Fantasia Barrino won the hearts of millions of “American Idol” fans, winning the third season of the reality TV singing show in 2004. And she had immediate success afterward, as her song “I Believe” shot to No. 1 on The Billboard Hot 100 and her debut album “Free Yourself” went platinum. The North Carolina singer went on to star on Broadway as Celie in “The Color Purple,” plus win a Grammy Award for the single “Bittersweet” in 2010.
But Fantasia has stayed humble through it all, and is thrilled to be a part of the Jazz in the Gardens Festival this weekend at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. She talked to Miami.com about her new album and her advice to this year’s “Idol” contestants.
So what draws you to a festival like this?
This will be my first time doing this festival, and I like to come out, and I don’t care if there are 500 or 1,000 – there could even be 10 folks in the building. I just like to sing, and hopefully people will feel the energy when I let it all loose. There’s a lot of people on this show that I totally love and respect, so it’s an honor to stand there – when it comes to music, I’m an old soul. Everybody in my family sings or they play – my first cousin’s in K-Ci & JoJo – so I grew up listening to most of the people who are gonna be on this stage. So it’s a blessing and an honor.
Will we hear tracks from your new album, “The Side Effects of You”?
That still hasn’t been released yet – it comes out April 23 – but you’ll be hearing some of the songs from the new album, which is great because I’m headed in a slightly different direction. I mean, I’m gonna always be soul – that’s Fantasia – but I like to call the new album “rock/soul,” just because I was raised on good music. But it wasn’t just one type of music – it was R&B, it was gospel, it was jazz, it was blues, it was rock, it was folk. It was every type of music, because we just loved genuine music and how people delivered it. And I wanted to take all of that, that I grew up on, and put it into this album, and just work with one producer. I wanted an album with a story, a package, where everything made sense.
So I’ll be doing some songs from this album, as well as songs from our first and second albums, and then we’ll be doing some old-school songs that we grew up on – a little bit of everything.
Do you watch “American Idol” today?
I catch it when I can. We’ve been really busy, but we were in D.C. not too long ago, and I was able to sit and watch the guys.
Do you have any advice to the young Idols today?
Oh, man. I do, I have a lot of advice, actually. I won “Idol” when I was 19, very young, and I wish somebody would have just sat me down and kind of gave me a lot of instruction. So my advice to them is to make sure, number one, that you have good people behind you to represent you and to make sure that everything is going along as it should. My second advice is to be themselves. Don’t change or try to be who they think that people want you to be. Be yourself. My third thing is, always pick good music. You wanna keep people intrigued and on their toes, like “Oh my gosh, he or she sung this or that!” You gotta pick good choices, choose great music. And my fourth thing would be to not lose yourself. To not lose your happiness. To not get caught up in the hype and this game, because it can happen very easily.