If her spirit was the impetus responsible for guiding her career, Crystal Nicole would have long ago been an international superstar among the likes of your favorite entertainer. Blessed with an uncanny ability to compose award winning music, her track record as a songwriter is nothing short of iconic – boasting chart-topping hits for Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Monica, and Natasha Bedingfield – and additional writing credits on records for artists such as Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson and Jennifer Lopez, among others.
Equally breathtaking, but not nearly as celebrated, is her own voice, which first manifested to the public in the form of “Pinch Me” – a Bryan Michael Cox/Jermaine Dupri produced gem in 2011 – then the spirited “Sundown” in 2013. Now fully invested in the artist she knows best – herself – Crystal seeks to share her rare ascent to music industry prominence on the aptly titled I Am Crystal Nicole.
Slated for a fall 2015 release, I Am Crystal Nicole, is led by the bouncy, reggae friendly “I Don’t Belong To You,” produced by Jamaal Pompey, which rejects the very stereotypes and people, that attempted to define her over the years. Throughout the track, the Decatur, GA bred native derails the power of words such as “stupid” and “ugly,” reclaiming her own happiness and simultaneously sets a definitive tone for the album.
“When I was younger I was called ugly,” she shares. “I was called ‘big girl,’ ‘fat girl,’ ‘stupid,’ all these different things, but I just took those words and redefined them.”
Admittedly, the road to redemption has been a rocky one for Crystal Nicole. From self-doubt about her complexion, body type and intelligence, there was a time when outside opinions disrupted her pace and dared threaten her lifelong dream of becoming a renowned singer.
“I was always told that I couldn’t make it as an artist,” she remembers. “So out of frustration I started writing down my feelings. I just couldn’t understand why I was blessed with a talent that I couldn’t share with the world because of the way I looked… For me singing wasn’t a hobby. It was a lifestyle. It was like breathing.”
Without an immediate opportunity at her feet, Crystal Nicole set out on a mission to breathe life into other artists’ albums, plunging head first into the songwriting pool in 2007. Before long, the Grammy Award winning I Am Sasha Fierce (Beyonce), E=MC2 (Mariah Carey) and Still Standing (Monica), were among the albums she helped shape with her ASCAP approved pen, coincidentally warranting praise as one of today’s industry A list top liners.
For her trouble, Crystal earned her place among the industry’s most illustrious songwriters, winning five ASCAP Music Awards and contributing to four Grammy nominated projects, and also writing Rihanna’s Grammy Award winning Best Dance record of the year, “Only Girl In The World.”
Simultaneously, she became a better, more mature artist who’d subconsciously learned from the best in the business. Now in a position to finally seize her truth as the powerful songstress that she is, I Am Crystal Nicole follows a trend consistent with her spiritual path, which ultimately helped her evaluate what mattered the most.
“The album is about me loving who I am,” she says. “I love Crystal Nicole. I love all the flaws, the triumphs, the achievements, and the failures. That’s what makes me Crystal Nicole.”
Crystal expresses as much on the Chuck Harmony produced “Masterpiece,” a long time favorite, which was nearly the album’s title track for its ode to imperfect perfection. “I literally feel like everybody’s life is a painting and we’re all walking pieces of art,” she says. “I don’t want to paint a perfect picture. I think a masterpiece is consistent with a lot of mistakes, a lot of flaws and those things together make a masterpiece.”
She shows lyrical dexterity on the spirited “Sundown,” serving up her customary strong vocals, then spontaneously scatting, as melodious guitar strings yield to lively drum patterns:
For you I lay my life down/ love you from sun up to sun down/ down to my last round/ til my chest makes no more sound…
Crystal challenges the idea of categories and genres on “For The Both Of Us,” a track she describes as “pure and beautiful,” adding, “If God was doing an album this would be his first single.”
I blew the wind/ I grew the grass/ flipped the switch on the sun and made the overcast/
Future present and past/ I did it all for you…
Her bid to help repair broken spirits hits a fevered pitch on the Eric Hudson produced “Ride Out,” as Crystal encourages people in dead end relationships to love themselves enough to let go, ‘pack their clothes and walk out the front door,’ while transparency reigns supreme on the masterfully written “National Anthem.” On the latter, she declares her devotion to the Almighty – no more hiding… no longer scared… no more disguises – finally free to be Crystal Nicole.
“My music is an open book,” she discloses. “I call it an audio testimony. All the stuff that people would normally try to hide, I want to talk about that. I want to be completely transparent so that at the end of the day when this album is said and done, it screams,
I Am Crystal Nicole.”