It's been five long years since Ottawa-born singer Keshia Chante's last album, 2U.
And in that time the 23-year-old has made some major changes -- both professionally and personally.
Chante asked to be let out of her contract with Sony, with whom she signed when she was just 14, and has since signed to Universal, which just released her third album, Night & Day.
"At the end of the day they are the top two labels worldwide, so I think either one you're very lucky to be with," said Chante, relaxing in her T.O. management offices.
"But for me I just wanted to have the control that I could write the songs I wanted to write, just do anything I wanted to do. I am that type of person. I'm definitely 24/7 always thinking kind of girl. And I wanted to able to pick up the phone and say, 'I have this idea' and to have it happen. As opposed to having to go through a system."
She hopes to do a theatre tour for the disc, including dates in Canada next March.
She was nominated for two 2011 Junos for her singles off Night & Day -- Table Dancer and Test Drive -- which were released last November and were vying for best dance recording and best R&B recording, respectively, but lost.
"I don't want to be confined in a box," she said of doing both genres. "I don't want to be told to make dance music 'cause that's what's doing great at radio. And I don't want to be told to be doing R&B music because it sells great. I just want to do whatever I want to. And I got to do both."
And she's done it all while dividing her time between Toronto and Chi-Town to spend time with her boyfriend, 29-year-old Chicago Blackhawks goalie and Hamilton, Ont., native Ray Emery.
The two met in 2007 at a Halloween party in Ottawa when he was playing for the Senators but it wasn't until a year and a half ago they became involved as he recovered from avascular necrosis which required a bone graft on his hip.
"He was in Muskoka (Ontario) and I went to go visit him on a level of 'It's not the end,' " said Chante. "It was very serious. It was an issue of, 'You may not be able to walk again.' They didn't really know. And it was a dark time and I wanted to be there to lend my support and he's a really incredibly amazing person and then it just evolved."
Now Chante tries to see all of Emery's home games.
"Live games are so amazing. Just the energy of it. I usually get really anxious and start shaking and stuff. Too many people screaming. It's crazy but I really enjoy it. I grew up watching hockey in the sense that my dad was a huge Mario Lemieux fan and I've still got a Montreal Canadiens sweater. But I remember all the time with my dad, he was always watching hockey. I didn't learn the rules and how it worked. But now I really appreciate it. It's a great sport."
As for her skating ability? "It is really dreadful," says Chante, adding Emery gave her a pink helmet with a cage and baby blue figure skates.
"He'll rent out an arena and he practises and he'll say to his trainers, 'Nobody shoot the puck that way. She's going to skate on that end. I'll be on this end.' And I wobble like a penguin. It's just a mess. He just laughs. Like he'll be playing and then he'll look and you'll see him really laughing. And I'm like, 'Great. I'm the entertainment for this evening? That's awesome.'
"Actually, the Chicago team, some of the girls have their own little team but they play against guys and they asked me to be a part of it on my downtime. And I was like, 'Only if I could be the goalie.' He basically banned me and said, 'No, I'm not letting her go out there.' Because it's real hockey guys shooting and they're not nice. They're not playing nice for the ladies. They're just going for it."
Latest album originally much darker
Keshia Chante’s latest dual album of dance and R&B, Night & Day, was originally going to be a much different, darker affair.
“The title was The Vendetta,” said Chante. “And it was dark. It was very Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. That was the inspiration for it. And once I went through that songwriting experience and all that kind of therapy, and that kind of phase of my life, I just started to feel really good and upbeat and I wanted to make dance music.”
So was The Vendetta about Keshia-done-wrong by a man?
“It was just edgy,” she said. “A lot of angst. I’m definitely a late bloomer and I always have been being that I have been working in an adult industry at a young age. So the natural angst that a 16-year- old would get in terms of rebellion, I got at 19 or 21. It was just really delayed. So it’s all my angst. It could be a relationship or missing prom or just being frustrated or feeling confined, whatever it may be. It was just a lot of frustation and it turned it into a lot of different music. And the only one song from that spell ended up on the album and it was called, I Hope U Cry. My energy changed. I wanted to make dance music, which was the night side and then I wanted to make more feel-good R&B music, which ended up being the day side.”