Such is the case for Babyface, who is stepping out of his comfort zone to perform with Braxton in “After Midnight,” a Broadway musical that celebrates Duke Ellington‘s years at the Cotton Club. The pair, who started their run with the play on Tuesday, recently sat down with Essence.com to discuss their reasons for invading Broadway, vocal inspiration for performing and the moment when your musical husband starts to get on your nerves.
ESSENCE.com: The musical honors the music of Duke Ellington. I imagine that’s someone you’ve looked up to, musically?
Babyface: That’s part of the reason for taking this on. There are three major reasons why. First, my mom passed away about a year and a half ago and I really wanted to do this for her cause I knew that she would be tickled pink that I would be on Broadway. I feel like she’s going to be watching this. Also, just to do something out of my comfort zone at this point—I mean I’m an older guy.
Braxton: He is not.
Babyface: I’m older than her.
ESSENCE.com: There’s a lot of dancing in this musical.
Babyface: There’s a lot of dancing. There are a lot of things that I don’t do. The other reason was because it was a chance to do it with Toni. To be on Broadway with her made it a little bit easier. And, it is the music of Duke Ellington and the poetry of Langston Hughes. This is probably the best way I could ever come to Broadway.
ESSENCE.com: Fantasia did the show for four months and she spoke about looking to Sarah Vaughn and Dinah Washington for vocal inspiration. Who are the people that you are kind of calling up for this, Toni?
Braxton: I love Ella [Fitzgerald]. My great aunt used to listen to her. And I remember the Memorex commercial where she would sing a note, sing it high and the glass would crack that was her. Her voice was incredible. I get to do her song. I sound nothing like her of course. I have my own take on it.
ESSENCE.com: You call Babyface your musical husband. You’ve been spending a lot of time together in the last year and a half working on the album. What happens when you have those “He’s getting on my nerves” moment?
Babyface: We just don’t talk to each other. We get past it and…
Braxton: I’ll call and fuss about something.
Babyface: And I give you a moment. I think she’s just fussing; she’ll be all right.
Braxton: A couple of days later, ‘Hey kid, what you doin’? What you and the misses doin’? Let’s go eat.’
Toni Braxton and Babyface’s stint on “After Midnight” on Broadway will run through March 30. For more of Toni Braxton and Babyface’s interview with Essence.com, click here.