Syleena Johnson has been a consistent vocal powerhouse since her 1999 debut album, Love Hangover. Her musical growth and industry longevity is well above today’s artists, but the content and delivery fit right in with the one’s that’s talked about. Her latest album, Chapter 6: Couples Therapy, is another example of her connection to her artistry as well as her diverse musical talent. We caught up with Mrs. Johnson recently, and here is what she’s been up to.
Tell us about the single "My Love."
Syleena: "My Love" is a single produced by Pierre "The Maven" Medor, out of Atlanta. He came to me with the record and said, 'Syleena, this is such a Syleena Johnson record.' I was really inspired. We had a conversation about 'Couples Therapy' and after that, him and his partner created it and made it come to life.
That’s great! So we're guessing the song was inspired by a personal relationship?
Syleena: Absolutely. The song talks about love standing the test of time. My husband and I were going through some things. We were in couple’s therapy, and NO, WE'RE NOT GETTING A DIVORCE! We're actually stronger than before because we recognized the issues and tried to tackle them before they got out of hand. Things like lack of communication and just small things like growing apart because of the kids, well, not growing apart, but just becoming like robots in a sense. So we wanted to go to couples therapy for that. But the song, 'My Love,' talks about regardless of what happens, our love won't quit.
Break down your latest album, CHAPTER 6: Couples Therapy, for us.
Syleena: It's about the relationship with my husband, and also relationships in general. What we go through; what they go through. Some of the songs on the album are very specific in dealing with couples and some are general, so that others can relate to it. That’s why I called it “Couples Therapy” opposed to “Marriage Therapy,” because I wanted it to be for everyone, and all kinds of people who have different relationships like mother to child; sister to brother, and all those kinds of relationships with two people where things can grow from some of the messages in the songs on this album.
Tell us about the movie that supports this album.
Syleena: The movie is awesome! It’s based on the album. I sent the album to Tangie Moore of Tier2 Films, which is a very close friend of mine, who is an amazing writer and movie producer; her and Rick Atari. Tangie wrote a story based on the album and brought it to life. At first, I was like, 'let's do an hour special', but then we said forget it; let's do a movie! So we did a movie! It's like ‘Purple Rain’ meets ‘Black Nativity’. It's not like it’s a ‘Trapped In The Closet’ or anything like that where we're interpreting the album. It’s a real movie, and what might happen is in the movie you'll hear a song and then it will break into a video. It’s a really cool idea. I just got really tired of the whole concept of drop a song then drop a video. It's redundant and played out. I did something different to kind of enhance the whole concept of the album.
You have a long time collaboration in R. Kelly, why isn't he on the album this time?
Syleena: Well, there's a more in depth story of why he’s not on the album, but for cliff notes, we're just going to say the stars just didn’t align for this particular project. We were working together at first, and he was trying to work on other stuff. ‘Chapter 6’ was a huge priority for me and we just had to separate in order for it to work out.
So, 'The Weight Is Over' is your new book; tell us a little more about that.
Syleena: ‘The Weight Is Over’ is a self-help book that I decided to write, and the ‘weight’ is the pressure of having to be a certain size in the industry, especially as a woman in the entertainment industry. So, it talks about my journey as a woman in the entertainment industry and how body image has affected me negatively and positively, but mostly negatively, because of the negative connotations and the negative pressures that the industry puts on black women; white women too – all women.
Tell us about signing to Blackbird Entertainment.
Syleena: I signed to Blackbird Entertainment back in May. The CEO is Greg Baker and his team is amazing which distributes through EntertainmentOne. I really chose that label because I felt like he really believed in my project and I. At this point in my life, I've been on major and minor labels … with what I know and the information I’ve accumulated with my sister and the history of albums and songs and things of that nature, he actually believed in the Syleena Johnson brand. You could be on a major label this, that, and the third, but then they don’t believe in your project, then its a bust. If you have people who are smart, and visionaries, who believe, it’s so much more powerful. That’s why I aligned myself with Blackbird. I really felt like we connected and we had the same mind as far as the Syleena Johnson's brand goes.
What new artists do you like that are out now?
Syleena: August Alsina.
Any female artists?
Syleena: No. I don’t know of anyone. Wait, yes, yes I do. Jhene Aiko. I like her… with the whole innocent hip-hop aura she gives. I just really like her live. She's sweet. Also, I love Trevor Jackson and Diggy Simmons. I like the song they have; it's one of my favorites. But I really like Trevor. He’s going to be like the next Chris Brown; the next Usher. He's such a good kid and his mom is like a good time.