Feb. 06, 2013 - Issue #903: Moment by moment
There was something about the number eight that Jully Black could not ignore. One by one, the R&B songstress begins ticking off the commonalities the number has in her life: she's the eighth child her mother delivered, her birthday is November 8, her producer's birthday is December 8 and above all, it signifies a new beginning and has become the namesake of her forthcoming album, 8IGHT.
"We go through the seven days of the week and usually we start back at one, but really, there's an eighth day and a ninth day and a tenth day," Black says, her energy and enthusiasm for the album evident. "This is my fourth album and I've been doing a lot of this independently with a brand-new team of rocking individuals who have their finger on the pulse of what's new, and with me being in this business for so long I'm able to teach them a bit of what I know. Everything's all the way new and with infinity turned around, it's an eight."
However, with the new comes a throwback to Black's beginnings in soul music, which began as a child when she sang in church. The style of 8IGHT, which Black has coined "the new Motown," is something of a cross between Etta James and Tina Turner, bringing a contemporary vibe to the soulful sound that she feels most at home with, one that allows her to be transparent with her stories and emotions.
"I think sometimes as songwriters, we tend to try to get too complex and a little bit too eclectic," she states. "If you listen to a Beatles song, it was straightforward and you know what the story was about. You didn't have to guess, is there a hidden message in there? Is there a double entendre? With music, you shouldn't have to think so hard, in my opinion."
Some of this tell-it-like-it-is approach was seen on Black's EP, Dropping W(8), which was released this summer in advance of the album. While the dance beat-fueled disc is not a direct prelude to 8IGHT, Black says she had written approximately 60 songs for the album, and it was time to let a few go and "drop the weight."
On 8IGHT, Black goes even further with soulful and heartfelt stories, despite some difficult subject matter. During the writing process, Black decided that she felt comfortable sharing with her fans that she was molested as a child.
"Through the 8IGHT process, it's healed me and helped me find forgiveness, and I was able to write a letter to the person who did that to me," she admits, adding the cathartic experience also allowed her to see her divorced parents as friends, realizing she had carried a great deal of resentment that had kept them apart. "Its been a journey of complete healing."
Helping her through this journey were long-time friends YoungPete Alexander and Luther Brown, who lent their producing and writing chops to the album. Not only did working with her buddies inject a sense of fun into the process, but Black says it also brought a sense of accountability that she has not always experienced from other producers.
"Sometimes when you work with people that don't know you, they're more fans than people who expect more of you. I find that's happened a lot, where people are more in awe than actually pushing me to do better or telling me to sing that again," she explains. "I need that to continue to grow or I'm going to be stagnant."
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