The multiple Grammy winning singer, songwriter, poet, actress, proud mother and … you get it, earned the award for her extraordinary contribution to entertainment over the course of her career.
And there couldn’t have been a more deserved honoree, as – alongside her immense talent – she seems to epitomize what it takes to be a liberated “lady” without losing her grasp on her “soul” during these very loose societal days.
Fresh off receiving the honor, Jill got right back doing what, in my opinion, she does best: sharing her wealth of talent with live audiences on tour.
Last weekend, she (along with one-to-watch opener, Tish Hyman) performed for the first time in Louisville, KY at the city’s Palace Theater, delivering a comprehensive show that still has fans buzzing about it. The “He Loves Me” singer belted her way through hits such as that one, “Golden,” “Hate on Me,” “So in Love,” “A Long Walk” etc from earlier in her career, as well as spending time promoting her latest album with songs such as “Fool’s Gold,” “Say Thank You” and a particularly powerful quartet-stye rendition of “You Don’t Know” with her dynamic all-male background singers. Bestowed with the gift of storytelling, she also interwove through the music compelling commentary about some of life’s typical happenings, unafraid to venture into steamy “grown folks” subject matter befitting the sensual mood that was in the air. It was a nearly two-hour performance capped off with a three-song encore inclusive of a little Español and opera.
Posted by Sherlene Shanklin on Friday, December 11, 2015
The Philly-born musical phenom absolutely brought what was expected of her and more, but before she hit the stage, she took the time to chat with me and let me inside her creative mind. She shared how she views the level of success she’s achieved, what enables her to give her performance best, what celebrities make her gush with adoration and even what color she’s painting her study.
Here’s a peak inside the mind of our accomplished Lady of Soul …
Gerald Radford: Hi, Jill. Thanks for allowing me to speak with you. Is this your first time in Louisville (I pronounced it incorrectly as Lou-ee-ville)?
Jill Scott: Yes, I’ve never been here. Now you say ‘Lou-ee-ville?’ Don’t get me messed up man, isn’t it ‘Lou-uh-vul?’ (‘Yes,’ I conceded) OK, don’t mess me up, man. Don’t do me like that. *laughs*
GR: You get major props for that. But, let me say that you are one of the most gifted and radiant artists I’ve experienced in a long time. You have singers and you have performers, but you meet and well exceed both titles. Thanks for giving us “you.”
JS: It is my pleasure, sometimes my struggle, sometimes my exhaustion, but most of the time my pleasure.
GR: Do those glowing accolades ever make you uncomfortable or do you embrace it?
JS: No. *laughs* It’s like, I don’t know … how can I say, as an artist, I appreciate that, because that’s what I’ve been working toward the entire time, being an entertainer, being an artist that entertains or an artist that’s entertaining … that’s what I’ve hoped for, but Thank you so much.
GR: When you step outside yourself, how do you perceive your own presence and abilities?
JS: I say, ‘that girl’s awesome.’ I feel like ummm … it’s hard to talk about that, quite frankly. As an artist, I appreciate it and I think I’m pretty awesome. As a person, I’m proud of myself, but I don’t spend the majority of my time thinking about it. I have other things to do. I have a mom, I’ve got a daddy, I’ve got a stepmother and my son and I’ve got all kinds of family and cousins, and I’m painting my library … and I’m hoping that this color works out. *I ask what color it is* It’s a gray, it’s like a steel gray. It’s gonna be nice. I’m not finished yet, but I will when I get home. *she laughs* I make sure that I’m not consumed with myself or what I do. You know what I mean? I think balance is everything, just trying to find balance in it all. I think some people get caught up on egos and you know about the pride *I interject that ’it comes just before the fall’* … and that’s in every book there is … even in Greek mythology.
GR: You’re right, a pretty fool proof proverb. To hear you supported by all the studio magic is of course great, but to experience you live is on another level. That could be the other way around for many artists. What in your opinion makes your live performances so transcendent?
JS: My heart. My soul. It’s not just … I’m not just coming to sing you a couple of songs. It’s more than that. There are singers that I like better than me, but there’s something that I … I don’t know, it’s a soup or a stew. It’s a combination of the voice and the spirit energy and the truth. I don’t care what anybody says, people still enjoy truth and the humanity of it all. I give you what I’ve got for the night and that means it changes every show, which is exciting to me, that’s what I love.
I have a set list, but it isn’t mandatory, not knowing what I’m gonna do. What I’ve learned through theater is rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and then forget it … now go. That’s what I do with the band. We rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, but then we let it go so that we can be free. I don’t want to be in an environment or create one or have people even work in an environment that is stagnant. We have to live in the music. If it hurts me, it should hurt the guitar player, too. These are human stories, so it’s not far-fetched that everybody hasn’t felt something like this at some point in their life, and if they haven’t they will. So, I need the guitar player to tell his version of the story while I’m telling my story.
