Kelly Price Quit Background Singing For Mariah Carey Because ‘It Was Time For Elevation’

Kelly Price put in the work before finding solo success as a singer, and recalls the hard conversation she had with Mariah Carey when she decided to quit singing background.

The “Friend of Mine” singer had already sung background for the likes of George Michael, 112, Jay-Z, Mase, and The Notorious B.I.G. before joining Mariah Carey’s Daydream World Tour in 1996. It was while Carey was singing her classic hit “Hero” as Price exited the stage with the other background vocalists that she realized it was time to embark on a solo career.

“I know when I hear God speaking to me, and I knew it was time for me to make a move,” Price told Rated R&B.

“We would exit the stage when she sang ‘Hero.’ I started thinking about the fact that I was going to have a conversation with her to tell her that I would be moving on.”

Price became emotional before having the conversation as she knew the change that was set to take place.

“The other girls were looking at me like, ‘Are you okay?’ I’m like, ‘I’m good. It’s the onions,’” she remembered with a chuckle. “It was like a moment out of a movie. Everything blacked out, there’s one spotlight and this beautiful voice singing this amazing song. I’m looking at her, and I’m like, ‘Okay, God. I hear you talking to me.

“I didn’t want to leave my job. It was paying well. I loved what I was doing. I was traveling the world. I had a boss that — I loved her gift,” she continued.

“It was one of the hardest conversations I ever had. There was no reason for me to go, but it was time for elevation.”

Spending years in the music industry and being told she didn’t possess the looks for a solo career, Price mulled over the decision she was making to go from the background to the front.

“My head was filled with what I’d been hearing music executives say about what I looked like,” Price said.

“I settled into telling myself, ‘OK, if you’re able to place songs as a writer [and] produce, that’s great, but you’re recognized as a top-tier background singer.'”

The rest is history. Price was given her chance when she signed to The Isley Brothers’ T-Neck Records and released her debut album, Soul of a Woman, in 1998 with “full creative independence,” as noted by Vibe. The LP debuted at No. 15 on the Billboard 200 and reached platinum status in April 1999, garnering Price an award for Best R&B/Soul New Artist at the 1999 Soul Train Awards.