It’s been nearly six years since Bad Boy Records songstress Cassie first burst into the music scene with the platinum-selling “Me & U,” a spine-tingling slice of icy electro-R&B minimalism that rocketed to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2006.
While she’s released several songs over the past few years since her debut record, including “Official Girl (feat. Lil Wayne)” in 2008 and “Let’s Get Crazy (feat. Akon)” in 2009, the singer’s had a slow start-up for her sophomore attempt (which was at one time titled Electro Love), stalled by push-backs, delays and of course, the search for the right sound.
And then came “King of Hearts” in early February, a storming, tranced-out production filled with pulsating Ibiza jungle rhythms and haunting, chilly vocals a la “Me & U.” It was the perfect blend of futuristic dance production and Cassie’s signature delivery–the “it” sound that Cassie says will thread itself throughout her upcoming record.
Finally, the R&B songstress is now preparing to release her long-awaited follow-up in 2012.
I got the opportunity to speak with the Connecticutian chanteuse last week while she was promoting “King of Hearts” across the country. (She’s now popping bottles and getting merry in France for Paris Fashion Week–c’est bon, la vie!)
We spoke about the video for “King Of Hearts,” her producers, her sound and her fashion. Plus, she even hinted at what I can only assume to be my new personal anthem off the upcoming record: “Lonely Disco Ball.”
She’s a complete sweetheart, and one of the flyest chicks in the business: And now, an interview with Queen Cassie.
Hi! [Laughs] Hey, Cassie! How are you?
I’m good. How are you? Wish we had a drum roll or something.
What’d you say?
I said we should’ve had a drum roll.
I know. I know. I should have had like a grand introduction for you.
[Laughs] My name’s Brad. I write for MuuMuse and MTV Buzzworthy. I was the one that did that post with all the .GIFs from your video. I don’t know if you remember.
And I wanted to thank you. I thought that was so amazing.
I loved it.
I’m glad you liked it.
That was dope. That was really dope. People probably took your .GIFs. A lot of people took your .GIFs.
Oh, that’s okay. I took those too, so…it’s fine. Just pass them along. [Laughs] And we’re both from Connecticut, so you know, there’s that.
Oh, no way! Where are you from?
I’m from Milford.
Oooooh. I hear that on the Metro line–Stratford/Milford/New Haven, because I always used to take the train from New Haven to New York.
Yeah! All the time. All the time.
Yup. [Laughs] Cool. So I guess a good place to start is probably the [“King of Hearts”] video. Um, I know you’ve probably been answering this all day, so I’m sorry.
No. Your voice is refreshing right now, trust me.
Awww! That’s sweet. So can you tell me a little bit about the concept and also where the video was shot?
Um, we shot it in – what was it – Palisades? I always say the wrong thing. It was the Palisades. Pacific Palisades. It’s like almost Malibu or in Malibu in a mansion. It overlooked the water-–really, really pretty. Um, Christopher Sims shot it, as you know.
And um, the concept behind it was really just like–style-wise, we were just like let’s go 100% ’90’s supermodel. Like, let’s just be sexy and play that up and then make like a moving editorial. The cool thing about the shoot was that–you’ve seen the single artwork with the hat and, you know, different pictures that came out…
They were doing photo shoots in between with my friends Steven [Gomillion] and Dennis [Leupold], who are just my favorite photographers in the world. We were shooting in between, so we were kind of having and editorial shoot and shooting a video.
That’s amazing. Yeah, It does sort of does look like you’re mid-photo shoot. That makes a lot of sense.
As for the song itself, you worked with J2, right?
When you were coming up with that, was that just like a matter of experimenting in the studio or did you have like a certain sound that you were going for?
I didn’t really necessarily have a sound that I was going for. I was just trying to find records that just fit for me, and when I heard the beat it was just immediate. It was kind of like this jungle sound. I don’t know. It was something different that I hadn’t heard, and that I felt like it would be cool for me to represent that sound. Because I feel like it’s not all the way dance.
It’s not a very obvious David Guetta sort of dance record.
Now, speaking of that, you said to V Magazine that your album has that sort of Ibiza jungle sound, but also the icy sound of “Me & U”…
Yeah, there’s a mixture.
Yeah, what sort of inspired you? Were you listening to anything? Or just from the beats that you were hearing at the time?
It honestly was just like–it was a process. I started working on the album…I want to say in ’08.
Yeah. I mean, it sounds kind of crazy though.
No, I know. I’ve been following you ever since. [Laughs]
I started working on it then. It was kind of like a gradual progression. Whatever sounds I felt like were going to fit me. So I kind of went through stages. I did a bunch of R&B records for a while. I did a bunch of pop records. And then finally found this like one universal sound that came together, and I was able to incorporate all of those different things. So I was able to make a ska record, and it still fit on an album that has “King Of Hearts” on it. It’s just a blend of things. So it was a process.
