Grown Folks Music caught up with Avant and we chopped it up about his eighth album called The Eighth, how he feels about the short attention span of the public when it comes to music, working to get away from the R. Kelly comparisons that came early in his career and whether he’s okay with being referred to as “underrated”. Read below and enjoy.

GFM: You’ve got a new album–your eighth studio album titled The Eighth. Talk about your album.

Avant: It’s my time to come back. Everybody was wondering where I was. Here I am, right now. I’m just happy to be doing what I do still fifteen years in (and) eight albums deep. (I’m) exited about the process of giving people real music again– grown folks music I must say.

GFM: Well since you went there, that leads to one of my questions. What is your definition of Grown Folks Music?

Avant: Great stories. Great music. Stories that have substance and have great meaning to them. That’s what I think when I hear grown folks music. It could be a great love story. It could be a break-up story. It could be a happy club jam, but it all has meaning and it makes you feel a certain way about it.

GFM: Speaking of telling stories, I had an opportunity to listen to the album. There’s some storytelling on songs like, “I’m Not Telling”, and you’ve got a continuation to “Best Friend” from the last album. There’s a Part Two to the story.

Avant: “I’m Not Telling”– we can start with that record. You see some things sometimes, but you know that person is too deep into a person. You know if you come and say that something is wrong, then he or she is going to blame you like you actually set this whole thing up. That (song) was one of those things (where) I’m telling everybody: ‘Hey, sometimes you see, but you don’t see. Because it’s really not any of your business.” It’s crazy because you want to tell because if somebody else says that you were there you’re like, ‘Oh my God. I don’t want him or her to lose trust in me.’ But, by the same token you don’t want to really be in people’s business like that.

For “Best Friend”– it’s just (that) sometimes you’re not supposed to cross those lines. In the first “Best Friend” record, from the text it’s like ‘Wow, that this may be the time. This may be what I need to do.’ Then it shows that if you go that far, the second song, which is part two, shows that you can’t do it because they know too much about you. They’re wrapped into you. When it’s your best friend, you’ve told them everything. Therefore they understand what you like and what you dislike, so sometimes you can’t cross that bridge. Not unless you’re really trying to go all the way there.

GFM: Speaking of “Best Friend” and the last album, you said something at the onset of the interview. You said that people were wondering where you’ve been, but you just had an album two years ago that the first “Best Friend” was on. How do you feel about people’s attention span being so short and them thinking that you’ve really been gone for a while when you’ve continued to churn out music? It used to be that back in the day an artist could breathe a little and have some space and some years between an album. It just seems like now you always have to have music in front of the people. How do you feel as an artist about the short attention span (of the public)?

Avant: That’s a great question. It’s frustrating at times, but at the end of the day I’m also trying to get people to understand that with Avant it’s not about a single. This is a singles world. That’s what it is. They heard “You and I”, so they were like, ‘Wow. Avant’s got a single out.’ They didn’t even consider that an album was really out. So, it’s a singles world, but by the same token I want them to know that with Avant you’re getting a full body of work. It’s not about “Special”. It’s about The Eighth project. That’s what’s it about. At the end of the day, I must continuously force it down their throats that Avant is being consistent. This is what I do. If you hear “Best Friend, Part Two” before you hear part one, then that will make you wanna go back and hear part one. I think the whole nature is about being consistent and having something that the people… if don’t recognize it at first… they will. When they go back to recognize it they can say, ‘Wow. I’m going backwards, but it’s just as good as me going forward.’

GFM: You used a good word: consistent. I don’t know if you ever (look on) YouTube (at) your own music, but if you read some of the comments, that is a word that’s used frequently in the comments. Another word that is used in association with you frequently is underrated. As a matter fact, I was riding in the car with a friend two years ago when Face The Music came out and “U and I” was on the radio. The first thing out of his mouth was, ‘This dude is so underrated.’ How do you feel when people throw that out?

Avant: [Laughs] I don’t know if I wanna appreciate that… I don’t know how to take it. When I came out in 2000, R. Kelly was the hottest thing happening. He was R&B, period. They said we had similarities. A lot of people didn’t want to accept me, period, as an artist because they were R. Kelly fans. I totally get that and I think from that point on I put in my mind that I have to continuously give them consistent music. I have to continuously give them consistent hit records so that they want to embrace me and they want to listen to what I have to say. Like I said before, everything for me as an artist is working backwards. Now they’re starting to notice that I wasn’t a cat that wanted to be other artists or other people. I just wanted to give you guys great music. So, study what Avant is and then you will get the full work of what I am. For them to even continuously mention my name… and it’s been fifteen years… I don’t wanna take the underrated thing, but they’re still talking about my black self [laughs], so I’ll take it.

GFM: Can you tell us what the next single will be?

Avant: I don’t know right now. I’m still sitting with the project. There’s a couple of ideas. You’ve heard the whole project, what do you feel?

GFM: I’m voting for “Note”.

Avant: [Laughs] I just got off an interview with somebody who said they loved “Note”, so that’s great.

GFM: You’ve got fifteen years in this R&B game. In those fifteen years… who is Avant?

Avant: Good question. I’m a father with two kids now. I’ve got a two year old and a twelve year old. I’m a guy that’s real. I like to listen to people’s stories, because I’m a storyteller at the end of the day. I’m a songwriter– but I like to make mine with substance, so I like to listen to stories. I like a lot of things that mess with my mind.

GFM: But, If I didn’t know you and I was on an elevator in Cleveland with you, what’s your elevator pitch of who you are as an artist?

Avant: A great person to hang out to with, somebody you need to get to know, an amazing singer and kinda cute… what do you think? [laughs]

Avant’s eighth studio album, The Eighth is out now.

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Kimberly Kennedy Charles

I have questions. Artists have answers.