Alicia Keys discusses the vibrant diversity and gritty character of New York City with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith in a new clip from his upcoming PBS music and travel series, Landmarks Live in Concert, premiering Friday, January 20th at 9 p.m. ET.
“That provided me with a lot of open mindedness as an artist and as a musician and as a writer,” Keys says of the myriad cultures embedded in the city. “Also, New York gave me a lot of grit, a lot of rough, tough – because it’s a fast-paced city. Everybody’s kind of running somewhere, trying to find themselves, or find where they’re going or find love. It’s a tough city so you’ve gotta toughen up.”
Keys stars in the first episode of Landmarks Live, which Smith hosts and will primarily feature artists performing in or around special venues or landmarks in a city that’s close to them. Each episode will also feature musicians chatting with Smith about these locales and showing off other areas in more traditional travel show segments.
“Having conversations with other artists is what this is about for me,” Smith tells Rolling Stone. “Landmarks is a brand new take on music shows that focus on the stories and not just the performances. I’m getting a whole new education along with the audience.”
Elsewhere in her interview with Smith, Keys recalls growing up in New York the daughter of a single mother, learning to ride the subway at age 10 and setting out on her own at age 16 after signing her first record deal.
She also discusses crafting her New York city paean, “Empire State of Mind” with fellow native Jay Z. “It was kind of one of these magical quilts that each person put their piece onto and all of a sudden it just became this cohesive, gorgeous description of what New York is,” Keys remembers. “I’ve said this before, but I remember for a fact, Jay asked me, ‘Do you think it’s too New York?’ I knew what he meant, like would the rest of the world be able to relate to it because it was so New York-centric. But somehow, by the alchemy of music, it ended up being this monster.”
During the episode, Keys also unleashes a rousing rendition of “Empire State of Mind” during a performance aboard the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise as it sails by the Statute of Liberty.
Keys’ episode of Landmarks Live will be followed January 27th by an episode featuring Brad Paisley. Paisley will perform a homecoming show at West Virginia University near the school’s famed Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. A trailer for Landmarks Live also teases an episode centered around opera star Andrea Bocelli, who will perform at the historic Palazzo Vecchio in Forence, Italy.
While the full roster of artists participating in Landmarks will be announced shortly, the show will reportedly travel to London, Paris, Havana, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Jamaica during its first season.