Fantasia, the gifted soul singer with the single teenage mom back story who won the third season of “American Idol,” plays the Gulf Coast Rhythm & Ribfest less than 10 days before the release of her new album “Side Effects of You.”
Born Fantasia Monique Barrino in North Carolina, she coauthored the retro-sounding, self-empowering first single “Lose to Win.” The song, which will likely be heard Sunday during her performance in Palmetto, was inspired by her personal struggles as well as those shared by the people who support her career.
“It was my life experiences and things I went through as far as relationships with family and the industry but also hearing other people’s stories,” Fantasia said during a recent phone interview. “I go places and meet people, I hate the term ‘fans,’ and people are really open and honest with me because I came into this game honest and open.”
“Side Effects of You” also includes “Without Me,” featuring appearances by Fantasia’s “best friend” Missy Elliott and Kelly Rowland. Elliott and Fantasia first worked together on Fantasia’s smash debut album “Free Yourself.” Fantasia gleefully described “Without Me” as a “club banger” that will be the album’s next single with, she hopes, a video directed by Elliott.
“It’s about telling a dude off, and a lot of people can relate to that,” Fantasia said with a laugh. “But it’s also something you dance to with a hard, crazy beat.”
“Side Effects of You” is the follow-up to Fantasia’s 2010 album “Back to Me,” which shot to No. 2 on the Billboard 200, thanks, in large part, to the single “Bittersweet.” After numerous nominations, the song landed Fantasia her first Grammy, an award she freely admitted to cherishing.
“After 11 times being nominated, to finally get a Grammy, to finally be honored for all the hard work and the blood and sweat, I felt so friggin’ good,” she said. “Every time I get down I get her out and she sits in my lap and reminds me that, ‘Hey baby, people are being blessed by your music and acknowledging it.’”
Fantasia’s many honors also include a Theatre World Award for her 2007 portrayal of Celie in the Broadway musical “The Color Purple.”
“Broadway was probably the hardest thing I had ever done,” Fantasia said. “Preparing for Broadway was very grueling with a lot of practice.”
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Alice Walker, “The Color Purple” musical was co-produced by Oprah Winfrey, who played Sofia in the hit 1985 film version.
“One day at the show I noticed everyone was acting crazy and new something was up,” Fantasia recalled. “Before the second half, there was a knock on my door and it was Alice Walker and Oprah Winfrey and Jane Fonda. I was so overwhelmed I don’t even even remember what they said.”
The 28 year-old added, “I believe I cried. I’m emotional. Just for me to do things I never thought possible. It touched me.”
Fantasia would have another chance to speak with Oprah, in private.
“She gave me straight-up advice, no beating around the bush, no cameras, just spoke to me like an aunty,” Fantasia said. “She said a lot of things I don’t want to share but let’s just say she inspired me to never stop and I thank her for that for that wisdom. All that advice I take and use.”
Mötley Crüe front man Vince Neil is also performing this weekend at Ribfest. Read my interview.