“I told [the label] I was ready to leave,” she says. “At that point so much time went by. Everybody was saying, ‘I love your first album! Where’s your second album?’ I got sick of hearing that.”
After hemming and hawing, the label released Res—but not the record.
“[The label execs] said, ‘You left the label but you [can’t] take your music with you,’” she says. Other labels were interested in picking it up, but it was too expensive.
“In the day and age I made albums, studios cost thousands a week on top of musicians and my living expenses. All that gets thrown in. So when my career at Geffen was over, they added up the bill,” she says. Res estimates that she was into Geffen for more than a million dollars.
“That’s like Joni Mitchell numbers, not Res who sold 300,000 copies. It all goes back to a numbers game.”
Suddenly, Res was on her own. Reality set in. Without label support, it was tough to pay a full band for smaller gigs. Without a budget, it’s tough to do most anything. The woman who once dreamed of being a money-market manager wasn’t happy focusing on the bottom line all the time.
“It was about being the business woman, organizing everything and booking,” she says. “It became not fun.”
Then salvation came in the name Gnarls Barkley. St. Elsewhere had just dropped and “Crazy” was ubiquitous. Cee Lo and his people invited Res to tour the world with them singing background vocals.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it,” says Res. “But then I thought, ‘I love to sing. Why am I hesitating?”
Now she calls it divine intervention.
“It was one of the best things I ever did. Now I look at everything else that way. Nothing is beneath me,” she says. “Why do I care what other people would think? I can sing in a wedding band and it wouldn’t bother me … when you strip all the go out of it, when you get to the essence of it, I like to sing. That’s what makes me happy.”
Eventually, the “lost album” got to fans.
“I had all the music in my computer … instead of selling it—because technically I don’t own it—I pressed up 1,000 copies. Then I sold posters online and gave the music away for free,” she says. “So I’m not selling it. I’m giving it away.”
There’s no calling it neo-soul. She titled it Black.Girls.Rock!
It’s a more straightforward record; the songs weren’t buffed till they were slick and glossy.
“With How I Do, we were trying to impress everybody. With Black.Girls.Rock! I was trying to impress myself,” she says.
Instead of making a big splash, the little renegade sophomore album that could slipped quietly into the blogosphere stream, finding its way into the hands of fans who knew to look. Disillusioned, Res was considering packing it in and establishing a new musical home in affordable old Philly. Then her father died of a heart attack in January of 2008. It was a huge blow to the tight-knit family.
Res thought, “Why am I in L.A. living by myself? How am I mourning my father’s death if I’m living in L.A. being a rock star?”
Also, her sister and brother each had a baby three months apart.
“I don’t want to be that aunt that [my sibling’s] kids don’t know, and know me only as a picture, like ‘That’s your aunt who sings and lives in L.A.’,” she says.
Tomorrow night, the inaugural BlackStar Film Festival presents the first look at "The Res Documentary," a forthcoming feature film profiling rock and soul singer Res, a Philly homegirl.
PW's 2015 Gift Guide
Dinner with Luke Palladino