Alicia Keys has no doubt proven her love for New York City (think “Empire State of Mind”), but she’s taking it one step further by starring in the series premiere of PBS’ new show, Landmarks Live in Concert, featuring her favorite city in the world.
The 35-year-old “Superwoman” singer opened up about her time growing up in the city that never sleeps, saying she never lacked for something to do in Hell’s Kitchen.
“We lived in a studio apartment, no bedrooms,” she says. “My mother, you know, she was a single mom, incredible, powerful woman. She knew I had to stay busy to not get in trouble.”
Keys said she graduated from high school early when she was signed to a record deal with Columbia Records, a moment that changed her life.
“My first boyfriend is who I created that first record with,” she recalls. “I think it was a prime time on finding out who I was, who I wanted to be – had my mother stopped me, maybe that album would have never happened.”
The Grammy-winning artist has been open about the influence New York City has had on her music and state of mind, saying it’s a city that embraces diversity and reflects people’s strengths.
“I come from this concept of diversity, I think it’s really important,” she says. “It’s something that’s a bit of a struggle for the country in a whole lot of ways – acceptance and being able to accept people for who they are and how their differences are, like, the coolest things about all of us in New York.”
She continues: “Every religion, every color – that provided me with a lot of open-mindedness as an artist and musician and writer. I think that’s been a good thing for me.”
“It’s given me a nice thick skin,” she adds. “Nice strength and identity, too, of who I am and who I don’t want to be. I think that is one of the most special things about New York that I’m grateful for.”
PBS’ Great Performances: Landmarks Live In Concert premieres Friday at 9 p.m., hosted by Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The new series features artists performing at landmarks around the cities that have most influenced them and their music.