NEW EDITION Ricky Bell
Monarch magazine: Ricky, thank you so much for agreeing to meet to do this interview today. We really appreciate it!
Ricky Bell: Sure, no problem. Thank you! We’ve got a lot to talk about, so I don’t mind at all.
Monarch magazine: I know there’s a lot of new stuff swirling around, especially the New Edition movie coming up in a couple of weeks.
Ricky Bell: Yeah, yeah, it’s exciting times. I’m a little nervous, you know I’m excited. I hope that the feedback has been really good so far. But, you know, just hoping that people really enjoy it. As we open up our lives, you know talk about stuff and show you guys stuff that we never talked about before. It’s just very exciting, you know, and I’m just very anxious for people to hear it.
Monarch magazine: So, that leads me to the next question. What level of involvement did you have or did the other members of the group have in the development of the movie?
Ricky Bell: Okay, well we’re all co-producers on the project. Um…we actually started this process maybe 10 or 11 years ago, now, with just sitting down and telling our stories, our personal stories, you know, our stories as a group, all the challenges that we faced. So, it’s our story, it’s our personal story. You’ll see behind the curtains our family, lives, history, and then as far as with the casting, um you know helping and partnering up with…and choosing the cast of the guys that’s playing us older and even the kids playing us. Working with the cast maybe 30 days or so, prior to going into production. Hanging out with them and providing the backstory. Picking up our personalities and the choreography was pretty cool. So, you know, the stuff that we take for granted because we’ve been doing it for so long, you know it’s second nature to us. But, really realizing how intricate it was when trying to teach someone else. I mean it’s like you could watch video, and say, okay cool do this. But when you have good planning and you have the guys in the room watching you it’s like, naw, that hand goes left and the shoulders are pointing this way, it’s really down into the details. So, I mean really at the end of the day, it’s a partnership between us, between New Edition and between BET.
Monarch magazine: What are some of the, I guess, major themes you think that the viewers will get out of the film?
Ricky Bell: I think that you guys will really see in this film how we’re friends. Growing up as friends, we take on this partnership. So, viewers will see what the challenges are like for us as brothers, friendship along with business and how this industry itself can almost be the villain, so to speak. I mean being kids and not knowing anything about the business. It’s like our ideas as far as they went was okay cool, we can dance and sing, we can put together a sweet team and join this talent show and that was really our idea. But what we get is the inspiration part of it….as far as the inspiration part of it, that’s the part of it that, you know, that everything we knew up to this point has been by the grace of God. And we’re just very fortunate and I don’t want to give anything away but I mean it will be really surprising and really start to understand a lot about the business and just a lot about us in general.
Monarch magazine: So, in the beginning of your career, I think I read that you and Ralph had originally started a group called Ricky and Ralph is that true?
Ricky Bell: Yeah, umhum, yeah that’s true.
Monarch magazine: How far did that go before you guys included Michael and Bobby to make New Edition?
Ricky Bell: Well, I mean, I’m going to go back up a little, because it’s like…it’s so many things….like this story, we can’t even, the three nights they give us is not even long enough. In the first New Edition, there was myself, Michael, and Bobby, you know. You know, before Ricky and Ralph. But, we did that New Edition with another guy named Corey and another guy named Travis, and all we did was rehearse, we never did a show. Eventually that group, we ended up splitting up and going our separate ways for a while and that’s when Ralph and I started singing together. Mike and Bob came back to me, they wanted the three of us to get back together, so I was like cool, it’s exciting, okay I know this kid named Ralph who just amazing, and that’s when I got Ralph into the group. But, um, we didn’t get far at all. We did a couple of um, you know, couple of like different events and audition events around the neighborhood. We were managed by a guy name Travis Griffin and I remember one day we were like, yeah maybe we should record some Michael Jackson songs and some Silver Songs…but it never went anywhere, like at all. Like I said, we had no idea about getting a record deal. This way before social media, this is before even cable television. So, there was really no
Monarch magazine: So, when Ronnie and then later Johnnie joined New Edition, how did you all receive them? Do you think that part of it will be played out in the movie?
Ricky Bell: Absolutely, like I said in the movie, we always wanted to have five. That was the idea, to have a five-man group. So, when the lead singer is out front, we could still have that four in the background to stick the choreography and the harmony. So, that was always the intention. It was just that when myself, Mike, and Bobby and Ralph started, we, we couldn’t find that fifth member at the time that was just as passionate and as talented as the rest of us. So, we just kept it. We just kept it at with four, until we started recording the “Candy Girl” album, we were really talking to Maurice and he was like, “Yeah, I really think you should try to find that fifth member again.” And, we even tried a couple of guys and one day we show up at rehearsal and you know Ron was there. Brook was like I have my nephew, you know him and Ron just had this personality and he just fit right in. His style, the way he moved, you know everything, it was like a glove. It fit just like a glove and we were excited. We were like yes, now we got that five that we always wanted. It was so dope you know. We were excited, I mean we chewed the hell out of him, far as the initiation part, you know. But, you know, we were really excited about that. And when Johnnie got to the group, myself, Mike, and Ron. You know, we had been running into him for years, so there would be times, he would be joking and saying “Oh I want to be in the group” and whatever and we would just laugh it off and whatever. And then we saw him at a show one day, and we were in transition from that young bubblegum pop soul into the young adults. We thought that his voice would definitely help mesh that together. I mean he was this young guy with this big voice, this baritone, you know sounding like an older man. But, he was kind of like having a little trouble with his career so we thought that he has what we needed at the time and what he needed we have it would be a perfect match.
