Jody Watley is an iconic figure in the entertainment industry, who continues to shine in music. Watley's independent-minded and free-spirited personality has earned her the respect from so many people in fashion, style, music, and video production. The Grammy-award winning vocalist broke many musical barriers, especially being the first R&B/Pop singer to collaborate with a rapper on the song, "Friends," featuring Eric B & Rakim. Known for her funky style in music and dance, Watley pays homage to her roots on her latest EP, Paradise.
Many fans know Jody from her early days as a Soul Train dancer and being a member of the legendary R&B/Pop group, Shalamar, back in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Shalamar released several ground breaking hits, including "Second Time Around," "Take That Back to the Bank," "For the Lover in You," "Dead Giveaway," and "A Time to Remember." But, once Shalamar disbanded, it wasn't going to be the last time fans were going to see or hear about Jody Watley.
Watley continued to flourish as a solo artist, releasing singles, "Looking for a New Love," and "Real Love," and winning a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1987. Throughout the years, she has stayed true to herself, continuing to produce and create music that makes people feel good and dance at the same time. And New York City saw the prominent singer at BB Kings on February 18, 2015.
After Watley's performance, Singersroom.com conversed with the dance-soul vocalist about touring, entrepreneurship, Rakim, and more.
Check out our exclusive interview:
Touring: I do spot shows here and there. But in support of Paradise (her latest EP), I can go back on the road. My son is in New York attending college, and he said ‘Ma, you can go tour’. I have two kids and my son is the youngest, so I have to make sure he's good. So that was number one, my kids, and I don't have to feel guilty about going back on the road. But when I'm on stage, it's always nice to see all types of people in the audience, from different ages.
Favorite Songs to Perform on Stage: All of them for different reasons, and in this particular show, I really love when we get to the song, "Sanctuary," from Paradise, because we first spotlight the musicians, and I personally love when G-Mack starts playing. It's like you can feel the soul of the music, but I love them all. I have fun with “Real Love” still and all of my classics with the Shalamar set. I enjoy that because I love the young cutie guys, so the energy is fresh. I really don't have a favorite.
?Working with Shalamar's Original Member Gerald Brown on the song, "Nightlife": Well, how that came about was, the theme of Paradise was inspired by classic disco, so I started with them because within the last 10 years, my sound was more electronica. I just wanted a whole different direction, and then I don't know; I just gravitated to what I can bring to that classic sound with my dance and electronica. And so, Paradise came from that, with Gerald, who I kept in touch with off and on since Unsung (TV show). I did an unfiltered series on YouTube after Unsung, because it was bogus. I was like, ‘where's Gerald Brown and what happened to him?’ So, I found him on Facebook and I asked him, ‘how come you weren't on Unsung? He was like, ‘they didn't want me on there because I'm going to keep it real.’ We connected, and it was my way…. He's been written out of the Shalamar’s past story. I was in the group when I was 17-years-old and Gerald was much older, but he was trying to teach us about the business. So, the record was my way of bringing it back full circle and saying this is the original guy. Gerald joked and said I brought him back from the dead because in the music business, it's so cutthroat. It was in my heart and then becoming the owner of the Shalamar trademark, I love young people, and I wanted to do it in a way that will tie everything together, but with a fresh energy. It's not old vibes and old people having stupid or angry about what ever happened in the past. It's like new guys, they're good looking, they can dance and sing and no one is treating me poorly. I love looking at that because you know, youth without pandering, it feels natural for me because my spirit is very youthful and young and they can keep up with me.
Friendship with Rap Pioneer, Rakim after the song, "Friends": Yes, in fact, he was almost going to be here for the show, so when I come back to New York, we're going to try to make it happen. I'm doing two shows this summer and it would be a dream come true because we’ve never done it live before. It's one of my favorites and I think that…. Because people don't really give it the credit its due, because we did that first; collaborations didn't really exist until the song "Friends" came out. It's like everybody is doing it now, but we did that first and he's dope; he is still one of my favorite artists.
Defining the Word "Legend": Staying power, longevity, and I think there's something about being a little bit over the top and on your own. You have to follow your path, and I think that makes artists go from just being someone that had a song out to being legendary. Being legendary, I think you need to put the time in and making a mark; you pioneered in something. There's something that they can look up to, whether it's music or style, and other people will follow your steps, whether they know or not.
Writing a Book: Yes, that's true. It's a work in progress. I'm already thinking about screenplay and who's going to play who in the film. But it won't be on Lifetime. I want it to be on the big screen.
Releasing Music Independently and Being More Business Savvy: I’ve always been business minded, my mom would tell you before I was in the business that I was going to have my own business, my own modeling school, I'm going to sing or whatever. All my life I've been… I've had many dreams. I am still taking classes in business, continuing to learn, and I have my own online boutique. Being an artist, songwriter, and producer, especially a woman in this business, I would like to be an example in that too. And with the Shalamar trademark, it's a way. I started my label in 1996, before it was really popular in the independent and digital world. After Prince started his label, I was very inspired by that and again, just paying attention to the business. Not enough artists pay attention to the business, the show part is a smart part, but it's all about the business. Being a songwriter, owning your publishing, and even if you're not a writer, I just think the hustle of it.
There's a song on Paradise called "Dancer," and it's not about being a dancer necessarily, it's about the spirit of a dancer. The spirit of a dancer is always on the move, whether you're a writer, working a 9-5 job, or whatever it is, it's like the spirit of a dancer. You're always on the hustle, always on the grind, so with everything I do, I follow through with that. The business part is just another extension of Jody Watley.
Download Jody Watley's EP, Paradise, on iTunes.com