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The Okayplayer Interview: Jody Watley Speaks On Rakim, Soul Train + Reclaiming The Name ‘Shalamar’

The Okayplayer Interview: Jody Watley Speaks On Rakim, Soul Train + Reclaiming The Name ‘Shalamar’

Jody Watley in the Soul Train tunnel

Jody Watley photographed by Victoria Pearson
Jody Watley photographed by Victoria Pearson, from the cover shoot of her self-titled solo debut.

JW: No, and I wish I would have. I would say, Pay me! [laughs]. “Throw me a check!”

OKP: So when you perform live now, what’s the difference in feel or setup between the Shalamar portion of the show and the Jody Watley portion?

JW: The Jody Watley portion of the show takes everything up 20 notches. It’s more loose, more funky, it’s me freestyling and being me. The Shalamar section is very precise in its choreography. The great thing that I really enjoy is it brings that side of the dance and performance. The songs, they feel new. They’re classic songs, but because of the setup and new members they feel new. But when it goes to my portion of the show, the energy just grows. When it gets to Jody Watley, everyone goes bananas. Some shows, depending on capabilities of video and whatnot, there’s a fashion montage that transitions out of the Shalamar section into the Jody Watley section. It’s a lot of innovative fashion and things that I’ve done in that way. And then we open up the second half with “Lookin for a New Love” and everybody goes crazy. And hopefully they will at Lincoln Center, now that I’m saying it!

OKP: It strikes me that that particular moment that Shalamar occupied, especially the early ’80s coming out of disco and into classic boogie and the Paradise Garage era—that’s had a real revival lately with Daft Punk and other producers kind of idolizing the production and the sound of that era. Do you feel like you’ve found a whole new audience through that revival?

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JW: I definitely think so. I think one of the unique things about my fanbase is from my own solo music from the ’80s through a lot of the underground electronica stuff that I’ve done and working with a range of people from Mark de Clive Lowe to DJ Spinna, it’s always kind of skewed a bit younger. And then the Shalamar sound has come back around and younger people are discovering it. Nate, the new lead singer in Shalamar, he’s 29 and he loves classic soul and dance music. That’s what his mom played in the house. A lot of his bands and dance crews, that’s the music they love. They love the soul and rhythm and dancing to it. Even working on my current EP Paradise, I was influenced again by that music which I had gone away from, obviously. And it kind of feels full circle in a way, but not in a way that’s nostalgic, if that makes sense. It’s fresher, to me.

OKP: Are any of those people that you mentioned involved with the production on Paradise?

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