Marsha Ambrosius is like that gifted actor who dutifully plays understudy to the stage vet, patiently waiting for her turn under the house lights. Now, after years of putting in work behind the scenes, she's ready to hit her mark. Consider the Brit singer's debut, Late Nights & Early Mornings, released on Tuesday (March 1), a curtain-raiser for what's likely to be a long solo career.
When Marsha stopped by MTV News' Times Square offices last month, her jubilation about her first solo offering was infectious.
"I'm ready to unleash all things Marsha Ambrosius. Many people have expected many things from me, and all I can tell you is, you can expect me to be on my album."
An industry warhorse who spent the early part of her career as half of the neo-soul twosome Floetry, Ambrosius has written hits and blessed features for everyone from Michael Jackson (the flutter-inducing "Butterflies") to Wale (last year's empathetic "Diary"). And while the honorary Philadelphia girl doesn't take her musical successes for granted, evolving meant venturing out on her own, she explained.
"I think I've done my fair share of features, done my fair share of writing and producing for many others. It was time for me to hone in on what I wanted to say and who I want to be as an artist."
She soon discovered there was little difference between her songwriter and songstress personas ("I don't put on a superhero suit and become Marsha Ambrosius the artist. I'm me, 24/7"). Indeed, except for those pipes, she's every bit the girl next door, making midnight CVS runs, savoring a classic Philly hoagie and still trying to work up to four stars on the Nintendo Wii's "Michael Jackson the Experience" "Billie Jean" routine (we can vouch that it is killer).
So following a label relocation to J Records and assists from production powerhouse Just Blaze, and longtime collaborators Dre & Vidal, Ambrosius banged out the blistering Canei Finch buzz single "Hope She Cheats on You (With a Basketball Player)." She let that song ride out through last fall, following it up with "Far Away," a Blaze-produced single whose anti-bullying message might have gotten lost in Marsha's super-sultry vocals if not for its provocative video.
" 'Far Away,' it's still making noise, so I guess when people hear the record they'll kinda decide," the newly svelte singer said of choosing her next single.
Before she headed out, racing to catch her train (yes, you might find yourself commuting with the soul star), we had to ask: What about that album title? Because it sounds awfully sensual.
"It goes with the lifestyle, it's the grind. It's late nights in the studio, it's early mornings of having to get on the Acela and get up to New York and do interviews. ... Late night, early mornings: it's the life of an artist, but I think everyone can relate to that."
But then she conceded with a laugh, "The sensual aspect came into it when I wrote the record 'Late Nights & Early Mornings.' [I was thinking], 'Ooh, it's gonna be a late night, early morning when I get you home.' "
Tune in to Marsha's live online performance on Tuesday, from 10 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. ET; visit her site for more info.