Published Apr 02, 2014The gourmet food truck that Kelis rolled in to this year's South by Southwest was a huge hit — as were her jerk ribs with BBQ sauce, duck confit sliders and other spicy treats on the free menu. But the singer-songwriter and certified chef tells Exclaim! that, while she didn't see the truck as a big deal, she appreciated the reception it got. "SXSW was awesome, really good," she says over the phone.
The food truck was to promote new album, appropriately enough, titled Food, out April 22 via Ninja Tune, along with her brand new Cooking Channel show, Saucy & Sweet. Even though it's been four years since her last album, 2010's Flesh Tone, the artist best known via mainstream hits such as "Milkshake" and "Bossy" notes that the fact the SXSW outing was considered by the some in the media as a comeback didn't sit right with her.
"I don't know, it's like somebody got it out there that I haven't done a show in a while. That's not true at all," Kelis says.
She's been busy touring Europe for the past few years, just recently played a date in Miami, and performs in Las Vegas "all the time," the songwriter adds.
Food reflects the mature and positive mindset that Kelis is in at this point in her life. Her first album on the Ninja Tune label, it was produced by TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek and serves up soul, funk and Afrobeat flavours under food-themed titles like "Cobbler," "Biscuits 'n' Gravy," and first single "Jerk Ribs," a funky, horn-dominated number that Kelis feels best represents the 13-song album.
Mainly recorded at Sitek's studio in Los Angeles, Food is a move away from the '90s/trip-hop-inspired material of Flesh Tone, as Kelis worked with Sitek and trumpeter/arranger Todd M. Simon to craft a vintage soul-pop that could be termed retro with a modern feel — "Milkshake" this is not.
In addition to creating music, Kelis is also a chef — a certified saucier, having graduated from New York's Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts this past year. Kelis was able to parlay this into her show on the Cooking Channel and also in launching "Feast," a product line of French sauces. Food and music represent passionate and creative sides of her personality, she says, adding that she wouldn't choose one over of the other.
"It was just felt like the right thing to do. When the time came and it presented itself, it was like, 'Yeah, why not?'" she says of her recent culinary exploits. "[Cooking and music] are both creative and take your thought processes to another level. You can really express yourself with it."
Once the album is out, Kelis says that touring, putting out the sauce line, the cooking show and a possible cookbook will be dominating her immediate future. "I feel successful," she says with a laugh.
Read our full interview with Kelis in our May 2014 cover story here.