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"I want the world to know that everybody deserves a second chance," says DeBarge. His long-awaited fifth solo album, Second Chance tells his story of redemption, which followed a period of personal turmoil for the immensely talented singer and songwriter. Earlier, his tender falsetto and smooth love songs resulted in 16 Top 10s both with his family group DeBarge, one of America's most popular young R&B Pop acts of the '80s, and as a solo artist. But El continued to be heard even after exiting the scene following 1994's Heart Mind And Soul, a collaboration with Babyface. Everyone from The Notorious B.I.G. and Ashanti to Mariah Carey and Patti LaBelle has covered or sampled hits featuring him as lead singer, many of which he also wrote and produced. Now the original is back'refreshed, rededicated and ready to take his place once more among the genuine stars of R&B.
Songs on Second Chance were co-written and co-produced by some of music's most notable hitmakers, including Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Babyface, Mike City, Michael Angelo, Mishka, the Avila Brothers and Ron Fair.
El DeBarge interview
Q: What do you want to tell us with this album? What is your message?
A: I want the world to know that tomorrow is full of second chances, and all your fears should be left behind you.
Q: Why did you write the song "Second Chance"?
A: I wrote "Second Chance" to commemorate all the struggles I went through, and I feel it speaks to struggles in the souls and the hearts of people who are going through what I went through and who want a second chance.
Q: How are you feeling being back?
A: I'm very grateful to be back. It's joyful, it's scary, it's all of that.
Q: Describe your connection to your fans.
A: I love my fans. I like being up close and personal with them, so I really like being on tour more than I like just being in the studio.
Q: Are you a spiritual person?
A: I have a close relationship with God. From the moment I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is to get on my knees and pray. He's everything to me. He's my music. He's my source of creativity. He's my breath.
Q: What is the El DeBarge sound, and how has it changed and evolved over the years?
A: The El DeBarge sound is soulful, it's joyful, it's filled with intricate harmonies. It talks about life, it talks about love... it hasn't changed, though. It's the same.
Q: What's your songwriting process like? Where do you draw inspiration from?
A: I draw inspiration from walking down the street, from driving, from being in crowds and just vibing off people, but I like to begin my songwriting process with sitting at the piano. That way I can critique and develop what I'm hearing musically.
Q: You've overcome a lot in the past few years. What would be your message to fans?
A: I lost a lot of time, I lost a lot of good friends, but I'm back, though there were some serious consequences. You don't want to go down that road. You don't need to experiment with drugs. Some people say that experience is the best teacher, but you don't need to experience that. Just learn from my mistakes.
Q: You've said recently that self-denial was your first step toward drug abuse, and you lost touch with reality. What's the best way of staying true to yourself?
A: Keep people around you that were in your joy period of life. That's the most authentic period of your life, and that's mostly your childhood and your teens, rather than your "good times" or "bad times," and don't ever lose that. Don't succumb to the new "friendships" that just come out of nowhere. That's not going to do it. That will get you in trouble right there.
Q: What brings joy to your life?
A: A good song makes me feel joyful. I like hearing chords and pretty melodies; I brighten up if I hear something that sounds good. Simple things like that ' watching the sun come up, watching the sun set - and last, but definitely not least, a beautiful woman.
Q: Can you talk about some of your favorite tracks on the album?
A: One of my favorite tracks is "How Can You Love Me So Much, Girl?" produced by the Avila Brothers and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Another is "Serenading You." That's for lovers who really want to serenade their woman, and it's written by Mike City. I have quite a few of them.
Q: What can your fans expect from you?
A: Oh, we're going to have a good time when I get back on stage. It's going to be so joyful! We're going to sing some of the old songs, some of the new songs ' we're just going to have some fun.