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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, Rosero McCoy and Nate Allen Smith are Shalamar Reloaded.

JW: Yes, he was my godfather. He was close friends with my father.

OKP: Was that a big, direct influence on you? Either negatively or positively? The Motown image was so much about the “total package” with music and dancing–and yet it was, for a good while, not about the artist making decisions. Did that impact you directly, or was it more so in the background?

JW: It probably–without me realizing it–did have an impact. The first time I was on stage, it was with Jackie Wilson. My dad, even though he was a minister, had lots of show business friends. Johnny Taylor was one of his best friends and he knew Sam Cooke. And I think when you’re little and you listen, even when you don’t know what you’re listening it, I think subconsciously the seed was planted in me in those ways. And even my dad, being in the church world and having people wanting him to conform to protocol and whatnot. He was very much his own person and I think that that’s a part of it, too. Not being afraid to be your own person because in life there’s always someone trying to turn people—to get you to be someone that you’re not and succumb to pressures. To live up to yourself and what you think and believe. Being associated with them definitely had an impact on me.

OKP: When you were a part of Shalamar and before you had time to step out and be Jody Watley yourself, did you feel kind of constrained by the product that was Shalamar? Or was it set up in a way that encouraged your input and side of yourself?

JW: I wouldn’t say it encouraged it. I was always fighting for certain things and coming into my own, still learning myself. When I became a member of Shalamar I was still in high school, and when I left Shalamar I think I was only 23 or 24–which is pretty ballsy when I think about it now! It kind of makes me laugh.

But I’m my own person and I’d had enough of everything that was going on at the time. I just wanted to be happy and go on with my life. It was a blessing to go on with that experience. But, like I said, so many people are afraid to make big decisions or even small decisions and so they end up stuck. On this journey, it’s what you learn and what you do with that knowledge. I definitely have always had to call on my determination and strength and perseverance and resilience. Even when the odds might be against me or people were against me. I’m never swayed by that.

OKP: To bring it full circle, can you tell me a little bit more about the Shalamar remix projects that you’re working on, and how do you balance that with the Jody Watley solo persona and the new Shalamar project?

JW: What’s happening now—I think it’s a part of the theme of Paradise. Paradise is in the music and what that invokes. Up next are the dancer remixes from Paradise and at the same time a new Shalamar single, and with that there will definitely be remixes. That’s my thing, and I’ll continue to to do that and continue to stay connected to a different and evolving fan base and I think releasing a new single with the new guys, it takes it into this era. Beyond what we’re doing with live concerts. If you had asked me five years ago “Would I be doing Shalamar reloaded?” I would have laughed and said no!

But you know, things come at you for different reasons and it just gave me an opportunity to make Shalamar work for me in a way that doesn’t feel dated. I hate the thought of it being like that, but this doesn’t feel like going back. It feels right on page with where i’m at, which is always moving forward. It’s exciting and I don’t know what woman wouldn’t want to spend time with two young hot guys either.

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OKP: Well said. What date should people expect that new single?

JW: It’ll be out this summer, actually. In fact, I’m hoping that we can debut it at the festival, but—it’s being mixed right now…

OKP: If you want to release it online, I know an excellent website…

JW: It’s one of my favorites.

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