Learning state of mind

Learning state of mind

Alicia Keys says she isn’t afraid of hard work if she cares about something – and she’s passionate about a lot of things


Alicia Keys cover_L
Photos: Sony Music
Touring is part and parcel of a professional musician's life. Although it must seem glamorous at first to travel around the world, it is also exhausting, with endless flights, and dealing with different time zones. But after more than 10 years in the industry, singer Alicia Keys still finds the joy.

"The more that I travel, the more that I realise how incredible it is to bring different people from different places together," Keys says. "When I sing one of my favourite songs ... it just always blows my mind that we relate to that same emotion."

The 32-year-old songstress played two shows in Macau last month as part of her Set The World On Fire Tour, having last visited the region in 2008.

"It's really humbling for me to to be able to come again and see the faces of the people. Music affects all of our lives, it's such an imprint on our lives."

Music has always been a part of Keys' life. She started learning to play the piano at seven, studying classical standards by Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin.

This musical education proved invaluable for her career. When she made her debut appearance in 2001 with Songs in A Minor, she was promoted as a corn-rowed teen from the mean streets of New York who happened to be a classically-trained pianist. It was a good marketing gimmick; but Keys soon proved she was far more than that.

Alicia Keys belting out a song during her Set The World On Fire Tour

Her soulful vocals and empowering lyrics won her many fans, and she has since released four more albums, including 2012's Girl on Fire, and worked with other artists on huge hits, like Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind.

With all that she's accomplished, you might think she would have lots of advice for her teenage self. But that's not the case.

"In so many ways, I wouldn't give her any advice because that's part of it," she says. "You can't know everything. You're never going to know everything, there's always something to learn ... Part of growing is the experience of learning what works and what doesn't ... If I didn't go through those experiences, maybe my character wouldn't be as strong."

And as she grew, so did her roles. As well as a musician, she's also a wife to music producer Swizz Beatz, a mother to her three-year-old son Egypt, a producer on all her albums; an actress in films like The Secret Life of Bees and The Nanny Diaries; and a philanthropist who co-founded Keep a Child Alive, a charity that provides medicine to African families affected by HIV/Aids. With all these things going on, Keys admits to feeling stressed at times - but that won't stop her.

"I love all [the roles] or else I wouldn't do them. Something I learned ... is to make sure the passion you have is pure."

But music remains Keys' first love. With plans to start a new record next year, she seems as excited about her career as ever.

"There's just so much to say and in so many ways, I feel like I'm just getting started," says Keys. "I'm just starting to recognise completely who I am, who I want to be, how I want to grow and continue to evolve my music, my sound, my lyrics.

"I really look forward to new music, because music is everything."

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