Kandi Burruss has gone from R&B singer to actress, then record producer and, finally, a reality television star. She combines all of that in a new show. From the group Xscape to the Real Housewives of Atlanta, Burruss always seems to land on top.
Now Burruss is ready to help 16 contestants build their dreams on Kandi Factory her latest project. She brings a history of such hits as "No Scrubs" and "Bills, Bills, Bills" to the table. With such vast experience she takes these budding music stars to a whole new level on a competition reality show.
We talked to her right before the season kicked off.
Windy City Times: Hi, Kandi. I interviewed you at a club in Chicago a while ago. How is the Chicago contestant on the Kandi Factory?
Kandi Burruss: Oh yeah, I actually love Mathew Cash. I can't tell you everything that happens, of course, but Matthew is a rapper and he actually writes his own lyrics. I knew that he was serious about his craft so I didn't want people to take him as a joke. So I wasn't even going to attempt to try to write his raps for him or anything like that.
He's the only artist out of all of the contestants on the show who actually had the opportunity to write his own music. I only wrote his hook because I just felt like to be taken seriously as a rapper now somebody has to actually be a good writer. I guess that, in itself, makes him stand out from everybody else.
WCT: How were the contestants in general?
Kandi Burruss: A lot of the people who came on the show they did not have a musical background and we did have some who did. Like there were some people that came onto Kandi Factory who had already done music videos before.
They had already been trying to get a deal for some years. One of the guys he is actually an engineer.
The thing that cracked me up and weirds me out is we had one gentleman who told us he was a choreographer. But then when it came time for him to start doing the choreography something was going on. I don't know. I sure didn't see a choreographer. So sometimes it's harder for them to take direction.
Whereas with somebody who is open minded, they've never done it before, they're kind of like open and they're just soaking up everything you're teaching them.
WCT: Were there any gay contestants on the show?
Kandi Burruss: Oh yeah, definitely. There were a couple, actually. We had a young lady. She is an open lesbian. She is an older woman as well. We also had a young guy. He lives in California and he was openly gay. He's definitely a fun artist and he brought the drama.
As far as when it comes to sexuality and the entertainment business come on now, we know there are a lot of people in the entertainment business who definitely are in the LGBT community.
Whether or not they're open with it or not I mean it is what it is.
WCT: What went into the selection process?
Kandi Burruss: We did have a casting agency that they received like thousands of audition tapes and they kind of narrowed it down to a certain number. Then it went back and forth between myself, you know, some of the Bravo executives and True Entertainment, the production company.
Like we were going back and forth voting in a way, which ones we felt like should make it. And with that it was like we had to have people that represented all different age groups, all different styles of music. We wanted people with different levels of talent.
When we did the pilot some people thought that we were only catering to people who weren't necessarily great performers or great artists or great singers. Well we wanted all different levels of talent this time around.
We wanted people who could really sing or really rap. We wanted some people who were a little more challenged, to show the range of what we could do with that person. So that's how we kind of judged it.
Like if we had somebody who is great in this area then we had to find somebody who was great in another area and we wanted all different age ranges as well. So it was a lot of different factors.
WCT: What made you do another reality show?
Kandi Burruss: Basically, I wanted to do another show that I had two show ideas that I had pitched to Bravo.
I could give people the opportunity to help them achieve their lifelong dream of doing music because after my first year on the Housewives when I did the song with Kim, so many people were coming up to me every day saying oh, if you could do that for her I know you can do that for me.
So I was like well it would be kind of cool and fun to just do it for just regular everyday people who just never had anybody to work with them. So Bravo thought it was a great idea and they let me do it.
WCT: What does your show that other music reality shows don't have?
Kandi Burruss: Well, first off I can tell people that our show has all original songs. Like all of the songs were written specifically for that contestant. There are no cover tunes on our show. Like most of the music shows I see I mean they all have cover tunes. Not on our music show. You will not get that.
So we did that because obviously I'm a writer and I wanted to showcase that side of it. On our show it's mostly about the whole artist development process. I think people totally forget about that. They just want to become a star overnight.
