Interview with Alexander O'Neal

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Alexander O'Neal Alexander O' Neal is undoubtedly one of our music's "Mr Nice Guy" contenders ? a man of enormous talent but whose feet remain firmly planted on the ground.
While stardom may have its attractions, Alexander is more concerned with being a good father to his children and bringing them up to fully exploit whatever talents they might possess but, at the same time, temper any resultant success with all due humility.

ALEXANDER O'Neal is undoubtedly one of our music's "Mr Nice Guy" contenders ? a man of enormous talent but whose feet remain firmly planted on the ground.
While stardom may have its attractions, Alexander is more concerned with being a good father to his children and bringing them up to fully exploit whatever talents they might possess but, at the same time, temper any resultant success with all due humility.

"Becoming successful at anything can have disastrous effects on you as a person ? if you don't watch out," observed Alexander who seems to be coping remarkably well with his own ascent to soul superstardom.

He was in town to do a couple of concerts and line up some promotion for his upcoming new album. "I'm excited to be here and amazed at the interest in me ? especially since I don't have any new product in the shops at the moment. I'm very grateful to have sold out the shows."
The new LP has been produced at Jimmy Jam and
Terry Lewis's own Flytime Studio ? "Tucked away in a little building in residential South Minneapolis".
Said Alexander: "The studio has been open about a year. Cherelle was the first to do an album there and, since then, Jimmy and Terry have produced sets on people like Janet Jackson, Herb Alpert and Patti Austin, using the facility.

"It's a 48-track, state-of-the-art set-up and offers a very
pleasant work environment. I spend a lot of time hanging out there."

FOR the concerts, Alexander brought over his own five-piece band and two backing singers. "They are all from Minneapolis. In fact, the whole crew is from the city. We are feeling very comfortable these days as a musical community so there is no need to look beyond the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to find everything I need in the way of talented people."

Not that Alexander wasn't glad of the chance to get away from the cold ? 18 degrees below ? of the Northern city. "I love London and I enjoy the way that the climate changes, almost from minute to minute. It's the only city I've been to where the sun can be shining in one part of town while there is torrential rain a couple of miles away ? and where you
can get all four seasons in one day!

"I have four favourite cities ? New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and London. They are places I can go and feel like I really belong and they are cities which have really supported me in my career.

"New York was slow to catch on to me but, when they did, it happened real big. I now get recognised in the street there, which gives me a great sense of achievement because New York is such a huge, diverse place with so many different things going on that it is tough to make a real mark there. Yeah, when you can attract their attention, it's a hell of an achievement."

Alexander believes firmly in the work ethic. "I don't feel I've really made it yet ? far from it. There's lots still to do before I can afford to relax. I'm only one person, one human being, one child of God ? it takes time.

"I had a high school teacher who said to us: 'We can all sing at once but we can't all talk at the same time'. I learned that lesson ? you've got to do it for yourself.
Nobody is going to work as hard for you as you will for yourself so the only way is to get in there and roll your sleeves up and be involved in every aspect of your career.

"That's why I don't just sit back and let producers or musical directors do it all for me.
"I have a family type feel with my team and I like that.
"You know, people envy me. But everything that glitters isn't gold, as they say, and the truth is that hotel rooms can get mighty lonely so I never lose sight of the fact that my family and friends are the most important things in my life, far more important than all the fame and glamour.

"I've got three kids and I love them dearly ? and they play a major part in everything I do.
"My son is four-and-a-half, I have a daughter of two-and-a-half and a new baby, Harmony Lee, who is just six months. I love kids, they bring lots of joy to me. Even at 16,17,18 years of age I loved kids ? it just took me 28 years to do it right and then they just kept on coming!

"My whole motivation in life is that I want to give back to the earth some of what I've taken out and, with my kids, I feel I've achieved that ? they are definitely first and foremost in my life.
"I took my son out on the road with me for two weeks late last year and when we got back his mother had to straighten him out. He came back thinking he knew everything about the music industry and thinking of himself as one of the boys!

"I don't want it all to go to his head. I'd much rather have my kids say: 'Our dad's a star' and then go and work at McDonalds like any other kids. You can't go buying a 16-year old his own Porsche, he's got to earn things for himself. Yeah, I'll be 100 per cent supportive but I want to bring my kids up to make their own way in life.

"I have to spend lots of time with them. I grew up without a father and for them to have a father alive but not there when they need him would be terrible.

"It's hard for me, demanding, because my children each have a different mother, which means I have to make the rounds between households, but you can't play at being a father. You are either Daddy or you are not. Kids never grow younger ? they grow older and wiser and I want mine to say: 'My Daddy was there for me.'

"I live with Harmony Lee's mother and this is it for me. We succeed or go down together ? it's a forever thing for me this time.
"I've had my days of being a rolling stone and believe me I'm done with that. I don't want to be a playboy, a player, a Pretty Boy Floyd. I just want Alexander O'Neal to be a good guy-

"I don't use my job to get women. That's abusing the success that God-given talent brings ? and Cod can soon take away what he's given, I'm a firm believer in that.

"My son loves drumming and I'm trying to teach him musical tone and so on but I don't want him to be a clone of Daddy. But, if he wants to try to make it in the music business I'll help him avoid the problems I had to face.

"In my own case, I suppressed my gift for many years because I was more interested in other things. Though I've been singing professionally for 12 or 13 years it has only been in recent times that I've really taken it seriously.

"I thank God every day for what he has given me. A talent can be worked at, a gift is a natural thing.
"If my kids have a similar gift and want to use it then I'll be glad, but I'm trying to impress on them that right now their main job is simply being children. This music business can break your heart at times so, on balance, I'd much rather my kids went to medical school or something.

"Even with a gift, you need so much perseverance, lots of hard work and your share of good fortune. I'm glad to have gone as far as I have Should I never have another hit, my children can still say: 'Our Daddy's a winner.'

"I went through working the local bars, the whole thing, and I don't regret a day of it.

"I got serious about my career when I got to the age where you can no longer get away with jumping from job to job. I didn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. I had to work for all of it.
"Only a tiny percentage of people make it in this business - it's a school of hard knocks ?    and most singers, even talented ones, wind up as failures one way or another. It's the ones with real determination who survive long term.

"I can see the need to broaden out, as a songwriter, producer and so on, to provide a safety buffer.
"My producers want me to get more involved with production and I've got tons of songs I've written with other people. Once my third album is out of the way then I'd like to do something with those songs,-produce other people or whatever.

"I can't afford to sit back and relax on my own career right now. This is a work thing, it isn't just jumping on a plane, signing autographs, being in the spotlight and so on.

"I have long-term aspirations to be a success away from the music industry when the lights go out and the glitter is gone ? and, believe me, that's bound to happen one day.
"There are several things I can do and do well. In fact, if I was, say, a bricklayer or a fireman, then I'd aim to be the best there is at my job.
"I'd like to finish up owning a chain of shoe stores and I'd also like to get into real estate ?    but that will all have to wait. I don't want to get sidetracked right now. I'm still a new artist and I've got to hang on in there and work real hard ? I'm certainly not going to be fooled or tricked into thinking I'm bigger than I really am."(R.St.P. B&S)

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