Jill Scott (@MissJillScott) just might have the biggest and brightest smile in Boston on this warm night in July. It’s easy to see why. On stage at the Bank of America Pavilion for the opening night of her headlining summer tour The Jill Scott Block Party, she’s feeling the love of the capacity crowd for her special brand of soul music. Having been in rehearsals for the past few weeks, Scott and her band are now watching the hard work pay off. “Sang it Jill!!!” is an almost constant refrain of the crowd as they move through old and new favorites. She smiles joyfully as she glides across stage in a shimmering form fitting dress that shows off the result of her post pregnancy workouts. She seems to be feeling herself, as she should. With her new set The Light Of The Sun recently scoring her a number one album on the Billboard 200 chart, she has every reason to smile. And tonight her infectious smile seems to be in HD. No need to worry about Jill getting a big head though. She credits old-fashioned home training with keeping her ego in check.
“My grandmother Blue taught me very early to not get involved in that mentality where you are put on a pedestal,” she says. “Because people on pedestals fall and fall hard.”
For Scott the pedestal could be high if she let it be. Four studio albums, a couple of live sets and a collaborations album in, Jill Scott is seeing a new level of success for her career. The Light Of The Sun’s success might be even sweeter considering it’s the first album under her new distribution deal with Warner Brothers. Not that she was doing that poorly before. She has three Grammys, sold more than 5 million records worldwide and has a blossoming acting career. Add to that, in her eyes her most important job, the care of her toddler son, Jett and Ms. Scott has a full plate indeed.
Jill took a moment to discuss running your own show, the power of parenthood and maintaining sanity on social media.
Shame feat. Eve
G. Valentino Ball: This show is more than just a concert. Feels like a big event.
Jill Scott: Yeah. It’s a whole bunch of fun and live musicians and great vocalists. I wanted to hear Stokely (Williams of opening act Mint Condition) sing every night. I cannot wait. I want to hear Anthony Hamilton. I feel like these are voices that will stand the test of time. They have done so. I’ve been listening to Mint Condition since like college. They are a band. I love real musicianship and I wanted to be surrounded by that. Also I really enjoy Hip Hop and have been for more than half of my life. Nobody is better to DJ than DJ Jazzy Jeff. I was thinking of who could I get. Then I reached out to him and started thinking that this is so full circle. He was the one who was instrumental in putting me out in the first place. And then we needed a transition between sets. I wanted things to run smoothly as much as possible. So who’s better to keep the party live than Dougie Fresh?
G. Valentino Ball: Why did you go with the Block Party concept?
Jill Scott: A block party is always a good time. Not a lot of pretense at a typical block party. You’re going to come. Bring your own food. You’re going to see the people in your community and you’re going to have a good time. I like that kind of energy.
So In Love feat Anthony Hamilton
G. Valentino Ball: This seems like the latest step in you being more self determined. Why was it important to you to step in that role?
Jill Scott: I have a child. There is something about having a son particularly, for me that put another level of fire under my bones. I call it lava in my spine. I just want to show him how to do the best you can. And put yourself in a position where people are going to do the best that they can by you. That’s a good early lesson for me as well as him. I want him to be proud of me.
G. Valentino Ball: Parenthood seems like it’s your driving force. Even with your recent weight loss. Since you have made it a point in the past to speak about your self-acceptance at any size did you think there would be any back lash?
Jill Scott: I didn’t know what to think or how people were going to respond. It didn’t really matter to me. I think I had gained maybe 60 lbs. during my pregnancy. I didn’t like the way I felt. And I had so much more work to do with carrying a little one. Then I’m not really getting any rest the first few months and just trying to work all of that out. I just wasn’t happy. This was a process of a year and a half of exercising. I learned what I don’t like. I don’t like to run. Running is good but I don’t like to do it. I’d rather ride my bike. I’d rather swim. I’d rather play football or play soccer. I’d rather have fun with whatever physical activity or exercise that I’m going to do. Yeah I have to do some sit ups and some crunches. But I try to wrap my head around it in a way where it’s fun to me. Or I challenge myself or give myself a high five. And it’s made a very big difference. It’s an ongoing process. I’m not really trying to make a big deal out of it.
The Fact Is (I Need You)
G. Valentino Ball: It seems like it’s more of a big deal for everyone else than it is for you.
Jill Scott: Yeah. I don’t even worry about it either. I’m doing this for me and my kids. I want to be around for him. I want to be able to pick him up. He is 28 lbs. I want to run with him on my back up the 19 steps in my house without being winded.
