El DeBarge Signs With Geffen For First Album In 16 Years
El DeBarge Signs With Geffen For First Album In 16 Years

One of the more surprising moments during the 2010 BET Awards was El DeBarge performing a medley of '80s hits by former family group DeBarge, including "All This Love," "Time Will Reveal" and the No. 3 pop crossover dance jam "Rhythm of the Night." Now the singer/songwriter is hoping to parlay that moment-heralded by fans and critics alike-into a successful comeback bid with his first album since 1994.

Due Sept. 28, the aptly titled "Second Chance" not only launches DeBarge's new deal with Geffen, it also signals the artist's return after several run-ins with the law involving domestic violence and drug abuse. Having served a two-year term in California state prison following a 2008 bust for drug possession, DeBarge says he's ready to face the music.

"When I got locked up, that was my 'Oh, wow' moment," recalls DeBarge, who's managed by Pete Farmer of Kings of LA. "And the minute I stepped up to the mic after I was released, I rediscovered who I am and what I can do."

Still blessed with a three-octave range, DeBarge is co-writing and co-producing songs with such collaborators as Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Babyface (who worked on DeBarge's 1994 set "Heart, Mind and Soul"), Mike City, Geffen chief Ron Fair and the Avilia Brothers. While he performed the album's title track on BET, DeBarge says a formal first single will be announced shortly. Among other tracks slated to appear on the album are "How Can You Love Me So Much, Girl?," "Serenading You" and "Switch Up the Formats," a club song with 50 Cent.

"There's music to dance to and make love to, music to cry to," DeBarge says. "I'm starting from scratch, coming fresh. But my sound still embodies the same soulful, intricate harmonies."

In addition to logging collaborative credits with DJ Quik and RZA, DeBarge has watched his back catalog covered or sampled by artists ranging from the Notorious B.I.G. to Patti LaBelle. After leaving the family act in the mid-'80s, DeBarge logged several of his own hits-including "Who's Johnny" and "Love Always"-plus guest stints on classics like Quincy Jones' 1990 No. 1, "The Secret Garden."

Confessing he was nervous before being embraced by the BET audience, DeBarge has since opened for R&B singer Vivian Green and performed a surprise duet with Keri Hilson of the 1982 DeBarge family hit "I Like It" at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans. He's now taking "a chill pill from the media" and settling down in the studio to finish the album.

"There's a certain missing feeling, a void out there that I'm more than happy to fill," the singer says. "Without criticizing what's out there now, I'm just going to do El DeBarge."