Fans of R&B are seemingly conflicted. While some argue that the genre is all but dead, others view the emergence of artists like Frank Ocean, Miguel and The Weeknd as proof that a new wave of R&B acts are breathing life back into the genre. One of the young innovators a part of that new wave is the talented singer-songwriter Stacy Barthe. Her writing credits include Rihanna’s “Cheers,” Britney Spears’ “Blur” and Katy Perry’s “Hummingbird Heartbeat.” As a singer she has released a series of well-received projects including Sincerely Yours, In the In Between and P.S. I Love You. Her latest single, “Hell Yeah” features Rick Ross. Life+Times had the chance to talk with the New York native about meeting producer Hit-Boy on MySpace, her Nouveau Noir movement and the state of R&B.
Life + Times: You and Hit-Boy have had an interesting journey. How did you get to where you are today?
Stacy Barthe: Hit-Boy and I met on MySpace in like 2005 when I was interning at Jive. On my little profile it was like “Jive Records.” I’m not going to say what I’m doing…but I work a Jive. Whether I’m getting paid or not is nobody’s business [laughs]. So he saw that and thought I was an A&R or something, and was sending me beats and one day he posted “who wants to write to these beats?” I told him to send them to me. That was the first song I had written to, recorded and sent back. So that’s how we built our relationship. We’d be on the phone every other day. He would send me beats. I would record them and send them back. So finally in 2006 he got his publishing deal with Polow Da Don, who he also met through MySpace. He had a partner who he also met through MySpace named Chase N. Cashe and they moved down to Atlanta. He was like “Yo, come down to Atlanta. I know you don’t know me, but I got you.” So I went down and he introduced me to Polow and that situation introduced me to Ethiopia Habtemariam who signed me to my publishing deal and then eventually signed me to Motown.
L+T: It’s amazing how things come back around.
SB: Full circle. [Record executive] Barry Weiss was working at Jive while I was an intern. I use to bring him marketing reports. I interned in the marketing department. And then I went and wrote for Britney Spears and Ciara who were his artists and now I’m his artist.
L+T: Did Barry Weiss know you were the one writing those records?
SB: Well he didn’t know then. We were at some T-Pain party and he was like “I can’t believe you use to intern for me” and then at Ne-Yo’s listening party we had the same conversation.
L+T: Your music is rooted in R&B, but you’ve been so successful writing for the pop world. Have those writing experiences influenced you as an artist?
SB: Just in song structure, because you know there’s a formula for that stuff. My stuff is a bridge between being soulful and prolific and then actually having the hit song structure I guess. You know what I mean? It has also helped in a sense that the people that I’ve written for in that world support me in my realm and so they talk about it and support it, but I wouldn’t say that it’s influenced any of my music, because it’s completely different. You know? I can step into that world and be like “let me create that,” but my world is completely different.
L+T: You have a record on P.S. I Love You titled “Lonely Disco Ball.” Cassie mentioned a few months ago that she had a record with a similar title and that she had been working with you…
SB: That’s the same song. She didn’t mention to me that she was keeping it. I didn’t even know it was in consideration for her album. I honestly didn’t know that. But yeah, that’s one of my songs on my EP and we can share it.
L+T: Rick Ross is featured on your single “Hell Yeah.” How did that collaboration happen?
SB: Honestly? I don’t even know [laughs]. I did the song and then John Legend, who I’m signed to obviously has a relationship with Ross and he heard the song and next thing I know he was on it. I didn’t even know it was happening. I thought it was awesome. He did it off of the love, because he liked the song and just did it. So I was shocked.
L+T: With you, Miguel, Frank Ocean, Elle Varner, Luke James and a few others, doesn’t it feel like there is a new generation of R&B artists that’s attempting to push the genre and bring it back to the forefront?
SB: Yeah, totally. The new kids are just tryna cornerstone it. And it’s not just in the R&B world. It’s the Kendrick Lamars, it’s the A$APs, it’s the Azealias – there’s a new wave of really talented people.
L+T: You’re featured on T.I.’s “Sorry” off of Trouble Man. Could you explain how that record came about?
SB: I came up with one hook and he didn’t like it. It was saying the same thing, but it was more like apologetic and he was like “I’m not tryna apologize to nobody. I am who I am and it is what it is.” I was like ok and then I came up with something else, but then when I got in the booth my Blackberry accidentally erased it so I just started singing out of nowhere [starts singing] and that’s how it came about, so the thing that I lost I was like “fuck!”, but then that came about. I don’t even remember what the version was, because when he walked in and heard it he was like “I love it” and then months later Hit-Boy was in the studio with Andre 3000 and Andre played him “Sorry” and Hit-Boy was like “is that Stacy Barthe on the hook?” and Andre was like “yeah she’s dope.” Hit-Boy called me and he was like “Yo, Andre just came in here and played me this record that you’re on.”
L+T: How is it having the veterans in the game cosigning you and saying “she’s dope”?
SB: I mean it’s awesome. Pretty much everyone I grew up on besides the deceased people I’ve been able to at least meet or be around, so it feels amazing to have somebody you were a fan of become a fan of you.
L+T: What is Nouveau Noir?
SB: Me and Elle Varner came up with Nouveau Noir. It’s basically the Black kids that just happen to look like this. We make whatever type of music we feel like whether it’s Country feeling, Reggae feeling, Hip-Hop, whatever. I don’t like to put it as Urban or Adult AC or anything like that. It’s Nouveau Noir. The new Black. We’re into fashion, we’re into music and we’re into being creative.