It's hard to imagine a new artist who has had more love from the music world than this 23-year-old Philadelphia native. Her 2008 debut album Fearless bowed at No. 1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and spawned three Top 10 singles: "Need You Bad" (which topped Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop chart, the first time a debuting female artist had achieved this in nearly four years), "Bust Your Windows," and "Lions, Tigers & Bears." She has racked up seven Grammy Award nominations, including "Best New Artist," "Best R&B Contemporary R&B Album," and nods for each of the aforementioned singles, as well as for "In Love With Another Man." In addition, Fearless, which Sullivan co-wrote and executive produced, earned Sullivan a heap of critical praise, including Elle magazine's observation that Sullivan "swings deep and wide like Sarah Vaughn, tears it up like Mary J., and emanates the lady-preacher seriousness of Lauryn Hill."
Sullivan's soulful vocal style was nurtured by early years singing in church. At age five, she was singing in the children's choir, a few years later with the adults. Sullivan's exposure to secular music was initially limited, but she fell in love with it after her mother began schooling her in the classic R&B sounds of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, and Phyllis Hyman. Clear about her love for music and singing, Sullivan looked for local places in Philadelphia to perform. One of her first stops was Black Lily, a musical collective started by The Jazzyfastnastees in the mid-to-late '90s when Philly was birthing a movement of new artists including Jill Scott, The Roots, Floetry, and Kindred. It was through performances at Black Lily that word of mouth about Sullivan's amazing vocal talents quickly spread. While in Miami recording her demo project for Jive Records, Sullivan ran into Missy Elliott and subsequently formed their recording relationship. After signing with J Records, Sullivan released Fearless in September 2008, and watched it hit "Best Of" lists by Rolling Stone, USA Today, and Associated Press.
Over the last two years, Sullivan has also guested on tracks by Fantasia, Snoop Dogg, Robin Thicke, and her idol, Mary J. Blige, and written songs for Christina Milian, Jennifer Hudson, and Monica. She has toured with Maxwell and Ne-Yo, and will hit the road with Blige for the 11-city "Music Saved My Life" Tour in October 2010. In addition to the seven Grammy nominations, Sullivan has been nominated for three BET Awards (taking home the BET Centric Award in 2009), an Image Award for "Outstanding New Artist," and two Soul Train Awards, including one for "Best New Artist."
Now she's excited to move forward and launch a new chapter with Love Me Back. "I want people to hear what I have to say," she says. "I feel like I'm a vessel and I have packages to deliver. Sometimes that load feels heavy and you want to drop off the package before it gets wrapped, but the things I have to say are meant to touch people. I have no choice but to do this."