In advance of the second-season premiere of Brandy & Ray J: A Family Business (airing at a special time on Sunday, December 5: 11/10c), we spoke to Brandy about the upcoming season. Below, she talks about being back on her musical grind after the disappointing sales of 2008’s Human album, her emotional state during the first season, her fixation on fairness and if she is, as Ray J suggests in the season’s supertrailer, jealous of her little brother…
One thing that I really appreciated about you on the first season is how open you were about your career frustrations. You didn’t put on airs and pretend that Human was a bigger hit than it was.
Thank you. I think being open is a great thing. Then people feel like they can relate to you and they feel like that whatever they’re going through or whatever questions that they have can be answered.
Do you ever feel like your music career got a raw deal?
Well, of course. When you do an album and you put everything you have into it, you want as many people as possible to respond to it. I guess the challenges I’ve faced are driving me to go harder and to work harder and to try to be as strong as possible. And that’s what it’s all about for me now with working on this new album. It’s really giving the fans what they deserve and giving them exactly what they want, which is hit records and a hot video and songs full of passion and something they can feel in connect to. And that’s what I’m working hard to do and I’m not gonna put it out till it’s right.
Did you find there was a learning curve to negotiate regarding being open and sharing your life on reality TV?
Not really. I just wanted for people to see how genuine I am and how sincere I am and my family is. We’re just as real and honest as anyone else. So many people grew up with me but they really didn’t know who I am or who I was as a person. I wanted people to get a feel for that and get a sense of that. I think that’s what this show has done and not only that, but it’s brought my family closer together. Sometimes when you don’t have cameras in front of you and you don’t have an issue you can just not pick up the phone and walk away and not deal with the problem until a week later. But when cameras are in front of you, you have to tackle the problem right then and there. And that’s a beautiful thing.
It’s interesting to view reality TV has having a therapeutic component, because it’s gained a reputation for doing the opposite: tearing people apart.
Well it hasn’t done that for my family, which is a blessing but it definitely is therapeutic. I’m telling you, we’re a lot closer because of the show and a lot more time is spent.
From what I gathered, the first season of the show was an emotional experience for you. Do you agree?
Absolutely. I was an emotional wreck last season. It was like, “Is this girl gonna ever stop crying?” But I’m a sensitive person. I’m very in touch with how I feel and I’m not afraid to express myself and I definitely wear my heart on my sleeve. And I got a chance to get a lot off my chest and work out some issues, work out some childhood things with my mom as well. And you know, things started to get better for me and I was blessed to be a part of Dancing with the Stars, which reawakened my confidence and my power. The fans are going to get a chance to see a little bit of that on the show this season and going into the new album. I feel like I’m in a better place mentally than I was when the first season started, for sure.
It seems like a common theme to your emotional state, was that you felt disrespected by people: Ryan, and your mom, and Rodney Jerkins. It just seemed like you felt you were being treated unfairly at every turn.
Right, and it’s so interesting because I noticed that in my daughter, if something’s not fair, she’s not gonna have it. You can’t convince her that something is fair when it’s not. And that was pretty much my thing. I just wanted to be treated with respect because that’s what I give. I give respect. And it’s not that I’m giving respect to get it in return, but of course you want respect in return, especially if you’re giving it.
And do you feel like you resolved those issues?
Absolutely. It’s so funny ‘cause the joke in the family right now is “I don’t have any problems in the family this season.” But Ray and I do go through a lot this season together, which is shocking ‘cause we [typically] don’t argue or fight. The issue that we are going through has nothing to do with what I’ve done to him or what he’s done to me. It’s just the choices that I feel like he’s making may not be the right choices, so just being the sister that I am to him, I just want to protect him.
In the supertrailer, Ray suggests you’re jealous of him. Is that just preposterous or is there some truth to it?
I don’t know if it was preposterous, but I think people say things in anger that they don’t mean. And Ray at that point was very vulnerable, and it was almost like he was just trying to figure out different ways to kind of go against what I was saying. What I’m saying to him, he knows is the truth. He knows it’s the right thing but sometimes when your ego gets involved, you don’t want to see the truth so you make up all these things that I could be saying instead of what I am really saying, if that makes any sense.
Have you ever felt that way though? His real rise to becoming a household name coincided with Human, which we discussed was a disappointment. Were you ever frustrated over the turning of tables?
Well, I’ve never had a competitive spirit. It’s very hard to have a competitive spirit towards anybody because I feel like I’m competitive with myself. So I would have to say no, because we never had that relationship. From the very beginning I always wanted him to be as successful as he’s deserved to be. When he really started rising and doing his thing, I couldn’t have been happier for him because he’s wanted it for so long and he had to go through different changes to get it. He had to come out of a shadow that wasn’t even his fault. To watch him go through that and for me to be successful early on in my career, I feel like my brother wasn’t getting his just due. I couldn’t even enjoy my success because he wasn’t getting what I felt that he deserved. So to see him come out of that and rise above, he’s an inspiration to me. And I’m so proud of him. That’s why I don’t feel like he really meant what he said, “Are you jealous of me?” Because come on, we’ve never been there. We’ve never even had that issue in our relationship. We’ve always been very supportive of each other, so I don’t know.
I know you talked about this renewed grind and everything but is there any kind of impulse to rest on your laurels and say, “You know what? I recorded ‘I Wanna Be Down.’ And ‘Baby.’ And ‘Sittin’ Up in My Room.’ And ‘Full Moon.’ And ‘What About Us.’ And so many more. I’m good. I’ve achieved.” Those records are modern classics.
Sometimes I think about it but I try not to. I don’t know why I don’t. Sometimes I listen to songs that I did back in the day and I go, “Wow. God has really blessed me with talent.” Or, “How did I do that?” I’ll say things like that but I don’t really get off on what I’ve accomplished because I think that it’s all a gift and I’m just trying to go forward and be the best me I can be in 2010 and 2011 coming up. I just try to keep my mind in the present and look forward to inspiring people in the future.
What about Brand’Nu, your rapping alter ego? Is she still around? Is she coming back ever again?
Brand’Nu is hiding. She is in hiding right now. I gotta figure it out [laughs].