With the release of his fifth album since winning American Idol in 2003, Ruben Studdard reveals the hard-learned lessons about life, love, and how his divorce has impacted his music.
Studdard divides his latest set Letters From Birmingham into four distinct sections–meeting, courtship, commitment, separation–meant to represent cycles of a relationship that has run its course. Throughout the album, he tells a personal tale of love and lost, portions of which he rips from his life experiences.
“I’ve never really been transparent in my music before,” he told CBS Local. “It’s always been surface songs. Songs that I thought were hot. So I went into the studio and recorded them but I never sat down and said, ‘This is what I went through, I need to talk about that.’”
The album title was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “Letters From A Birmingham Jail.” When Studdard noticed the actual letters displayed in an exhibit at the Atlanta International Airport, the title clicked for the Birmingham-born singer.
“I thought it would be a great idea to bring my city back into [my music],” he said. “The album is not politically driven, it is a relationship progression. But I just thought, If I was sending letters to this lady I was talking to on the album, I would definitely be writing them from Birmingham.”
While Studdard has been dogged by Tax liens and record label drama throughout his career, the most personal of the dispatches on Letters…, a song called “June 28th (I’m Single),” is titled after the date of his wedding. He married Surata Zuri McCants in 2008 after meeting her at an Atlanta WalMart and filed divorce papers this past November.
“Everybody wanted me to call the song, ‘I’m single,’” he told CBS Local. “But I thought ‘June 28th’ would spark interest. And it did. because it’s real. But being married taught me how to really be caring and be responsible and care about others’ feelings. Going through the dissolution of our relationship taught me a lot about myself, that I can actually make it through tough times. Most definitely, there is room for happiness after sadness.”
Letters From Birmingham was released on Tuesday, March 13 on the indy label Shanachie.
–Erik Parker, CBS Local