More from Scott Simon's conversation with Vanessa Williams
Vanessa Williams found time while appearing on TV's Ugly Betty to record her 13th studio album, released this month.
Vanessa Williams is a singer, songwriter, actor and mother of four — and, apparently, an excellent multi-tasker. While performing her Emmy-nominated role as the top villain on TV's Ugly Betty, she managed to find time to record her 13th album. It's called The Real Thing, and it was released this month.
"It's been interesting," says Williams, "because I have a whole new fan base now — a lot of young teenage girls who watch Ugly Betty with their moms. A lot of kids had no idea that I could sing. It's nice to have a flip side of the career, where I'm seen as a villain on TV but I get a chance to show the softer side as a recording artist."
The new CD incorporates plenty of Latin influence; the title track of the album is originally from Sergio Mendes' Brazil 77. "My father, who was a music teacher, played lots of different types of music in our house growing up. I always loved Latin music, and I always loved jazz. So, this is one of the songs from my past that I've always loved. When I thought about the direction for this album, I wanted to have Latin and Brazilian, but also stay with jazz."
Williams also performs Bill Withers' "Hello Like Before."
"Bill Withers reminds me of the days when we would go on these long road trips," Williams says. "We would have an eight-track cassette, and we'd have the Temptations, and Bill Withers was one of the favorites." She says she chose the song because "a lot has to do with love, and that's been a staple for the hits that I've had. But it also has to do with telling a story. I'm 46 years old — I've got lots of stories and lots of memories about love."