It's never too early to look ahead

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Her 2007 album "As I Am" is still a fresh concern, but Alicia Keys already is mulling her next record.

"I've been thinking about the next album since we kind of wrapped up this album," said Keys, who's in the middle of a North American tour promoting "As I Am." The set, like her three other albums, debuted at No. 1; it has sold more than 3.4 million copies.

"Part of what I've been thinking about is, 'What are the ways that I want to express myself this time?' When I was just finishing recording 'As I Am,' I said to myself that I want to do something that's totally stripped-down, stripped-back, totally piano-based, singer-songwriter … a Joni Mitchell, Carole King type of vibe.

"I might do that," she said, "but you never know where life takes you, where the music's going to take you."

Keys said her greatest obstacle is finding a chance to work on new music during a worldwide tour that has dates booked into 2009.

"At this point I'm trying to find the space to continue to record as I'm on tour," she said. "That's always a bit of a challenge for me 'cause it takes so much out of me to tour. But there's always that urge to stay creative and write on that more personal side. So the main goal now is to continue to find that quiet space somewhere in the madness."
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