It's no surprise that singer-songwriter Vivian Green, is such a musical power house. From her earliest memories, Vivian Green has been surrounded by music.
"My mother used to sing to me all the time -- jazz, spirituals, everything," Green, now 23, recalls while describing her childhood in Philadelphia. "She even made up little songs to teach us things like our address, or how to spell our names. She even made the books of the Bible into a song. I still remember it." To prove her point, Green breaks into a finger-snapping riff that lists all sixty-six books of the Bible -- "Genesis… Exodus… Leviticus…." -- and ends with a giggle.
"In fact," she says, "my very first performance was singing that song. My mother dressed me up and put me on stage and I did a little dance at the church talent show." Vivian was five years old.
At eight, Vivian took up the piano. At eleven, she started writing songs. And at thirteen, Vivian Green became the fifth member of a girl group with the linguistically-inspired name Younique.
"We performed some of my early material," she says laughing. "And we were not very good. But we had fun."
At 15, Vivian started pursing music seriously, sending out demos and writing songs for other artists.
But what Green spent most of her time doing was singing. Friday night, Saturday night, and many nights during the week, Green would put on a fancy dress and get up in front of an audience of hundreds, sometimes thousands. Night after night she would dazzle them with the music she learned as a child. "I got to sing all the songs that I heard from my mother growing up," she says. "The band leaders couldn't believe that at eighteen I knew "Bye, Bye Black Bird," "Ipanema," "Misty," "All of Me," "Moondance." I knew all the popular standards. And I love to sing that stuff."
Green played wedding receptions and banquets and sometimes the gigs would go on all night. For a performer, there could be no better training ground. "It was really good for me as a singer," says Green. "I don't have stage fright at all. Plus, I learned to suck it up when nobody claps," she laughs. "I remember one time singing my heart out to 'Evergreen' by Barbra Streisand. When I finished, you could hear a pin drop because everyone was eating. If you can get through that as a singer then you're okay with anything!"
The next year, when Green was 19, she started singing back-up for fellow Philly home girl Jill Scott. Green was in the middle of Jill's Scott's international tour when her manager got her on the phone: "Record company people want to meet you! But you're in Amsterdam, come home!"
That was the end of August, 2001. By November, she says, "the ink was dry [on my Columbia contract]. It was like a dream come true. "
Her debut album, A Love Story, is an inspired blend of new Philly soul coupled with the vocal maturity Green developed through years of performing in front of live audiences. And her self-penned lyrics reveal the emotional range of a young woman who's seen some of life's ups and downs.
"The album actually is a love story," says Green. "I wear my heart on my sleeve." But don't expect the traditional boy-meets-girl plot line. Rather, the album is a sophisticated, autobiographical rumination on a relationship gone wrong, learning to love yourself, and then finding true love.
The infectious track, "Emotional Rollercoaster," was written when Green was going through a rough time with her boyfriend. The song came to Green while she was on her morning run trying to clear her head about an argument she'd had with her boyfriend the night before. "The song popped into my head and I sang it all the way home until I could get to my tape recorder," she says. "It came from me realizing there is something really wrong but not knowing how to get out."
During the making of the album, Vivian wrote "Superwoman" one day while reminiscing about the old relationship. "He just wanted me to be something that I wasn't with these ridiculous requests and demands. One day I was like, 'This is not me, I am not superwoman!'"
If you ask Green how long she labored over her debut project, her answer might surprise you. "I did a lot of songs from scratch," she says with a modest shrug. "I'd just go into the studio, like, 'What do we want to do today, something up-tempo?' And before the day was over we'd have a whole song. I like writing like that. I'm really fast."
After a three-year recording hiatus, during which she gave birth to a son, she broke new musical ground on her second album Vivian, which produced the number one AC/dance singles "Gotta Go, Gotta Leave" and "I Like it But I Don't Need It." Vivian won rave reviews in such outlets as People, Rolling Stone and The New York Times, which described the album as "a stellar sophomore accomplishment." Touring to support her first two albums, Vivian won a reputation as a riveting live performer, sharing stages with such artists as Maxwell, Teena Marie, Betty Wright, Chaka Khan, Betty Wright, Q-Tip, Anthony Hamilton, and Common.
In 2003, Vivian made her film debut, portraying Billie Holiday and performing the Holiday classic "Love for Sale" in the Oscar-nominated Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely. Two years later, she appeared in the TV series American Dreams, playing the role of Brenda Holloway and singing Holloway's Motown hit "Every Little But Hurts." Vivian wrote the music for David E. Talbert's popular all-star stage play Love in the Nick of Tyme, which debuted in 2007. Also in 2007, she guested on Guru's album Jazzmatazz Vol. 4 and Cyndi Lauper's The Body Acoustic.
Vivian Green says of Beautiful, her third album and her first for E1 Music. "This record absolutely feels like it's more mine than anything I've done before, I've grown a lot, as a singer and as a writer and as a person. I'm more seasoned and more confident now, and I'm better at knowing what I want to do. Now I allow myself to make music that I like, as opposed to music that someone else thinks I should be doing."
Indeed, Beautiful is a musical and personal landmark for the charismatic Philadelphia-bred singer/songwriter/pianist, continuing the vibrant creative evolution that began with her breakthrough debut album A Love Story and continued on her widely acclaimed follow up Vivian.
Throughout Beautiful, Vivian Green delivers compellingly contemporary R&B songcraft that's steeped in the emotional immediacy of classic soul. The songs explore the ins and outs of love from a variety of perspectives, from the youthful romanticism of "Somewhere" to the playful insight of ""Better Man" to the hard-won intensity of "When We're Apart" and "Beautiful."
"These songs are all very personal, even if they're not all directly about me," Vivian asserts, adding, "A lot of them are songs I couldn't have written on my first two albums, because I just didn't have the experience or the wisdom at the time."
In contrast to her first two albums, which were recorded in a variety of studios with multiple producers, Vivian approached the recording of Beautiful in a more intimate, organic manner. With the exception of "Save Me," which she cut with Jason Farmer (Keyshia Cole, Rihanna, Wyclef Jean) in the producer's seat, Vivian recorded the entire album with Grammy-nominated producer Anthony Bell, a longtime friend and collaborator who made key production contributions to her first two albums, and whose extensive resume also includes work with Jazmine Sullivan, Jewel, Musiq, Raheem DeVaughn and Jill Scott.
"It's the most fun I've ever had making a record," Vivian says of Beautiful's birth cycle. "We worked in Anthony's studio, which is in his home, and it was a very relaxed, creative environment. If I wanted to sit down at the piano and start writing a song from scratch, like I did with 'Somewhere,' I could. The whole experience was very natural and comfortable, and I hope that you can hear that in the music."
Co-writing with Vivian on four of Beautiful's songs was her younger brother Solomon Green, a budding rapper whom she'd been urging to branch out into songwriting. "I always felt he should diversify," she explains. "One day I brought him to the studio to write with me, and it was like, wow. It was awesome and rewarding to watch my baby brother blossom that way, and I'm really proud of him."
Vivian Green's varied musical and personal experiences are reflected in the personally charged, effortlessly soulful music she makes on Beautiful. "As we get older," she notes, "we get wiser and stronger and more secure in who we are. That's definitely been true for me, and I hope that it comes through in the music I make."