Jill Scott is one of – if not the - most successful soul musicians in the past decade and has won three Grammy’s. She debuted her first album ‘Who Is Jill Scott?’ in 2000 and her career has gone from strength to strength since. The 39-year-old has also starred in several movies and has received acclaim for her acting skills.
While her professional life be enviable, Jill has suffered plenty of heartache in her personal life. In 2007, she divorced her first husband Lyzel Williams, but found love again the following year when she also got engaged. In 2009, Jill and her new beau welcomed a baby boy Jett, however the couple split just months later.
Rather than let these problems defeat her, Jill used these experiences to pen her latest album ‘Light of the Sun.’ And it seems some good came out of the heartache, because the album became her first number one on the US Billboard charts.
Jill tells TaleTela how she got through those experiences, the meaning behind ‘Light of the Sun’ and why she has chosen a life of celibacy …
Congratulations on ‘Light of the Sun’ going to number one! What was your reaction when you found out?
I think I said, ‘You’re lying, you’re lying’ abut six times! I thought they meant in the R&B charts and they said ‘No, in the country.’ I said, ‘Say it again!’ It was a huge shock and disbelief.
What did you do to celebrate?
I haven’t really celebrated yet, not really. I’ve had some moments where I took off a few days and I relaxed in my back yard, potted plants, went swimming and laid in the sun. That’s pretty much what I needed as far as celebrating with partying, I haven’t got to that place yet. But I’ll get there, believe it!
Which of your albums did you think should have reached number one?
No, I really don’t think that way at all, I think that everything is in divine order and you can hope but you can’t assume. That’s pretty much the gist of it for me. I don’t go in to the studio hoping to make a hit, I hope to make music that transcends. That touches people in real places. And if it happens to be number one on the charts that sure is nice. That’s definitely appreciated, definitely that.
Do you feel that you’ve opened the door for other neo-soul and soul artists to top the charts?
I don’t know. I think that good work will show itself, whether it’s a hip-hop album, or rock or jazz or funk or blues or whatever the case may be, I think the work will show itself. I don’t know about me opening any doors, but it sounds nice!
The title of the album sounds peaceful. Explain to me why you chose it...
It came from one of the jam sessions. I think it’s on the deluxe album or something, I let everybody hear where the light of the sun comes from. A lot of the concept is about being in the dark, and being in your own house and trying to find your way to the door. And you get to the door and it’s all this light. You have to adjust your eyes for a moment but it’s there, and now there’s a new beginning, another start.
Would you describe going through the personal experiences you went through in the last four years and overcoming them, in the same way?
Yeah, that’s a part of it. I definitely have gone through the darkest point of my life in the last four years. It lasted about eight months of just not believing in love anymore. I had never even experienced – I didn’t know that I could even feel that way because I grew up around love and have given and experienced it in so many ways for most of my life. So for all of a sudden to not believe in love, it just scared the hell out of me. And it made me so sad and so lost, like who the hell am I? If I don’t believe in something that’s a given. You know, it’s a given really and for me to not believe in that it just scared the hell out of me. It was very dark for me.
What was it that helped you get to ‘the light’ and get to the point where you did believe in love again?
So far it’s been effort. Forgiving myself has been a big part of it. Changing how I approach relationships has been very important. I’ve decided that physical intimacy, I put a time on it. A minimum of the fifth date – minimum! You know, ‘I wanna know who you are.’ Some people think five dates is nothing but I travel a lot, I work a lot and I have a child – I’m busy, so five dates could take up to six months. If you’re really interested in getting to know who I am and spending your time with me, then that’s not a problem. But for some people it may be, but you’re not for me. It helps me to see that. I need to keep things very clear and the worst thing that could happen by me being respectful of my body and my time is, I make a friend. I don’t see the loss in it.
What things inspired you during the writing of ‘Light of the Sun?’
What’s been inspiring is the experience of having a child, being afraid, being confused, paying attention to my surroundings. Watching women and how we are, watching men and how they are. Music, being around great musicians. Taking time and paying attention to myself – the real, truer self. It’s all been very inspiring. Some people may think I’m nuts for it but I have learnt to enjoy when something hurts me. I’ve learned to enjoy even being sad, because it means I’m still alive. I still have feelings, I’m not dead inside. I’d rather have feelings and work my way through them, than to not have anything. There’s joy even in that and that’s just kind of the way I’ve been looking at things. I appreciate all of it – the highs and the lows.
There’s always a silver-lining and light at the end of the tunnel…
Yes, absolutely, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. It may seem like the tunnel’s really long but you have to just keep ploughing through. My grandmother – when something would hurt her – I remember when my grandfather passed away, she got on the floor, got a pillow, and she screamed as loud and as hard as she could, and she cried and she mourned. She did that until she fell asleep and when she woke up, she was different. She just allowed herself to have it instead of, ‘kind-of’ dealing with the loss. She’s been my inspiration for so many things, but that one lesson has been very valuable and I’ll never forget it. I never thought I would have to use it in that way, but I did. I was so confused for a while, like ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I thought my family and my son is healthy, why can’t I be happy?’ Instead of worrying about why I can’t be happy, I allowed myself to be sad. I went off for a few days, and I was alone and I cried, I prayed, I wrote, took baths! Then, one day it didn’t hurt so bad.
Using these experiences to write ‘Light of the Sun,’ would you say that has made it your realest album yet?
My realest album yet… I don’t know. All I can say is that I really appreciate this journey and it’s my most free project I’ve ever done. It’s the most free album I’ve done because I wasn’t hiding at all behind any paper or pen, I just allowed things to occur. I’d listen to some music and the first line of a melody, I’d run into the booth because it’s something to say. Do I know what I’m gonna say? No. But if I write it down it makes it just a little bit dishonest. Not dishonest because that’s not fair, but allowing it to come through right now and recording it at this moment makes it all more genuine to me. So now I have a template on how I want to work, I don’t want to be stuck behind a paper and pen and then transcribe it to an audience. I want you to hear me feeling it. It hurts me when I’m performing it doing my job because it allows you to hurt too. If you feel like ‘Hear My Call’ makes you cry or introspective, great! Because that’s where I was, I was introspective, I was afraid, I was sad. Sometimes when I listen to the notes and I know I could have sung it better but it’s genuine and I prefer it that way.
It’s very brave improvising your album that way…
Wow, I definitely didn’t think about it that way, I just did it. And then when I listened back, I just thought ‘Wow, I have just said something better than I could have thought it.’ There is definitely a freedom in there and all of these thoughts come out, something I didn’t even know I was thinking or feeling. So thanks, I appreciate that!
You’ve lost a lot of weight over the past few years, do you feel more confident in your new body?
I do, I feel stronger, I feel more energetic. I definitely enjoy my body and my femininity, it feels good. I like it.
You’ve achieved a lot in your twelve-year career, if you could relive one moment what would it be?
I’d love to relive the moment when I was in Madison Square Garden and there were 26,000 people and they were completely silent. It was amazing, I can’t even begin to express what that felt like. They were completely silent and then when I finished the song they roared in a way that the energy almost knocked me off my feet. That was a great moment for me.