SANTA MONICA, California — Alicia Keys will face a difficult challenge when she begins touring nationally in January — getting her piano through the door.
The songstress is planning several small club shows before launching a larger theater outing in March.
"I love to tour and what I'm really excited about doing is that I'm gonna purposely do some very small venues, like 600 people only," Keys said at Thursday's Vibe Awards (see "50 Cent Wins Big — And Shows Up — At VibeAwards"). "We're gonna have intriguingly intimate nights like that."
First though, Keys is focusing on promoting the release of her second album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, due December 2.
"[The title] comes from the fact that I've always kept a journal. I've always felt like that's the way I can be the most honest with myself," Keys said. "Another reason that I called it that is 'cause you can really see a difference in yourself in just like a week or a month when you read back in your old journals, and this album really represents that. It shows many diverse sides of who I am."
The album's first single, "You Don't Know My Name," is reminiscent of Keys' breakthrough sultry ballad "Fallin'," but her follow-up will stray a little more from what fans might expect.
Keys is still deciding between two very different songs, including one called "Heartburn." "It's a mixture between James Brown [and] Lyn Collins," Keys said, referring to the '70s soul singer whose voice is the sample on Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock's "It Takes Two." "It's crazy. You're gonna have a lot of fun with this one."
The other contender is "If I Ain't Got You." "That's really special," she said of the tune. "It's like a thing that reminds me of what life really means, and that's why I really love that song."
The Diary of Alicia Keys will also include the mixtape favorite "Streets of New York," featuring Nas and Rakim (see "Alicia Keys Mulls Over First Single; Nas Predicts Saddam Misfortune On New Track"), along with a plethora of intensely personal numbers, some of which she produced herself.
"Every single song on this album I've poured my heart and soul into," Keys said. "You can definitely expect so much growth from me as an artist, as a woman, as a producer, as an arranger. Being able to travel in the way that I did really exposed my mind to so many things."
Once Keys hits the road in 2004, she will spend her time offstage reading scripts. She said rumors that she might star in an "A Star Is Born" remake were blown out of proportion, but she does have the acting bug.
"My mother's an actress and I've grown up around theater my whole life," she said. "I feel like acting is a wonderful way of expression just like music is, so I think you're gonna see that soon."
Keys performed "You Don't Know My Name" at the Vibe Awards with '70s R&B group the Moments.
"Those are people whose music inspired me in a major, major way," Keys said. "The Stylistics, the Emotions, the Originals — people who really just had an incredible sense of harmony and genuine love for music. So I really wanted to work with them tonight and they've been on a couple of shows with me actually and it's just been incredible to learn from people who have seen so much."
The dates for Keys' tours have yet to be finalized.