Interview: Kristinia DeBarge – Singer and Songwriter

Posted: July 10, 2009 in interview, music
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Date of Interview: 07/10/2009

© 2009 Clayton Perry

From birth, Kristinia DeBarge has always been a part of the music world.  As a child, she grew up listening to James DeBarge, her father, who performed as a member of the hit-making DeBarge family group.

In spite of Kristinia’s attachment to the DeBarge legacy, she still had to forge her own path.  Due to a generational gap, Kristinia’s musical style was rooted in pop, which was a stark departure from her family’s classic R&B records.  Fortunately, Kristinia was introduced to Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, who assisted the young singer in polishing her sound and blending the two genres together.

Upon the release of Exposed, Kristinia DeBarge managed to squeeze some time out of her busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on her songwriting experience with Babyface, the inspiration behind Exposed, and her upcoming tour with Britney Spears.

Clayton Perry: In a recent interview with Seventeen magazine, you noted that you write in a diary. For how long have you written entries?  And what song on Exposed do you feel was torn right out of your diary?

Kristinia DeBarge: I’ve been doing this since I was 14. I have about six or seven of them now. And I plan on writing a book eventually with them, kind of like a memoir of Kristinia. [laughing] But… I would have to say the two songs that I wrote that would be torn right out of my diary are “It’s Gotta Be Love” and “Cried Me a River.” “It’s Gotta Be Love” is a song that’s pretty much about a girl who’s in love and she is very much into the relationship and she can’t get enough of him. She always wants to be around him and she gets butterflies around him. It’s kind of like that first-love type of song, except it’s deeper than that. Then there’s “Cried Me a River,” which is about a girl who’s really sad over a breakup but she’s not anymore. She’s just talking, pretty much expressing herself to that person, “I cried me a river, I cried me a stream, I cried me an ocean. I’m all cried out and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ll never be with me ever again. There was so much pain I would never want to feel that way again.”

Clayton Perry: I guess you could say your first album is like your musical diary. Is that the inspiration behind Exposed, the album’s title?

Kristinia DeBarge: Well, I feel like you’re going to see a lot of different sides of Kristinia, and it’s me introducing myself to the world and exposing myself. So you’re going to get to see the vulnerable side, the fun part of me, the sad part of me, the passionate part of me, the empowerment side of me. You’re definitely going to see all different sides of Kristinia! [laughing] I hope everyone really enjoys my album because I put so much work and passion into it.  I feel like a lot of my songs humanize me and people will be able to relate to them.  Let’s say you’re an older woman, you may or may not be going through what I’m going through but you’ll look back and go, “I remember when I had been through that first love and I went through some heartache. I had butterflies in my stomach when I would wait for him to call me.” Just all those fun, exciting things about love… [laughing]

Clayton Perry: With this particular release, you have the honor and distinction of being the first artist released under Babyface’s new label, Sodapop Music. How does it feel to be person that christens the label?

Kristinia DeBarge: It makes me feel like I really have to make sure that I’m being a good example and I’m setting the tone right in the beginning so that everyone knows that Kristinia sets the bar and from there how it just rolls through constantly and people will always work and do their best on the label because, “Oh, we have Kristinia to follow, you know. If she’s out there working hard, we have to work harder.” I hope I can help people stay inspired and motivated, especially people on the label.

Clayton Perry: A few years ago, you made an appearance on American Juniors, which was a short-lived spin-off of American Idol.  Following your Juniors experience, what life events prepared you for a career with a major record label?

Kristinia DeBarge: Well, I have to say that after American Juniors, I really started to go out there and look for producers and look for songwriters to write with me and anybody really who’s experienced with music so that I can make my own music and then shop it somehow. I didn’t know how I was going to shop it but I was just networking myself as much as I could. When there was a gap, I was in the studio everyday until the wee hours of the night. I definitely remember feeling like, “Wow, it’s taking forever. When am I just going to have a deal already?” I did have management at a young age. A lot of broken promises were made. I just continued to be patient and worked hard and I didn’t give up. As soon as I met Babyface, I felt like I can only win from that. I think you need to be loyal and patient. Now I’m at where I am now. I hope to just keep growing and further my career.

Clayton Perry: As a young talent, what did you find to be the biggest obstacle you had to overcome on your path to success?

Kristinia DeBarge: I have to say at this point, it’s biting my tongue. I had to bite my tongue a lot for a lot of different situations and realize that this is what I love doing and I’m doing the best that I can and to take that in. I just hope that as time goes by, I get more recognition and my voice will be heard and people will compromise with me more. That’s the biggest obstacle – biting my tongue.

Clayton Perry: In the early stage of your career, I read that your father wasn’t overly excited.  How does it feel to have the DeBarge legacy attached to your name?  And what kind of advice has your father given you?

Kristinia DeBarge: My dad, yeah, he wasn’t supportive at first. He saw that I was very passionate and he realized that it’s something that I take seriously and not just for fun. It’s work for me as well. His advice was for me to stay grounded, humble, always stay connected with your family and your true friends. Don’t forget who you are. A lot of artists forget who they are. It will take you to extreme highs but when the lows are low, they’re low. Make sure you stay close to your family and to God. That was probably the best advice he’d given me besides never, ever turn down an autograph or a picture for a fan. Always be willing to take a picture or sign autographs. Don’t be mean to your bodyguards, your manager. Stay sweet.

Clayton Perry: That’s very good advice. Fortunately, you’ve surrounded yourself with positive people, like Babyface, who has kind of been a father figure. No one can ever replace your father, of course, but describe your relationship with him and tell me what you most admire about his talents.

Kristinia DeBarge: Kenny and I have a really good relationship. He’s very compassionate and understanding of how I feel because he’s an artist himself, not just the head of Sodapop. He’s someone I can turn to when things get frustrating or hard because he’s there to say, “Hey look, I’ve been through this before. I can help you on this.” He has experience and is very open-minded about other artists coming in to work with us – the songwriters, producers. He’s not one of those people who say, “You know, you can only work with me.” He’s definitely open to other people coming into the project. He’s probably one of the coolest people I’ve ever met, so down-to-earth and a little shy at first. Once you get to know him, he’s funny with jokes and stories, a really good person.

Clayton Perry: What is your favorite memory with him in the studio?

Kristinia DeBarge: I’d say it was us writing together, eating junk food and candy, ordering Brazilian food which is really good. It didn’t feel like work. It felt like we were hanging out and having fun writing beautiful songs together. Those were fun times because he was himself and I was myself. We didn’t have to pretend to be anything else. We just were comfortable.

Clayton Perry: Looking forward into the future, you have several dates slated as one of the opening acts for Britney Spears. Have you determined your set list yet?

Kristinia DeBarge: We have a few ideas, but not all of them yet. Of course I’m going to sing “Goodbye.” I’m pretty sure I’m going to sing “Sabotage,” and maybe a couple Babyface songs, Ryan Tedder songs – but that’s still to be determined. Hopefully, I’ll get a song from each producer on the album on the performance act. I have only a few minutes on stage so it’s not that long. We’ll do as much as we can. It starts on August 20th through December 27th in the US, but we’ll do our first run in Canada so it will be a fun ride.

Clayton Perry: Are you nervous about the opportunity, since you’ll be thrown in front of so many people so quickly?

Kristinia DeBarge: I’m feeling excited, but in a great way. I don’t have any nerves at all. I think before I get onstage, definitely I will be nervous but it will be good nerves. I’m definitely looking forward to just going out there and doing what I know I do best.

For more information on Kristinia DeBarge, visit her official website:


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