Vivian Green is best known for the way she belted each line of her first single, "Emotional Rollercoaster," with pain and angst you knew signaled the love was fated to end.
More than 10 years later, on her new album, The Green Room, she's singing about the excitement of new love.
What's inspiring all the happy lyrics? "I am single. I will say that," she said.
"My first album [A Love Story], I was sad," said the 33-year-old Philadelphia native, "and the second album I was angry. Then, after that, for almost nine years it's just been great."
Green pulled up in a rented navy-blue Dodge Caravan she was using to move from Brewerytown to a new place on City Avenue. She all but rushed into Teaful Bliss at 11th and Spring Garden Streets. Her blazer matched the bright orange walls almost perfectly. Her pixie was blond, much longer on the platinum-streaked top than on the auburn sides. She plopped down and immediately started chatting.
Green said the style and sound of The Green Room is for her original fan base, whom she described as lovers of true R&B and soul.
Green grew up in East Oak Lane during the late 1980s and early '90s. Hers was one of two black families on her block.
"We used to walk outside barefoot," she said, " . . . play Double Dutch. Just very clean and quiet and very suburban."
Her parents weren't performers, but her mother sang and her father played the trumpet around the house. She has two brothers and two sisters, all of whom are musically inclined.
Green taught herself to play piano by ear when she was 8 and began writing songs at 11. In the following years, she got "bit with the bug."
Her parents thought her singing was just a phase. "I don't think they realized how determined I was to really, really do it," Green said.
In 1996, when she was 17, she caught the eye of former Boyz II Men member Mike McCrary. She would later write "Dear God" for the group's 1997 album Evolution.
That almost landed Green a deal with RuffHouse/Columbia - but it fell through because her parents couldn't agree on terms with the recording company.
Just at the point "I was feeling like I was ready to give up," she met indie soul artist Eric Roberson. "Almost immediately from the time we met, we started writing together," Roberson said. The pair worked tirelessly on producing and shopping the demo that eventually got Green signed to Sony.
Along the way Green gained plenty of industry connections, such as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and she toured the world as a backup singer for Jill Scott. Green became associated with the Black Lily scene, with artists such as Scott and the Roots. She's grateful, but sometimes, she feels, those ties have led to her being pigeonholed stylistically.
While singing with Scott "was a great situation," Green says, she doesn't want it to overshadow "the work and blood, sweat, and tears that Eric and I put into the demo that did get me signed." Green is currently with eOne Entertainment.
Although A Love Story didn't quite make Billboard's top 50 albums, it has since gone gold. Her second album, 2005's Vivian, ultimately peaked at 18 on the Billboard 200 and contained the hit "Gotta Go, Gotta Leave (Tired)."
In 2010, her third album, Beautiful, introduced a pop sound far removed from that of her previous two. Fans were not happy. Those who still associated her with the neo-soul vibe of A Love Story felt she was being made into something she's really not.
But such listeners "ignore the more soul-pop songs from the first album, like they didn't happen," Green said. She wants her fans to know "that whatever I give them is me. It's definitely the real me."
The Green Room has already yielded two successful singles. The first, "Still Here," originally emerged on label-mate Brian Culbertson's EP Dreams. So far the album has hit 169 on Billboard's 200 chart, 40 on the indie albums chart, and 23 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart.
Green has an 8-year-old son, Jordan, whose father is her former fiance, drummer Erik Trippett. Jordan was born with an unknown syndrome that affects his bones. He is home-schooled by his R&B-crooning mother.
"When I became pregnant with Jordan, Green said, "I really had to make a lot of changes in my life."
Longtime partner Roberson likes what motherhood has done for Green: "Before, she was finding her way; now I feel like she's found her way."
The teacher/mom/soul artist showed no signs of fatigue despite her rigorous schedule.
"I work out a lot," Green said. "I love my body."
"Whenever we'd meet up to record, we ha d to go to some specific little Thai restaurant to get seasoned cardboard or something," Roberson joked about what he calls the singer's "beyond vegetarian" diet. "She's literally eating grass. I always make fun of her for it, but I guess it's helped her stay healthy."