Apollo Smile Interview

Apollo Smile is 23 years old. She gave up a scholarship at New York's Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to pursue a singing career. Her singing caught the attention of DGC (David Geffen Co.) Records, and over the summer her debut album was released. Shortly thereafter, Apollo Smile was no longer on the label. What happened?

Q: Apollo, where does your career stand these days?
A: I left DGC Records.

Q: You left, or were you dropped from the label?
A: Actually, well, let me think. There are kind of two stories going around. It was sort of a mutual thing. The actuality legally is that DGC and Geffen Records dropped me from the label. But, it was a mutual decision. When the actual legality went through, I was already contemplating and putting into action leaving the label myself. But, it was better that it looked like they dropped me, because of their standpoint.

Q: Between the time your album came out, and the time we're talking, only three to four weeks went by. And you were already off the label. How can anyone be given a fair chance in so short of time?
A: Well, you know I think that Geffen Records right now are having a bit of internal trouble. I think they're having trouble unifying their people, and it's reflecting on the way they treat their acts. It was something that was showing its head at a very early time for me with them. I saw the early stages of it happening amongst the internal problem of the company. So, it happened when it happened, neither at a good or bad time for me. But it's better that it happened in the earlier stages, therefore I didn't go through my record and have it absolutely not promoted and not supported. It was strange because there were a lot of people at the company who were a million percent behind the act, and the record. They were into making it happen. I think because of the internal problems, Geffen Records and DGC were having amongst themselves they're finding it very hard to make things successful, not just with me, but there were problems within other acts.

Q: So are you actively pursuing another record deal?
A: I'm absolutely a free agent. I am shopping. There are a few major labels that are very interested, and a couple of independent labels. I'm taking my time. I'm really not in a giant hurry to make a new deal very quickly, because I'll probably re-record a new album. I've gotten so much more material already written and some of it recorded, that it doesn't pose a problem for me.

Q: How will you make a living between now and the next record?
A: I'm very heavily involved in doing sound track work. Before I actually signed with Geffen, I did some sound track work with A&M Records, for a film called 'Lost Angels.' It was pretty successful. The sound track album did well. Then I did the Geffen sound track release 'Days of Thunder.' I really enjoy doing a lot of sound track work provided the movie is worth doing. The money is very good.

Q: How did you get Geffen's attention?
A: It was an interesting situation. I had begun working with producer, The Groove Commander. I was working in the lower East side of Manhattan, and I was working with him writing some tunes. We weren't shopping a deal or anything. We were just making some studio music, getting the ideas together. A friend of his came from L.A. and she was staying with him and she came by one night when we were mixing. She ran a club in L.A. and she was totally grooving on it. She was like, God this is incredible. You guys are amazing. I've got to take a copy of this back to L.A. and play it for an A&R person at Geffen! We were like no, it's too early, it's iust experimental right now. We refused to give it to her. Being very sneaky, she made her own dupe, and brought it back to L.A. and played it for an A&R person at Geffen, who totally fell in love with it. Within two days he flew to New York, was courting me in a restaurant, getting more of a feel what I was all about. I did a development deal with Geffen, and within four months of that, they signed me.

Q: Whose idea was it to use the flag as a backdrop for your promo picture?
A: We did that photo session in Central Park. It was the stylist. I usually do my own styling in my picture. I have a makeup artist. I also design clothes and make most of what I wear. I made these pants, that hat. It was my flag. I'm very much like what Van Morrison is all about. You bring your own thing into it, not just like your soul, but the things that make you feel good. I love that photo. It's one of my favorite pictures.

Q: You look a little like Madonna in this picture.
A: Madonna looks a lot like me. It's actually very old, because she and I really do have so many of the same facial features. Sometimes it's very scary. There are a few times when I’ve seen pictures of her, and I honestly looked at them and thought they were me. We have the same profile, the same cheek structure, the same chin. I smile a little different. We have the same cat-like eyes. But, we are such world's apart. We both absolutely say what we mean. We are kind of the same women in the sense that what we feel, we write. There's no gray area around us, it's usually extreme one way or another. She's more obviously the dance groove queen. She has been since the early 80's and she's continued that success and and is a pop icon now. I think my influences stem from many other things than just dance music. I am a dancer. I've danced for 19 years. I've trained with many incredible dance companies in Philadelphia and New York and in

Q: Apollo Smile isn't your real name...
A: Apollo is my real name. Smile is my stage name.

Q: How'd you come up with Smile?
A: Everyone always remarked about my smile ever since I was very little, and said I had a very nice smile. And then a very good friend of mine who owns a record company in England, came over to America, and we were working with him in the studio. He said Apollo, you've got such a groovy front name, you need a really groovy back name. I said, I guess so. Come up with something and I'll check it out. He said Apollo Smile. And he just said it, and it rang, and everybody said, yeah!

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