Interview: Jully Black

Multi-talented Canadian songstress Jully Black is no stranger to career reinvention. As well as finding success on the charts with her own songs, the Juno winner has written tracks for other artists, including Destiny’s Child and Nas. She’s also taken to the stage in Toronto and served as a correspondent for shows like Canadian Idol and The Marilyn Denis Show. In terms of her own music, she’s explored genres as diverse as old-school R&B, rock, soul, and rap.

Her most recent release—an EP called Dropping W(8), which is available for free online—is decidedly more influenced by dance music. Before her concert at Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre this Thursday, The Medium caught up with Black to talk about some of her inspirations and to figure out what fans can expect from her upcoming album (8)IGHT.


The Medium: Although you’ve always incorporated dance music into your work, how did the new heavier [dance] influence on your EP, Dropping W(8), come about?


Jully Black: I co-wrote a bunch of songs with [producer and choreographer] Luther Brown. We’ve been friends since grade three. I started my career with hip-hop and with more dancier beats, so we just started to have fun and experiment a bit. And because my producer, “Young” Pete Alexander, was also a drummer, we really wanted to have some drum influence.


TM: And is your upcoming album,
(8)IGHT, going to have a style similar to that?


JB: No, actually. (8)IGHT is going to be kind of a new Motown sound. I’m kind of on my way back to the Sunday school influences. The Motown-style music with horns and with strings—just soul. Right back to soul.

TM: I’ve noticed that you’re pretty active on Twitter and Facebook, and that you refer to your fans as “family”. That’s something that I haven’t really seen a lot of other public figures do. How have these new social media sites changed the way you interact with the people who listen to your music?


JB: Well, it’s given me direct access, which I think is really cool. Back in the day, we relied heavily on mailing lists and the mailing lists were governed by the record company. Now, with Twitter, I can actually create a conversation that continues. It’s not based on a single on the radio, a video. It’s not based on celebrity. Like, for me, it’s based on my personality and who I am, rather than what I do.


TM: You’ve experimented with incorporating a lot of different styles into your music throughout your career. Are there any unexplored territories you still want to venture into?


JB: I would absolutely love to do a kind of jazzy gospel album. But what I will say—what I can scratch off my bucket list—is a country duet. He’s an artist named Donny Parenteau, out in Saskatoon, and it’s a beautiful, beautiful music duet. I got a chance to explore a different side to my voice, and I think people are going to be in for a big surprise.


TM: If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring musicians on how to achieve a long-lasting career like you’ve had, what would it be?


JB: I would say to figure out your intentions. Why do you want to be in the music business? And if it has anything to do with money or celebrity, then you may want to rethink it.

It’s a long road. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Everything else is pretty much self-explanatory, with work ethic, et cetera. But I like to get to the core of it, which is really your intention.

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