Alicia Keys Is the 'Girl on Fire'

With her new family and a new album, Grammy winner talks love, music and motherhood.
6:47 | 11/20/12

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Transcript for Alicia Keys Is the 'Girl on Fire'
McFADDEN. Alicia keys was younger than your average college grad when she skyrocketed to fame on the sheer force of her talent. A classically trained pianist with a soulful voice, keys is r & b royalty and with a new album "girl on fire" hitting stores next week we sat down to talk about love, passion and the little guy who has changed her It's a "nightline" interview. ♪ In girl is on fire ♪ Reporter: Alicia keys seems to be living her new hit. ♪ This girl is on fire ♪ ♪ she's walking on fire ♪ Reporter: This girl is on fire, I'm embarrassed to say is my new hairbrush song. You make us think we can sing even when we can't. I love it. Reporter: You can really sing it. ♪ This girl is on fire ♪ the song came from a feeling and this feeling of my kind of finding my own space and to be my own self, my own full self, love it or hate it, whatever the case, here I am and here's me. Reporter: At 31, she says she's come into her own. I'm more excited about this album than I've been for any record, ever. ♪ I keep falling in and out ♪ Reporter: That is saying something. Her first single "fallen" debuted at number one. She recorded it here in her tiny walk-up apartment in harlem. We lived on the sixth floor. Reporter: She was only 17. Like a real seamy hallway and then a really skinny kitchen. You remember exactly. Like the living room right here. Reporter: I first met her about that time and even then, with songs like "a woman's worth" her talent and her drive were already clear. ♪ A real man knows a real woman when he sees her ♪ Reporter: I asked her back then -- what's the perfect day for you? Wow, the perfect day for me? This is my perfect day. Reporter: You remember what it was? You said, waking up at 3:00 in the afternoon and reading a book. Still sounds perfect. Reporter: Back then, you tell me if I'm right, it did seem to be all about the work. Oh, my gosh, you kidding me. Totally all about the work. First of all, I grew up with my mother, who was my everything and a single parent. And she had to work her behind off so she also instilled that in me, being a young girl, growing up in the city, you had to be busy or you'll get lost. Reporter: At 16 she graduated top of her class and was admitted to columbia university. But then, columbia records called, a month into college, she quit. I had to focus on the music if I was going to make it work. Ultimately I had to focus on school if it was going to make it work. I couldn't juggle the two. Reporter: It turned out okay, her first album "songs in a minor" award five grammys and her fol llowfollow-up, if the -- "if ain't got you" and "you don't know my name" earn ed her four more. Fair to say you grew up very early. A lot of my life I did live ahead of myself. So much, what was going to happen two weeks, one month, what would happen -- how can i get there? And so, that's not a bad thing to have vision and dreams for yourself. Reporter: And you're a perfectionist, to boot. Especially then, that was all I had was the chance to show and prove I was good at it. Reporter: That's a hard way to live. I think I lightened up a bit on myself as of recently. Reporter: What reason might that be? Really meeting my husband. Reporter: Kasseem dean, otherwise known as hip-hop producer swizz beatz, they met ten years ago but the spark wasn't there. He was a little over the top for me, just as a person I was like he's all right, he's a little loud. Come to find out she's still loud and I think we've actually both balance each other out. He's given me the freedom to spread and be a little bit more open. And I've given him the freedom to maybe calm down. Reporter: Why do you think he makes you feel safe because that's what you're talking about. He wants me to be everything that I can be. You know? And that is a rare, rare thing. Reporter: But there is another guy in her life and you can hear him on her new album. The baby. I can't even say the baby without you -- I was waiting for the next line, got to syrup. What's your name? Egypt. Amen. I love you. I love you. Bye-bye. He's on a song called "when it's all over" which so is beautiful. The chorus goes "when they lay me down put my soul rest when they ask me how I spent my life at least I got to love you" i feel that way about my husband and son. Reporter: You like being a mother so much, will there be more little babies? I would love to have some more, at least one more for sure. At least one more but I have to finish this. I'll have to fin thish t and this stuff first because the juggle is something. Reporter: If it all sounds rosy and bright now things started out on rougher ground when keys and dean got together, he had a 1-year-old and just separated from his wife. A month later he had a daughter with another woman. It started off a little rocky. Keys says things are working well now with egypt and his three siblings. So, three brothers and a sister and the way they love each other is crazy. It it's -- it's really special. Reporter: You have a big brood. Do i. I actually do. Reporter: You are bucking the odds, they always say you can't have it all at the same time. I do believe that you can have it all. You can everything that you want. If you want it and you want to work for it, you can have it. ♪ Don't be mad ♪

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