Monarch magazine: I’m really enjoying hearing about the history of New Edition. You know, I grew up watching you guys and then to actually hear how you all developed and how you guys progressed over the years to me is amazing.
Ricky Bell: Thank you!
Monarch magazine: So, with the creation of the music of the group, how involved were you all with creating some of the music and maybe even writing and producing some of it, in New Edition?
Ricky Bell: We just knew the style that we wanted, you know. Once we got to MCA we started recording and our managers really encouraged us to do more writing, so we started with that. So, with each album we would have at least 2–3 songs on there that were written, if not by the whole group, it was like from members of the group.
Monarch magazine: Can you shed any other light on some of the highlights of your career with New Editions and BBD, if you would like?
Ricky Bell: Oh, sure, highlights would be meeting Michael Jackson, was definitely a highlight. Um, wow, there’s just so many, I guess when we recorded, I forget the name of the song, but it wasn’t “We Are The World” but it was one of those songs…it was “King Holiday,” you know that’s what it was. Sorry about that. It was the Martin Luther King, Jr., song. Being places like the American Music Awards. You know the very first time we heard “Candy Girl” on the radio, that feeling right there…I mean, I haven’t felt anything like it, like since that day. Like that felt like that…It’s almost like having the “that’s it” of the struggle, like you never get that feeling back. But that moment just hearing on the radio and you know us calling each other like Bobby…and them just playing back-to-back and you know just seeing the reactions. I think that’s probably number one on my list as far as highlights. As far as with Bell Biv DeVoe, man, I’m going to have to say you know performing at the White House is going to go at the top of my list. And um, the “Poison,” that album, you know going gold and being really proud of just putting it out. You know it’s just the strengths and how long a person has lasted, to be honest, is at the top of the list as well.
Monarch magazine: So, I heard you name a couple of artists like Michael Jackson and some others. Did those artists influence the style of New Edition or do you know of any artists back then when you guys first started out, that influenced the style of New Edition?
Ricky Bell: Oh absolutely, when we first, before we started recording our own records, we performed a lot of like the Temptations, the Jacksons, you know the Four Tops. Any group with that four-size band group…we did songs from Kool & The Gang, Shalimar, I mean, we were all over the place with it, L.T.D., Jeffrey Osborne. So yeah, it was just a lot of different like ’70s and ’60s albums, you know, a lot of those type bands, so we were all over. But I think the Jacksons and the Temptations probably had the biggest influence on our style.
Monarch magazine: So, I know that BBD has been working on some new material and I know about the release of the song, “Run.” So, how is that whole project coming along?
Ricky Bell: That project is coming along, absolutely amazingly. It’s finished. It will be released let’s see the last night of the movie is the 26th, so that album will be released that midnight of the 27th. You can actually pre-order it right now. It’s called “Three Stripes.” The single is called, “Run.” The next single is a duo with Bell Biv DeVoe and SWV. It’s an amazing song called “Finally” um. The album is a classic Bell Biv DeVoe album and what you would want to hear from us. You know, the grooves, the beats, the melodies. Performances on top of all of it. Just merging that whole foundation of the hip-hop and R&B together. It’s a classic. So, if you’re a Bell Biv DeVoe, New Edition fan, you will be very pleased and even if you’re not, it’s easy to ride in your car to, to work out to. So, I’m really proud of the work we did on this project.
Monarch magazine: That’s so cool. I know fans will be excited to get their hands on that album.
Ricky Bell: Thank you. We also have a song with Boyz II Men…It’s a very exciting project.
Monarch magazine: Are you guys planning to do any touring?
Ricky Bell: Absolutely. Initially we have a bunch of spot dates from this point all the way through March and we’re going to go on tour. Right now, the package is going to be Bell Biv DeVoe, SWV, and it’s going to be another act added to that, but I can’t speak on that right now until that’s confirmed. But we will definitely be touring from the spring all the way through the summer.
Monarch magazine: And any new projects with New Edition?
Ricky Bell: Yes, we definitely will tour and make some more music as well, especially after the movie. It’s just really time and getting everyone together and getting in the studio.
Monarch magazine: Well, that’s all I have for you today. Thank you so much!
Ricky Bell: Yes, and thank you. I appreciate it.
Monarch magazine: Me too!
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