We show you the behind the scenes of what it takes to get there as far as you have to have a hit song. You have to have a hot image if you're going to showcase for different record labels you need to have all that together. That's what you can get from me and my team on the Kandi Factory.
I think it's kind of cool because we do all genres of music this season. Everything from rock, pop, rap, R&BI mean, some of everything. You get to see our skills and see how we can switch it up.
I'd love for people to know that I don't like to be in a box. I don't like to stay in one lane. I can write any style of music and so I'm really curious to see what people are going to think when they hear the songs.
WCT: Are there any celebrity guests on the show?
Kandi Burruss: Ruben Studdard stopped through to give some advice to one of our contestants which I thought that was really good because he's been in this whole competition situation before.
I haven't seen all of the finished episodes. I don't know if it made it or not but Phaedra [from Real Housewives of Atlanta] had to come by at one point because we had a couple of people on my team actually got to fighting with each other.
WCT: How do you know what is right for Kandi Factory?
Kandi Burruss: A lot of the artists kind of tell us what type of music they see themselves doing when they send their audition tapes in.
We had a rock artist on the show and on his tape he wanted to do rock music. To be honest with you his audition tape really did not showcase his vocals at all. When we got him in the studio he really did his thing.
We had another young lady who on her audition tape she told us she wanted to do songs where she could really belt out some vocals. We had to write her a whole other song. That's the thing. I mean it is reality and sometimes you may think that you have the right record for somebody.
But when you see that you don't then it's back to the drawing board. We had some sleepless nights because we only have like five days to work with these people. On the fifth day they're on stage.
So if I don't have the right song for them when they get there that means like I'm up all night trying to come up with something that's going to be perfect for them, for them to go back into the studio the next day. We had some situations where we had to switch the songs around. We just had to do what we had to do.
WCT: Being on the Housewives, how do you feel about having true talent in the music business?
Kandi Burruss: As far as with the show "Housewives," I feel like everybody has their good days and their bad days. I mean we're taping for, like, five to six months. In my mind I just feel like anybody in your regular life if you had somebody taping you for that long and you did something crazy you know that's what's going to make the show. Do you know what I mean?
So on a day-to-day basis I think the girls are really cool and I think they all have success in their own right. So I don't think that I'm necessarily above anybody. I just feel like I stay in my lane, I do what I do and, you know, they do what they do.
I think all of us represent a different type of woman. I feel like I was good for the show because Atlanta it's a huge entertainment community.
I kind of represent the people in the music industry and the entertainment business that live here. I grew up here. I was born and raised here. They didn't have any of the other ladies on the show were born and raised in Atlanta until I came on.
I think Porsha, she's born and raised in Atlanta too now. But she just came on this year. But I felt like it was kind of cool to have somebody who represented the ATL, whereas some of the other ladies, you know, they, they, you know, they come from other places.
WCT: What's the latest update on Porsha?
Kandi Burruss: Well, of course, my heart goes out to Porsha. I don't really want to speak on anything to do with her marriage or whatever because it's not really for me to speak on. But definitely my heart goes out to her and I really hope that things work out for her. She had to come mediate, I don't know if that made it onto the show or not since I haven't seen that episode yet.
I had lots of friends that showed up at the big showcases at the end. I know Cynthia came by.
WCT: As far as your wedding, would you make a reality show of that?
Kandi Burruss: As of now, we have not planned to. We have talked about it back and forth but as of now, no. But we're open I guess. Right now I kind of have plans to do it just privately.
WCT: Would you ever leave the Housewives to do this show instead?
Kandi Burruss: Well for now I would continue to do both if the network would allow me to continue to do both. The way they worked it out last year I did the whole season with the ladies and then I just went straight into taping Kandi Factory.
I only had, like, a two-week break or something like that. I pretty much was taping the whole year almost last year. Even though it was a lot of work I love music and that's just something that I just love hands down.
I would definitely want to continue to do both because I do enjoy doing Housewives with the ladies as well. I wouldn't say that I'm like a person who feels like I want my whole life to be on TV all the time. But it's kind of cool to be on a show with an ensemble cast where it's not just about me.
Look for Kandi and her Factory every Tuesday on Bravo.