So, I’ve seen that you’ve worked with Pharrell and all different sorts of producers. Can you give us any insight into which producers are making the album, or who you were working with mainly that are going to be on the album?
Like I said, I went through phases. I worked with a group of people for a while and then I’d migrate and go work somewhere else for a while.
So, J2 is “King Of Hearts,” and then I worked with Jean Baptiste on this record that’s actually kind of–it’s a pop/ R&B. I don’t know what it is. It’s just different.
He worked on Flesh Tone, right?
Yeah. Yeah. Kelis. Yeah. He worked with um Black Eyed Peas and Chris Brown. Yeah. He does a lot of crazy stuff. His sound is really dope. So, ya, I worked with him, Danja…
Kanye West is actually working on the remix of “King Of Hearts.” Pharrell–I have a record that I’m getting ready to record that Pharrell did. I’m trying to think. There’s just a bunch of different people. I have this really great producer I got in with that kind of…it’s when the sound started coming to be what it was. It was when I was working with him, and his name is Malay. And um, we did a record called “Disco Ball,” and it kind of just – it shifted the whole project and it put me into a different mode, and that’s when all the records started to flow and make sense.
That sounds completely up my alley. “Disco Ball.”
[Laughs] Yeah. “Lonely Disco Ball.” [Laughs] Perfect.
And I also saw that you uploaded a video–well, you were dancing to “Gimme That.” Is it safe to say that–
[Laughs] By the way, great moves.
[Laughs] Thanks. I was really overly tired, but I was trying to stay awake.
Is that going to make the record? Or was that just something. playing in the background…
It is going to make the record.
[Laughs] Yeah. It’s one of the more dance-leaning records on the album. I just finished it a couple weeks ago. But we’re going to mix it and see what features we might want to have on it and stuff like that. It’s definitely one of my favorites, though. It’s a fun, fun song.
It really is. And then I have to ask about this one, but I’m afraid it might not make it, but I just have to ask because it’s my favorite.
Okay. [Laughs] And I don’t like to bring up all the leaks and stuff because I know that sucks, but like…
No. It doesn’t bother me at this point. [Laughs] So how about “Skydiver”?
Oh my God, “Skydiver.” [Laughs] That’s one of my very favorites. I know it’s probably a little old at this point, but…
You know, “Skydiver” is one of my favorite records that I’ve ever, ever done.
Me too! Well, I didn’t do it, but…
[Laughs] James Fauntleroy actually wrote that record. That was our first record we ever worked on together, and people fell in love with it. I love it. It’s probably not going to make the album, but I definitely–did I send it out at some point? Like, post it on my Twitter or something? I think I gave it as a gift. Because I was like…people love it.
Well, you should give it out again, just in case.
[Laughs] But um, it’s songs like that that I feel are so…they just represent me and who I am as an artist so well. I really love that sound.
Totally. How about touring? Do you think you’ll be performing anytime soon?
Yeah. I’m actually putting my show together now, getting in with Laurie [Ann Gibson]. So we’ll probably start doing shows in March, next month into April.
Do you know where?
No. I don’t know where. [Laughs] I’m actually going overseas at the end of March. Is it the end of March? I don’t know. There’s like seven dates overseas, just like do club dates and stuff like that. Yeah. I think so.
And then I’m going to be going to do like radio shows and stuff during the summer.
I’ll be around. I’ll make sure you know.
[Laughs] How about–can you give us any hints as to the second single [“Money On Love”]? I heard something on the radio.
Oh, you did hear it?
I did. Yup.
That’s the Jean Baptiste record. That’s what I was trying to explain. It’s a little bit different. Kind of…kind of disrespectful a little. I don’t know. It’s different. It’s just different for me, but the funny thing is, it’s more my personality than anything else that anyone else has heard.
Yeah. Nice. It’s a little tougher, I’d say. A little edgier I’d say.
Yeah, it’s a little tougher. That’s a good word. [Laughs] Now, Fashion Week just happened. I know you’re always at the shows and everything. What designers were you looking at, and who’s inspiring you right now? You honestly have the best style, I think, out of every pop star. I always love what you’re wearing.
Thank you! That’s awesome. Thank you so much. I only went to one show during New York Fashion Week, and that was The Blonds‘ show. I don’t know if you saw–it was amazing. I haven’t seen a really good show in a long time. I actually don’t go to a lot of shows to begin with, but it was really cool. I’m a big fan of Isabel Marant, and I’m wearing a lot of Jeremy Scott lately. I’m going to Paris on Friday for fashion week, so I’m going to see what’s going on there. I’m a big fan of Céline right now.
Very cool, okay. I don’t want to take up too much more of your time…
No, it was great talking to you!
Definitely. I’m looking forward to the album. We’ll talk soon!
Thank you so much!
A big thank you to Lance H. for the interview transcription.
If you haven’t already, enter to win a signed copy of “King of Hearts” from MuuMuse.
“King of Hearts” was released on February 14. (iTunes)