As the holiday season fast approaches, Fantasia has already unwrapped a few gifts. The singer not only released her first yuletide album, Christmas After Midnight. The set doubles as the first project under her Rock Soul Entertainment banner via Concord Records. In support of Christmas After Midnight, the Grammy Award winner will kick off a national tour on Nov. 19.
“Now that Rock Soul is completely my baby and my vision, I’m going to do things I’ve always wanted to do,” says Fantasia, “without feeling like I can’t look or sing a certain way. Everything happens for a reason and this was the right time.”
Recorded at two famed venues — Los Angeles’ Capitol Studios and Nashville’s Blackbird Studios — Christmas After Midnight pays homage to singers such as Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. The album’s spirit-raising mix of rock, soul, jazz, funk and blues reinterprets 12 tracks, including “This Christmas,” “The Christmas Song,” James Brown’s “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto,” “Merry Christmas, Baby” and “Hallelujah.” Cee Lo Green teams up with the North Carolina native on the playful single “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” The album was produced by Ron Fair (Christina Aguilera, The Black Eyed Peas).
Fantasia dedicated the album to her grandmother Addie Collins, whose birthday was on Christmas Day. “She’s gone home now,” says Fantasia, “but she played a very big part in my life and career. She loved people so much and gave more than she received—which is what my favorite holiday is all about.”
After the holidays, Fantasia will focus on her sixth studio album. Her most recent outing, 2016’s The Definition Of …, debuted at No. 1 on the R&B Albums chart and yielded the Grammy-nominated single “Sleeping With the One I Love” (best traditional R&B performance). During her conversation with Billboard, the North Carolina native also talked about working with Green, her “clean slate” on life and Christmas at Midnight’s sexy cover — co-signed by her mother-in-law.
Going Green: “That’s my buddy. I’ve always been a fan of Cee Lo’s. What makes me love him the most is his freedom, his boldness. He’s never afraid to step out of the box. This wasn’t our first time doing something together but it was our first time doing jazz. Nobody like Cee Lo can get real smooth and quiet and tell a story. Artists like him aren’t scared to challenge themselves and keep it authentic.
Red-hot cover: “My husband loved the cover. But I also sent the photo to my mother-in-law, my best friend along with my mother. My mother-in-law said she loved it. Still I asked, are you sure? She said stop thinking like that. it’s classy and beautiful [Laughs].”
Getting personal on tour: “Watching videos of performers like James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Donny Hathaway … there was such an honesty to their performances. They took people on a personal journey. So I picked smaller venues this time so I can connect with people in a way that I haven’t in a while. I want to take them into the living room that I knew as a girl. That’s what this show is.”
Clean slate: “I’m not the same Fantasia that I used to be: young, dumb and looking for love in all the wrong places. When my grandmother passed away, my eyes began to open: I want to be that woman I said to myself. Then I met my husband, who changed my life. Now I have a clean slate. I can’t run or hide from my past nor do I want to. Those hurdles, struggles and storms made me the woman I am now. A lot of those things I put myself into, so I can’t blame anyone else. So I’m going to use the rest of my time here wisely … where God wants it to go.”
Making noise with next album: “I don’t want to reveal any details yet. However, this next album will be my chance to make a little more noise. I will put my hands, legs, feet and everything into this album. I haven’t been quiet [during her career], but I haven’t made the noise that I want to make.”
Fantasia’s tour in support of Christmas After Midnight begins Nov. 19 in Dallas. For more information about the tour and to listen/purchase the album, visit https://www.fantasiaofficial.com/.