By Veronica Dudo
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (CBS) — Pop and R&B recording artist Keri Hilson recently hosted a party at the Pool After Dark inside Harrah’s Resort. As a songwriter, Hilson has been responsible for hits by Britney Spears, The Pussycat Dolls, Mary J. Blige and Usher. Now, the 29 year-old is stepping into the spotlight and pursuing her own singing career. She has collaborated with Kanye West and Ne-Yo on “Knock You Down,” Lil Wayne on “Turning Me On,” Nelly on “Loose Control,” Chris Brown on “One Night Stand,” and recently released her newest single, “Pretty Girl Rock.” While in Atlantic City, the Grammy-nominated singer performed for fans and talked about her journey in the music industry.
What do you think of Atlantic City?
I love Atlantic City! It’s, like…the Vegas comparison—you’ve got to do it. It’s just like being in Vegas without being in Vegas, and people here come ready to drink and they come ready to party, and that’s what we’re going to do tonight. And I know it’s going to be a lot of fun!
Describe your journey from when you first began in the music industry up until now.
That’s a long story! I started writing songs at 12 years old, in and out of record deals with Real Roots, then decided go “solo.” At the moment, Timberland and Polow decided to do a joint venture label at Interscope Records, and I was like, I’m in. I really wasn’t pursuing it at the moment, and that was it.
Can you talk a little bit about some of your musical influences?
I’m influenced by none, inspired by many, though: Lauryn Hill, Robin Thicke, Stevie Wonder, going back Donny Hathaway, of course Whitney Houston…I still cry when I hear her songs, and that was actually the reaction I would have — as a child, at her talent — I would tear up. And it still does it to me.
What are some differences between producing and singing?
Behind the scenes, it’s like directing traffic a lot. It’s your time to get your ideas out; it’s your time to get the best performance out of the person who you are producing. The difference is I can show up to work as a songwriter and co-producer in my PJ’s, and when I do performances and shows there’s a whole lot of other stuff you have to worry about! Working out, making sure you’re not winded hair, make-up and all that kind of stuff–that’s probably the main difference. Otherwise, it’s all art.
You’ve appeared in some films. Would you like to be considered for more roles?
My first little cameo was a movie called “Think Like A Man.” I was really excited about that. I have a little bigger of a role in “The Chronicles of Riddick;” it has yet to be titled. I’m really proud of my work there with Vin Diesel. I’m looking forward to more–I’m actually being seen and being recorded for other roles. I was a theatre major in college.
Do you ever get the chance to visit Philadelphia?
All the time; my business managers are here.
Any specials places you like in Philly?
Veronica Dudo is an award-winning journalist covering everything from breaking news to red carpet celebrity interviews. Follow her on Twitter @VeronicaDudo and Facebook.