G. Valentino Ball: You have been a star with having really been caught up in stardom. When the public hears about your personal life for example, it’s never been you running out to tell your story or courting the gossip blogs. How have you been able to create that space for yourself?
Jill Scott: There are a couple of things that go into that. I have a grandmother. Her name is Blue. Blue taught me very early that no man is above me and to not get involved it that; that mentality where you are put on a pedestal. Because people on pedestals fall and fall hard. She also taught me to live within my means. And I made a pact with myself when I was 12 that if I ever got conceited I would fall and break my nose. And I like my nose. (Laughs). It’s simple stuff like that. Plus I do what I do because it feels right to me. One more thing is how I grew up. It could be perceived as some as a harsh neighborhood but my neighborhood took care of me; from the drug dealers to the gang bangers. You know I have had my scuffles. I’ve been mugged and everything else but I have always appreciated my community. My community has always been good to me.
G. Valentino Ball: So how does a private person who is an artist interact in this age of social media? Were you wary of getting involved with it?
Jill Scott: Absolutely. I remember with Facebook. Everyone was like “You have to get a Facebook page. You got to get it!” But with Facebook, the whole concept of “friends” bothered me. See I know what that word means. I don’t want to use that lightly. I wasn’t comfortable with that. My friends can call me. They can text me or call me or come to the house. But I have learned. I call my Twitter, my love village. Typically 99% of the time they are very supportive. We have interesting conversations about life, politics. It’s been very nice. I have really been enjoying listening to people’s point of view. We have debates. Sometimes they get heated. I like people very much but it’s a challenge for me when they don’t see me as a human being. That’s the only time I feel uncomfortable. I’m so human. I have so many flaws. I’ve fallen from grace so many times. I’m just trying to work on myself and be happy. That’s the reason that in between records I take time off. Typically I take a year or maybe two to work on something else because I enjoy other things. Sometimes I paint in my back yard. Sometimes I redecorate a room. I do other things to keep me grounded. I dig my hand in some dirt and plant some plants. I don’t want to be lost in a world of glitter. Although I enjoy what I do so much, I feel like balance is imperative to me.
G. Valentino Ball: Was that your goal from the start?
Jill Scott: Yeah. And I don’t know that it was a fight. It is what it is. I’ve tried to run as hard as some other artists. People saying, “You gotta meet the goals. You gotta sell the records. You gotta…” I don’t like doing things. That’s not the reason I got into this. Singing songs and writing poetry. I don’t want to work. (Laughs) I work hard. I have a great work ethic because I enjoy what I am doing. I appreciate that it could be different. I could be driving a bus right now. Not that that’s a bad job. But I don’t have a license. I don’t even drive. (Laughs) I could teach. I would enjoy that. I don’t want to live a life where I am struggling to keep up with everybody else. And then where am I? Lost in the world’s sauce. I don’t want to be that.
Hate On Me
G. Valentino Ball: Your new album Light Of The Sun has a real bold feel. What do you think the tone of this new record is?
Jill Scott: Freedom. Everything about it is free. I worked with musicians. Didn’t know what we were going to do. We laughed. We talked. And then when it felt right we all went into the booth and played. Then the words came out into an entire song, one after the other. They didn’t know what they were going to play. I didn’t know what I was going to say. It just happened. It’s been the best time of my career. I have a template now. I know how I really enjoy creating. The best part of it all is that I know I can pick up the phone. I don’t think I knew that before. I can call a Busta Rhymes and say “let’s play”. No guarantee that it will be anything but let’s have a good time and create. I don’t want to be in an environment where its “Let’s make hits.” What’s that? That’s work. That’s an agenda. This is music. We should touch people and remind people or allow people to be people. I figure whatever I’m going through someone else is going through. I am not by myself. So when I say things like dickmatized, I know women who are caught up in the whole flesh of it all. They want more but don’t know how to get away from that particular aspect of a relationship. How can you have more when you got something blocking your way? Is it just something to do? That’s for you to decide. Those thoughts are common. I know I am not by myself.
G. Valentino Ball: It seems to be resonating with people. You are tapping into the pulse of the people.
Jill Scott: I see a lot of it going on. I hear it from women I talk to. I’m here to listen. Especially these days., I want to know what’s happening. Like I’m no different from them. They are no different from me. I feel like a lot of us are really blocking our way because we are caught up on one particular aspect of something. And I’m just making an observation without judgment.