Whether it was the so-called British Invasion of the ’60s or the ’80s surge of new wave and soul artists, American audiences have found much to admire in U.K. music. The feeling is mutual — at least it is to Floetry.
On their debut album, Floetic (due August 13), the London duo of Marsha Ambrosius and Natalie Stewart mix vintage British soul, American neo soul, hip-hop and reggae with a poetic flair that they say creates a genre unto itself.
“We’ve already defined ourselves by our name,” said Ambrosius. “Nat’s the floetress, I’m the songstress. What we do is floetics, so hopefully the industry will catch on to us labeling ourselves rather than putting us in a category.”
Given their ties to new soul singer Glenn Lewis and their adopted hometown of Philadelphia (the stomping grounds of Jill Scott, Musiq and “Jazzy” Jeff Townes’ A Touch of Jazz label, which will release Floetic through DreamWorks), Floetry are likely to be judged by the company they’re keeping. Ambrosius said that Philly’s past and present musical contributions drew them to the City of Brotherly Love.
“Initially knowing that all the greats — Gamble & Huff, Teddy
Pendergrass, Patti LaBelle, Phyllis Hyman — everybody was here prior to the labeling of neo soul [was] what drew us to Philly,” Ambrosius said. “Good music is good music. You have it everywhere. It’s just fortunate for us that we landed in Philly at the right time, met the right people and could add our vibe to their vibe.”
Still, there’s no place like home, Stewart said. “We came up in London where we heard a lot about the neo soul movement belonging to Philly but we had Omar, Soul II Soul, Mica Paris, Caron Wheeler — all these artists who, unfortunately, due to the lack of support by the British music industry, haven’t gotten the acclaim that most do. But if you look at most of these neo soul artists, and you look at their inspiration list — from Maxwell to D’Angelo to Erykah Badu, they all speak about Omar, Loose Ends and Soul II Soul. And you can hear it in their music.”
So while the pair “feeds off the Philly vibe,” Stewart said, Floetry are also spreading some of their London flavor around town as well.
The duo describe their album as a rather musical hodgepodge. “There are songs on our album that have reggae influences, songs on our album that have gospel influences,” Stewart said.
“With the album, there’s something on there for everybody,” Ambrosius added, “so I’m pretty sure when it’s released, radio is going to pick up on everything: the slow jams for the slow afternoon section, the midnight love, and there are hip-hop joints; so I’m pretty sure the public is gonna choose what they wanna play.”
The duo hope that, like Ambrosius and Stewart themselves, fans will find lots of favorites on Floetic.
“I like all of them,” Ambrosius said. “I’m an emotional person, so one day I’ll be digging ’Say Yes’ or ’Hey You,’ next I’ll be on ’Sunshine,’ ’If I Was a Bird,’ and ’Mr. [Messed Up].’ ”
Stewart agreed. “I bounce around. It’s interesting, because we had a bunch of songs prior to coming to Philly, and none of them is on this album apart from ’If I Was a Bird.’ This album was really a collaboration with the producers we worked with, but in terms of the most floetic, in terms of how we are and where we came from, I love ’Headache.’ But then it moves from day to day.”
Joining Ambrosius and Stewart — who are both prolific writers with an impressive list of writing credits, including Michael Jackson’s
“Butterflies,” “Love Again” for Jill Scott and Jazz from Dru Hill; “You Are” for Bilal and “Simple Things, ” “Lonely,” “This Love” and “Take You High” for Glenn Lewis — are producers the Misfits (Andre “Dirty” Harris, Vidal Davis, Ivan “Orthodox” Barias, Darren “Limitless” Henson and Keith “Kershon” Pelzer), whose combined credits include Will Smith, Jill Scott, Lil’ Kim, Darius Rucker, Musiq, Kenny Lattimore and Cherokee.