Alicia Keys is living her dream. She's been honored with nine Grammys, 11 Billboard Music Awards, three American Music Awards and countless other accolades. Alicia has just released her fourth album, "As I Am", that like her first three CDs, reached number one on the Billboard Album Chart. With two motion pictures and her new CD, Alicia has had a very busy year. Alicia Keys visited VOA's Larry London when she recently stopped in Washington.
After graduating as valedictorian from the prestigious Professional Performing Arts School in New York at the age of 16, Alicia Keys signed a record contract with the So So Def label. Although she wrote a song for the film Men In Black, her own music never attracted much attention. It was not until J-Records executive Clive Davis discovered her in 2000 that her career would take off.
One year later, after signing with J-Records, she released her first CD, Songs In A Minor. That album featured the hit "Fallin'", that remained atop for the Billboard Hot 100 chart for six weeks. That year Keys earned the Billboard Female Artist of The Year Award. Alicia talked about making As I Am.
She says the process took time.
"It took time. In addition to the film, personal life and family and things that are important to nurture and continue to grow with," she said. "I really locked down, closed out the world. I went into my studio for eight months and I created this music. It's so incredible and I'm so excited about it."
The new CD includes collaborations with many talented performers, including John Mayer and Linda Perry.
"That's the other thing about this album. I really kind of took myself out of my comfort zone and allowed myself to work with people I have always admired but we never worked together before. Things like this create a variety of sound and a way to stretch. It's insane. I can't wait for you to hear the music," said Keys.
With her first three albums reaching the top of the charts, and As I Am, debuting at number one in the first week after its release, Keys said she did not feel a lot of pressure to repeat her earlier success with the fourth album.
"I'm not. Honestly I don't worry about that. Of course, I work really hard, and I hope that the world loves the music as much as I do," she said. "But to me that's the most important thing, that people are affected. They are moved. They are touched. They feel what I am saying, and have a connection to it."
Alicia Keys made her acting debut this year in Smokin' Aces opposite Ben Affleck, Ray Liotta, and Andy Garcia. Her second film this year was The Nanny Diaries with Scarlett Johansson.
Keys has already agreed to star in a third film.
"There's one with Halle Berry that she is producing," she said. "It's about an incredible woman named Philippa Schuyler who was raised in the 1940s. She was half-black and half-white, an amazing and brilliant classical pianist. During that time, it was difficult for her to play classical piano in the venues that would allow it. She struggled to find her place in the world to find where she belonged, being such an incredible composer of classical music but not being accepted at that time. It's a very riveting story, and something we are still developing, so I hope it comes together soon."
Keys has been honored with 80 music industry awards since 2001. She says she has given them to her manager because she would feel strange keeping them at home.
"I would like to have a very normal life - take it easy. I like to push myself by becoming a better person and not by statues," she said.
Only 27 years old, Alicia Keys' career is just beginning. She says she is living her dream.
"I am definitely living a dream, and I'm so grateful for it," she said. "Every day I'm thankful for the things that I'm able to do. It's definitely hard work, don't get it wrong. It's not like everything's easy. I love it, and when you love something as much as I love this, it's like a joy to be able to experience that."
Keys will begin a world tour in Europe in February 2008. But for now, she continues what she calls the "Buzzshow Tour", performing in small venues around the U.S.