GR: And with that, your instrument is critically acclaimed, but you started out speaking, spoken word. Did you not at first realize the value of what you were working with vocally?
JS: I knew that it felt so good to sing. I used to sing alone a lot. I used to sing my problems or my happiness, whatever I was feeling … my whole life, I always did it. But, I was afraid. It was so precious and so pure to me and it felt so good, I was worried that if I ever sang out loud, it would change things. It would change people, it would change the way they treated me, it would make everybody look. And I’ve always been outgoing, but I enjoyed being in the cut a little bit more than being in the spotlight. I enjoyed watching people as a child, I still do, I love that. Humanity is so interesting to me. So, I knew that I was … I could feel it, that I was gonna lose that, and that worried me and I wouldn’t sing … only to myself, for a long time.
GR: Well great for us that you did decided to share it with us. You went on to pay your dues in Philly on the live circuit and as “cream” does, you ultimately rose to the top. Is all that you’re experiencing now a manifestation of your dreams or are you surprised by your emergence as one of our most revered artists?
JS: Heck yeah! *laughs* I was just saying this the other night that all I ever really wanted was a house on Spring Garden [a central Philadelphia neighborhood]. They’re these big, kind of like tall mansions. They’re brownstone buildings … gorgeous … and I used to ride by there on the bus everyday like, ‘man if I could just live in one of those, my life would be complete.’ And I’ve just far exceeded whatever my dreams were … far exceeded them. I don’t even know how to dream, now. I’m trying to figure it out. My reality is so amazing. * I interject, ‘your reality is the stuff of many people’s dreams’* I pinch myself often.
GR: When you won your Soul Train award, you seemed genuinely humbled by the experience. You’re a multiple Grammy winner … why does a Soul Train award tug at your heartstrings?
JS: It was the Lady of Soul award and Soul Train has never given out a Lady of Soul … they had a show called Lady of Soul years ago, but this is the first time that Soul Train has ever given a Lady of Soul award. So, that was part of it. I felt honored, but second, and I think most importantly, they put together something very touching for me. They had Nikki Giovanni with my name in her mouth. Nikki Giovanni!! This was my favorite writer, this was the writer that gave me a voice in my pen. She’s like a fairy godmother I never knew.
I tried to get in her class, I tried to get my book signed, I stood outside in the rain, they told me to away. *laughs* I never had a chance to shake her hand or to tell her what impact she has on my life, and then there’s Whoopi Goldberg, who has equal the amount of impact because her video, Around the World in 80 days, I must have watched that 1000 times. She was brilliant. She was so alive on that stage with characters. These are the people who have helped to make me who I am, whether they knew it or not, and there they were saying my name – with reverence even. That’s why it touched me so much. It touched me so much. *she paused* Even now, I get verklempt.
GR: Thank you for sharing that. It’s refreshing to see a celebrity awed by other celebrities. It makes you human.
To lighten it up, we’ve seen some odd show riders that have been leaked for artists. What must you have for a show.
JS: I need some peace. I don’t have a lot of people backstage for my shows. That means there’s a lot of energy. Some people give, some people take and they don’t know it, but I do. I have to have an empty backstage before I go on. So, I have to harness the chi that I have and focus it in a direction. Now afterwards, they come and they take and give and it’s OK, because I’ve done my job, I’ve done what I’ve come here to do, but before a show, un un. And I definitely like to have a little American Honey in a glass.
GR: Got it. Do you have an exclusive touring experience you consider memorable that you’d like to share with our readers that will make us feel a little extra “special?”
JS: OK, I was at Carnegie Hall performing with an orchestra and I flew in my favorite writer J California Cooper (1931-2014) and I flew her to see me and I performed, we had a wonderful time, great moment, but afterwards I turned around and there was this pretty lady just smiling at me and I said, ‘Hi.’ And she said, ‘do you know who I am?’ I said, ‘no.’ and she said, ‘it’s Kathleen Battle.’ Now, for anybody … honeeeeey! *laughs* I was like, “whaaaaaaat??” I fell immediately to my … I just fell down. I laid on the floor and she laid on the floor, proper diva etiquette, and we just laughed. It was incredible and she sang to me all night… she sang to me until I left.
GR: Voice recognizes voice, right?! That’s a great story, Jill. I’ve enjoyed the interview and I look forward to a great show tonight.
JS: Lower your expectations! Geez Louise! *laughs*