What happens when a church-going girl from Queens, New York makes it big in the music industry? Sometimes it can mean leaving behind core values for a fast life of partying the night away. Sometimes it can mean struggling with the hold on fame and fortune, never finding true balance with a personal life.
In the case of singer/songwriter Kelly Price, a career spanning nearly two decades in entertainment has taken her on many different paths… but she never forgot where she came from. With two teens in the house, 18-year-old Jeffrey Jr. and 16-year-old Jonia, Kelly’s own life experiences come in to play as she tries to protect her children from the trials she faced as a young mother entering the music business at age 18.
From singing backup for Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin and Brian McKnight to penning hit songs and cranking out five of her own albums, Price has felt highs of praise, pangs of criticism and stress of business during her time in the spotlight. Now she is ready to express her personal and musical growth with the new album Kelly, slated for release in 2011.
In addition to her recording career, Price has performed in gospel stage plays across the country. She has also been an active spokesperson for Breast Cancer Awareness, as her own mother Claudia is a survivor. Kelly’s community endeavors include working with high-risk teens via Broadway in the Hood, and promoting fitness since she found success with her own weight loss.
Needless to say, Price isn’t afraid of hard work and sacrifice, and passing good values on to her children has been especially important to her.
We recently got on a call with the 37-year-old songstress, who now resides in Los Angeles with her family, and discussed the ways she communicates realistically with her kids about business, relationships and sex. It’s no surprise Price feels a little under the gun to give her opinions, as the pressure of remaining true to ones spiritual roots in an often corrupt world is no joke.
Read on as Kelly Price speaks her mind in the UrbLife.com Parent Trap!
Tell us a little bit about your kids and what the experience of being a mother means to you.
Kelly Price: My kids are 18 and 16 and really, I’m still experiencing it. Like a lot of people do, there is so much about the way you were raised, and you want to make sure that you do with your own kids… and that you’re absolutely not going to do with your own kids.
From what I’ve learned, every child is different; and you can have two kids raised in the same household and they still come out completely different. So my advice to somebody who wanted it is to know that you can give your kids the same foundation, but you have to learn them, what’s different about them and in rearing them. That’s what you need to pay attention to. In rearing them it becomes pivotal and very key in how you deal with them. I can’t even punish my children the same, because what works for one doesn’t move the other.
It’s been the greatest joy. I can’t say the greatest pain or sorrow, but I think that maybe the extremes of everything are what you experience. As a parent you want the best for your kids so you’re so overjoyed, and then there are times when you’re so afraid, whether they are sick or in harm’s way.
As an entertainer parent who has spent a lot of time on the road, I have definitely prioritized my children and my family life. But there were times that I literally could not be there because I had to work.
You came up in the church, you’ve done gospel records and you’ve incorporated spirituality into your everyday life. How do you talk to your teenage kids about sex and relationships and love, when in this society now is so different than it was when you were a teen?
KP: Well I….oh, I’m going to draw some fire on this one… We teach our children what we know, and we teach our children what we believe. I was raised that we basically were supposed to wait until marriage. Now what I’m not is stupid, what I’m not is delusional. See, this is where I know that I’m going to catch it, because someone is always dissecting my statements and say that I’m saying the wrong thing…
I have taught my children what I believe, and after teaching my children what I believe, I tell them, “but this is what I know.” So basically I’m saying, “Mom would love for you to wait and find that perfect one and be with the perfect one for the rest of your life and no one else. But that’s not the case. Let’s not be ignorant to what is out there. Please don’t [worry that] I’m some crazy parent. That’s not who your mom is. I’m not getting ready to ban you out of my life. You’re not a harlot with a scarlet letter. That’s not what I’m going to do. “
My faith is what I believe, and I believe that there are soul mates for people in this world and in this life. But I am not dumb, nor am I ignorant of what’s out there. I know that kids have peer pressure. So I taught my children, “if you find yourself even moving in that direction and you think that you can’t hold out, let’s do something about it. Because it would be worse to find out that you contracted a disease that you couldn’t get rid of, or you find yourself in a situation where you’re a parent and not ready to be one. You’ve got your whole life in front of you.”
I am going hard on my kids. I speak to kids groups a lot. I was 18 when I got pregnant with my son, but my life is not due to normal things. I also started working with Mariah [Carey] at 18-years-old. I believe it was divine intervention, but that’s not normally what happens. My life was still able to take a turn to do something incredible.
