Some people have called Amel Larrieux's mix of slow-jam grooves, polyrhythmic percussion and slightly jazzy vocals "neosoul." Larrieux says it's just soul music.
"It doesn't have to come from an R&B or funk background to be soul," the 26-year-old former Groove Theory singer said from the New York studio of her husband, Laru Larrieux.
Her solo debut, Infinite Possibilities, released on Feb. 15, runs the gamut from the midtempo acid jazz of "Get Up" to the gospel-tinged "Searchin' for My Soul" to the percolating funk of "Shine."
Larrieux said her eclectic mix is a direct outgrowth of her upbringing. "My parents had a lot of musician friends and performance-artist friends, so there were always people around that were not mainstream artists," she said of her childhood home in New York's West Village. "But my friends listened to top 40, and I enjoyed that, too."
Larrieux first gained notice as half of the R&B duo Groove Theory, with producer/keyboardist Bryce Wilson. They had a 1995 hit with "Tell Me" (RealAudio excerpt), but she and Wilson parted ways soon after the song's release. Going solo is a new challenge, but Larrieux says she's up to it.
"I feel pretty confident about the music that we made," she said, referring to her musical partnership with her husband, Laru Larrieux. She feels blessed to be able to work with him, she said.
"We respect each other as artists," Larrieux said. "Especially as a woman in this industry, it's hard to find someone who wants you to find yourself."
Much of Infinite Possibilities, which she recorded over eight months in her husband's studio, is about that quest to find herself and understand her world, Larrieux said. She often sings about being strong and striving to be a better person.
"The irony is that I want very much to apply my lyrics to my own life." Larrieux said. "I hope that's what my songs can do for other people, because that's what I hope they'll do for me."
Larrieux is touring Borders Books and Music stores through mid-April. Chris McCullen, who works in the music department of the Borders in Birmingham, Mich., said Larrieux drew approximately 100 people when she played there March 20.
"She had a groove along the lines of other R&B female singers," McCullen said. "It was mellow, but upbeat." McCullen estimates the store sold nearly 100 copies of Infinite Possibilities after Larrieux's performance.
Larrieux said she hopes to embark on a full concert tour later this year.
Amel Larrieux Borders Books and Music tour dates:
Mar. 31; Miami, Fla.; 2240 E. Sunrise Blvd.
April 10; Houston, Texas; 570 Meyerland Plaza
April 13; Boston, Mass.; 10-24 School St.