Alicia Keys

Keys's new album, "As I Am," debuts this week. She spoke to Ramin Setoodeh.

You sound so different on the new album.
I am different. I've learned more. I'm a better person. I'm a more focused person. I'm a more honest person. I'm a more easygoing person.

That's a lot of change. Is your name still Alicia Keys?
I'm the new and improved version of her. But vocally, a lot of people say I sound like I drank a lot of whisky.

Speaking of your name, I read your last name isn't really Keys.
It's a funny story. I got so desperate I went through the dictionary for something that catches my eye. I get to the W's and I pick Wild. "Alicia Wild, how does that sound, Ma?" She said, "It sounds like you're a stripper." But I liked Keys. It's like the piano keys. And it can open so many doors.

So what is your real name?
It's long. You could look it up.

You don't want to tell me.
Aw, you said that so cute. It's Augello-Cook.

On the album, you sing with John Mayer. When I interviewed him, he said he was in his underwear.
You must have asked him what he was wearing.

I asked no such thing!
He's funny like that.

I also once saw him shopping for jewelry near Madison Avenue.
Oh, man. I'm sure he was buying it for me.

You recently went to Egypt?
It was my first time. I swam in the Red Sea. I'm a mermaid.

Do you put on fins?
Fins and a very sparkly skirt. I'm kidding. But I love the water. I also went to the top of the Pyramids and sang at the top of my lungs.