It’s best described when you come to my show because when you leave my show, you know that you got your money’s worth. I’m so tired of people just walking back and forth, everybody looking the same. I’m just so tired of that, man. That’s why Andre 3000 was so refreshing, you know what I mean? Even though he’s wild or whatever, he feels like refreshment because it’s not the norm. That’s what I think I bring. I’m bringing back again what I started.  I’m not scared to dance. I’m not scared to do what people have stopped doing – they haven’t really stopped doing it now – but I was a major piece in bringing that back because when I came in the game, nobody was dancing. Everybody was scared to dance. I’m a leader. I’m going to do what I want to do. Regardless of how you feel or what you say about me, I’m going to do it because I want to do it. I’ve always brought that to R&B and that’s what I intend to bring that back to R&B again.

Clayton Perry: A lot of sources list your primary musical influence as Prince. I’m curious to know what you admire the most about his musical career.

Ginuwine: I’ve always admired Prince for his talent. He plays so many instruments. Him being the way that he is and looking the way that he looks, you can tell he’s a leader. I’ve just always admired him for standing up and being who he wants to be and doing what he wants to do. There’s not enough of that in the industry and I think there are a lot of people now who are followers. Even companies or labels, if they see something that works, they’ll throw a million people out there that are doing the same thing and that takes away from who did it first. I just respect him for being Prince, doing what he’s done throughout the years, being a leader and taking no crap, doing what he wants to do.

Clayton Perry: So what’s the story behind your name?  Or is it self-explanatory?

Ginuwine: Oh, man. It was basically what we just talked about. I needed a name that best describes who I am as a man, as a person. My name is Elgin, so I just took the Gin. I think I was looking at some type of beer commercial – genuine draft or something like that. I was like, “Ginuwine – that’s hot.” So I tried it out and it stuck.

Clayton Perry: Many years from now, when you look back on your career, how do you want to be remembered?

Ginuwine: Me as an artist – I just want to be remembered as giving all that he can in his shows. I think that when people pay money to see you, it’s your job and your duty to give them the best possible show you can give them. I like to inspire like Barack Obama’s change – to do something different, you know what I mean? That’s pretty much what it is for me, man, to be remembered as an entertainer. One of the best entertainers.

For more information on Ginuwine, visit his official website: http://www.ginuwine.com/


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