Yes, we are caught in the grips of Jill-mania over here at OKP. Between videos, listening sessions and Apple in-stores it seems like we talk about Jill Scott every damn day–twice a day–at least. But if you’re going to talk too much about somebody, it might as well be Jill Scott, so…here is the long-promised OKP interview with the woman herself. Miss Scott took time out of a busy travel schedule–I have to says she is about the pleasantest person I have ever woken up with a phone call–to talk with us about her new LP Light of the Sun, performing at the White House and what makes a woman more than the sum of her parts. Read on.
OKP: -First of all I have to assume you are still kind of glowing from performing at the White House.
JS: You can assume correctly!
OKP: Can you tell me little bit about what that whole experience was like, is that the first time you have done an official event like that?
JS: It’s the first time I have ever been to the White House. My eyes were as big as SAUCERS – and I didn’t know that the White House was really that white. It’s the little observations for me. How warm the White House feels, I mean I expected it to feel like a museum (but) it’s very warm in there, the environment is warm. And this is the first time I met the President and First Lady—I had met them on the campaign trail but the first time I met them as president and First Lady. It’s great to see them in charge, it’s great to be there amongst the other poets. And the night was very casual, it was a very casual, enjoyable evening and a really different style of poetry.
OKP: I don’t know much about who was on the bill beside yourself and Common. Did you feel part of a community of your peers, were there older poets there, or what was the general vibe?
JS: I think the youngest poet, Moira, was 14 or 15 and Alice was maybe 78. Steve Martin was there as well, he was playing with his banjo and his band. It was a very interesting and eclectic evening.
OKP: I know we have seen a lot of clips of your performance and of course Common’s performance…and the whole sideshow that ensued from that. How did you feel about that? Do you feel like you were robbed a little bit of the positive light you were trying to bring to the event?
JS: Robbed? No. Nobody can rob that kind of experience from me. It was incredible to be there. I mean hear I am, reading a poem to the President?? That was glorious. I mean I got a laugh or two and I got thoughtful faces. I love to watch their interaction. I loved watching how gentle he was with his wife. It was an incredible evening for me, I am still spinning.
OKP: So you were able to filter out all the media hype that happened around it?
JS: I really didn’t think about it, I was told about it- that there was some media hype around Common. But I just don’t feed into that kind of stuff. For one, because I have known Common for years and he is one of the nicest people I have ever met. Is he smart? Absolutely. Is he opinionated? Absolutely. But I think that is what our artists are supposed be. So I didn’t feed in to the foolishness. I just was so, For what? Who are we listening to? And why?–is the question.
OKP: A very good question. So to focus on another very smart and opinionated artist…tell me about “The Light of the Sun” and the process that went into it. Where is this album coming for you in your evolution as an artist?
JS: I think it’s kind of full circle. I kind of came up on Hip-hop but also the 70s, so I got all that great funk and disco music. I also got 60s and 50s from my Grandmom but Hip-hop in the 80s was the biggest part of me growing up. So I went back to move forward. Nothing suits me better then beats I can bob my head to. Whether it’s slow music or fast, it doesn’t really make a difference to me, I just need to bob my head. I treated it kind of like a Hip-hop album; I freestyled a lot. I enjoyed what came out of my mouth, I didn’t question myself. I allowed it to happen and worked with an incredible band and J.R. Hutson–who I had done “Crown Royal” and “ When I Bring You Around” with, on my last record?–he executive produced the record along with me and we had fun. I don’t remember having this much fun creating a record. I feel free and alive and passionate and strong. This is a great moment in my life.
OKP: So in terms of the actual music on the album, would you tell your fans to expect more songs like the Eve combination (“Shame”) that has the Special Ed sample and a whole throwback feel to it?
JS: I would say don’t necessarily expect anything. I would prefer people to come in their with their ears open–and their minds open, their hearts open. I write the way I write, I sing the way I sing, and this time there is a different energy in me. It’s stronger. Some of the songs sound vulnerable, very vulnerable, but I think that is part of my strength.
OKP: See, I wouldn’t describe “Shame” as sounding vulnerable, I would say that it’s very confident and bold.
JS: Well yeah. That’s more of an aggressive Jill, she pities the fool…
OKP: The other songs that I’ve heard- the Anthony Hamilton duet—for instance, have a much more introspective feel, I would say.
JS: It just feels good. That’s the bob in the head and the hump in the back that I want. It just feels good; it makes you want to dance with somebody you love. Whether it’s your Grandpa or your child or your mate, it just feels good. I love music that feels good and that you can have public and private moments with. You want music you can live to and you wash dishes, iron clothes, drive your car, whatever the case may be.
OKP: I understand that there is some straight ahead poetry on the album, as well, is that correct? In fact that piece you did at the White House – “Womanifesto”- is a track on the new album?
JS: Yes, “Womanifesto” is on the record, I changed it a little for the White House but it’s the same piece.
OKP: Could you talk to us a little bit about the thought process behind it–or what you felt you had to change for the White House?
JS: The line that I start off with: “Clearly, I am not a fat ass”- and I say that because right now I really feel like women are being compartmentalized, externally and internally. The concept behind “Womanifesto,” is to look at the other parts of yourself. I am a woman; I love being a woman. I have to define myself as larger and greater than my body parts. You are not just an ear or an elbow or a knee, you’re an entity. We all are. I just see how society is just putting us in little boxes. I see how we do it to ourselves. I think we are more then just our physicality, we grow and we demand more and we appreciate more about ourselves. So that’s “Womanifesto,” and I would easily suggest to any woman to write her own!