Vocal powerhouse Syleena Johnson has been soulfully serenading us with her voice since the 90’s. We’ve watched her life play out on the drama-filled reality series “R&B Divas,” and got a little more personal with her in Iyanla Vanzant’s “Fix My Life.” Now, she’s got a new television show, new album and a new role in the industry moving forward. Take a journey with us as we catch up with the talented R&B singer as she talks about her life.
SR: Syleena Johson, the one and only. How are you doing today?
SJ: I’m doing well, Thank you.
SR: We interviewed you a couple of years ago, great interview… and we are looking forward to you speaking with us again.
SJ: Yes, you guys have been so awesome over the years; Thank you for your support.
SR: What’s it like right now living a day in the life of Syleena Johnson?
SJ: Well, right now (laughs), I’ve been sitting here waiting in the line trying to get the tags on my truck. (laughs) …. But yeah it’s busy, I’m up at 4 am with the new talk show. I’m at hair and makeup at 5:45, at 8:30 we brief, shows at 9, and from there I hit the ground running. I’ve got two children; I pick up my boys at 2 O’clock. I’m just working and running…I’ve got the new album coming out… I teach Yoga tonight… so just busy.
SR: We’ve followed your career from back in the 90’s and watched you fluently remain current, and you make it look easy. Is it easy for you?
SJ: Uhhhm… nothing’s easy, I just keep on keeping on, and God made me this way. I just stay grounded, and I just stay in a place of reinvention you know. Not on purpose but I’m just inspired all the time… I’m creative and always thinking of things, and I guess it’s the type of person God has made me, which gives me longevity. It’s not hard! I mean everything’s hard in a sense, but I’m not sitting somewhere grueling and having a rough time. I’m pretty calm, and I guess the older I get, the wiser I get, and the calmer I get.
SR: You have so much going on with the new show and new album, are you still very active with your company She-Lean? How has that been going?
SJ: Yes, She-Lean Lifestyles is my fitness, health and lifestyles company and its geared towards women and I just want them to have a portal that they can go to, which is a website Sheleanlife.com. They can get all kinds of things that they are interested in — kind of like an extension of the sister circle. Fitness, health, beauty, children, family; everything about being natural and I just want them to be able to find and talk about that as well.
SR: OK so let’s talk about the new show “SisterCircle.” How did that come about and who made the call to you and asked you to host the show?
SJ: One of the producers was with my sister, and she was talking about the show, and my sister was like “oh, you should have my sister Syleena on the show.” It started off as being one host, and then I did an over the phone audition, and it was supposed to be like a local show and then when I got to the audition, it was four of us that was in the audition, that was just that day. It was 200 plus girls that had auditioned already but the four girls that came in that day are the four that you see today. It was only supposed to be one, but the four of us had such great chemistry.
SR: Wow… Did you all know each other prior to being on the show together?
SJ: I didn’t know Kianna or Rashan, but I knew Quad
SR: So was it instant chemistry?
SJ: Yes…so immediate that when we came in the audition it was the four of us and we talked and talked and we just clicked and so after that we all went out to eat (laughs). We just sat there and talked and ate, and it was so fun, and after that, we were kind of inseparable. We were like, we don’t want anybody else to be the host, and we were like we are going to fight to make it be us four, but we didn’t even have to do that because they had already saw what we had and made that decision.
SR: That’s rare, so congratulations. You can tell on the show that you all are having a lot of fun.
SJ: Yes.. we’re a good fit, and we allow each other to be ourselves.
SR: Yeah and It’s also a Live show.. what does that mean really? Are there any editing or is it just straight up “Live.”
SJ: There is no editing… It’s live everyday… there isn’t a day that goes by that we are at home (laughs); no pre-recordings. We’re there live which is very difficult but fun, because once you say what you’ve said it’s out there and gone.
SR: What has the response been like across the globe?
SJ: It’s been amazing… so much love… people are starting to hear about it. It’s wonderful because it’s all black people. It’s our faces and our voices and our people… our point of view, which hasn’t been popular lately, so we get to speak on how we really, really feel about what’s going on in our communities and give our perspectives.
‘Rebirth of Soul,’ conceived and produced by Syleena’s father Syl Johnson, will arrive on November 10th via Shanachie Entertainment. Syl is best known for his original hit version of “Take Me To The River,” which was covered by Al Green and Talking Heads. Everyone from Jay-Z and Kanye West to Wu-Tang and Usher has sampled Syl Johnson’s recordings. On the project, Syleena delivers her interpretations of classic R&B songs, mainly from the Fifties and Sixties, starting with “We Did it,” originally recorded by Syl and the new offering, “Make Me Yours,” by Bettye Swann.
SR: Ok so let’s get into the new album “Rebirth of Soul.” What inspired this project? I read that you and your father came up with the concept?
SJ: Well, when I was pregnant with my second son, my dad approached me to do a live album with all live instruments and musicians from that era — the 50’s and 60’s. I went in, and we recorded all these records, and we aggressively went through and picked out records. I tried to be as close as possible to the original as I could, you know, to pay homage. We just wanted to do something vintage and do it the proper way, not with computerized sounds. We wanted to really play, and really be in that moment. There were actual chartings in the studio; there were actual harpists in the studio…string quartet… It was very beautiful, very fun, and interesting process-wise. It was just a one take live performance and great experience because all of the musicians were there in the studio. That’s how they used to do it back in the day.
SR: Do you have any favorite songs on this album?
SJ: Yes …. “These Arms of Mine” by Otis Redding and “Lonely Tear Drops” by Jackie Wilson.
SR: Other than the show “Sister Circle,” and the new album, “Rebirth of Soul,” is there anything else that you’re working on now that you can tell us about?
SJ: Yes Yes Yes… I’m still trying to finish my book, “The Weight Is Over, ” and it’s not all about weight loss… it is… but not really. It talks about the weight of the industry being on my shoulders as a woman in the industry and the amount of pressure that is put on women to be a certain way. I’m also working on a pilot for a reality show that I can’t really speak on right now, but I’m not in it I’m producing it, and with this new Sister Circle platform, I hope to complete everything.
SR: Thanks, Syleena! It’s always a pleasure, and we wish you the best
SJ: Thank you Singersroom for your continued support.