For the most part, what happens when you’re a girl living in the hood, and you’re in the projects and you get pregnant, usually that starts another pattern or another path for most. I’m not that parent. I’m literally not that parent [to repeat a cycle]. I grew up a Christian girl. I believe what the Bible says, that’s wonderful, but at the end of the day kids are having sex and I would much rather equip them. Even if that means taking them out to buy something to make sure they are straight.
You’re definitely not alone in that. You’re being realistic.
KP: Yeah, we have to so we don’t lose our kids.
I would imagine that you want your kids to go on and go to college. In this recession era, in this time where your kids are getting to college age, what are your realistic conversations with them about future schooling?
KP: Well, you’re right. I do want my kids to be college educated. I always wanted to go to college and I didn’t. My life took another turn. I feel like who they are and what they’re supposed to do should always take precedence over any guideline. I just feel like that there is definitely something each of us was assigned to do with our lives while we are here. So if that means that you’re only going to go to college for a little while, and then you start to get driven to what your purpose in life is. If that means leaving school, then by all means I’ll never fight that.
I’m an education advocate. I actually would love to go back to school. I’m saying that I would love to, but I am going back to school, even if that means one class at a time online to get my degree, because I always wanted to get my degree. I don’t think that a degree makes you, because there are a lot of people who teach music because they are educated and they have degrees. But they’ve never done what I [or others I’ve worked with] have done musically.
So a degree doesn’t necessarily put them in the position to do certain things. I think it’s about what we’re supposed to do. I love education but if that’s not the path you’re supposed to take, then you’re just spending a lot of money for a degree to never do what you’re supposed to do. Then you’ll never be fulfilled in life anyway.
I say if you can get it, get it. There’s nothing wrong with having it. Knowledge is power so get it where you can get it. I say go for it, but if it’s time to do something else and that’s evident, do that. But I would say, in doing that make sure you’re serious about it and you’re going all the way for it.
So true. What’s the best advice that either one of your kids gave you?
KP: My kids have picked songs that I have written for me. I’ve played music and I’ve written music and they would listen and tell me, ”Mom, this is the one.” That’s professionally. On a personal note, my kids have had some very, very personal family moments that are a reassurance for me in a lot of things. So if it’s just one word or a hug in the right moment. I think that kids do some things for us that no other area of our life can do.
If people are ever blessed to have a child, whether if they birthed them or adopted them, or if they’ve been assigned to one helping to raise or mentor… Kids, they know. They know. But they have given me great advice both professionally and personally, and they’re both creative. They are both musical so they kind of know that they are talking about.
I told them that they don’t work nearly as hard as I did when I was their age with the music. I think that they really believe that just because they’re naturally gifted, they got it going on. [laughs] They give good advice. Really, really good advice.
Really nice. Tell us a little bit about your album and where you are musically in your own life right now.
KP: I think that I’m at musical liberation, musically letting go. I call myself a musical milkshake. My love for music is very, very eclectic. I’m not married to any one genre of music. I love classical, jazz, gospel, R&B, heavy metal, rock, hip hop. I love it all. Anything that I can listen to that speaks to me, I love it.
So where I am now is growing up… my music is getting more grown. It’s always been a more mature way of writing and delivering music from the very first album. Even in delivery, I think that between living life, writing about it, and then singing it, it is musical. It’s liberty. ‘Music liberty’ sounds nice, but I don’t know if it describes it the right way because it’s so much more that musical freedom. It’s Kelly freedom.
I think that’s why I named the CD Kelly. When we were going through the songs and we just kept saying, well which one of these songs is going to be the title cover? My partner, Warryn Campbell, said to me “What about Kelly Price?” I went home from the studio, and I said, “I think just Kelly.” One reason why is because I grew up ‘Kelly Price.’
For the kids that went to school with me before got into the music industry at 18-years-old, and those people that knew me back then, they have a perception of ‘Kelly Price’. My children and my family have a perception of Kelly Price. Fans have a perception of who Kelly Price is, but I want people to know ‘Kelly’ – and there’s a difference.
I said all of that to say, depending on who you ask and where I was in my life at the time, those who were around me will tell you who they think Kelly Price is – or maybe who I was at the time. But who I am now is a combination of all those eras in my life. It’s just ‘Kelly’ and that’s what the music is. Just Kelly.