Catching Up with Jody Watley

Get ready, Jody Watley fans. The Grammy winner’s new EP, Paradise, hits retail outlets in early 2014. She shared with JET the story behind the album, her future plans and whether there will be a “second time around” for Shalamar.

JET: What type of message can fans expect from Paradise?
Jody Watley: I want everyone to feel fabulous and inspired. The song “Nightlife” really kicks off the whole theme. I want people to feel like dancing. (Check out the music video for “Nightlife,” the first single from Paradise HERE.

JET: How did the title Paradise come about?
JW: It’s what music has always represented to me. Paradise is the feeling that I get from music— an escape to a certain degree.

JET: What’s your favorite track on the album?
JW: All of them. A lot of the songs have a feel-good vibe, with soul. Each song I write has a special purpose; they’re coming through me and what I’m inspired to write. I’ve been performing songs from the album live in concerts for the past two years, which has given me the opportunity to see the reactions of the audiences. I’ve been able to go back and make the songs better. I have to satisfy myself first as a writer, producer and artist. I want people to be uplifted listening to this album.

JET: When was your last studio album?
JW: It was The Makeover in 2006. It had more of an electronic, groovy sound. It drew in a new audience of music fans. Three singles topped the Billboard Dance charts.

JET: What other new projects do you have on the horizon?
JW: Musical ideas for the stage, as well as my memoir, which is still in progress. I’m going to write it myself and not use a ghostwriter. It will be an honest, inspirational book. I started writing it as a girl… my journey and the lessons I’ve learned. There are still more chapters to be added.

JET: How do you stay connected with your fan base?
JW: I’m very active with social media. A lot of veteran artists aren’t as accessible or don’t see the benefits. I love connecting with the fans through Twitter and Facebook. I do Monday Motivators and have a style blog for my website, I try to inspire others to have their own slice of paradise.

JET: Have fans been urging you to have a Shalamar reunion?
JW: It comes up from time to time. Not that often. That’s one reason I brought on Gerald Brown to sing on “Nightlife.” It’s my nod to my Shalamar past. I’ve been a solo artist for so long, and Shalamar was such a brief part of my career… but you never know.

JET: Who were some of your musical influences when you were growing up?
JW: I have a diverse palate: Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan, the Motown sound, Philly Soul (Gamble & Huff), Stax Records (Isaac Hayes), the Beatles, the Carpenters. I was also influenced by poetry. Nikki Giovanni was a big inspiration when I was in junior high school. Her writings made me feel empowered.

JET: Did you always know you wanted to be a performer?
JW: I remember pretending I was Diana Ross when I was little. I also wanted to sing, write, model, have my own business and design clothes.

JET: What do you find most fulfilling about creating music?
JW: That it’s always representative of me. It’s a challenge being a woman in this business. I have always wanted to remain authentic to my own voice. It’s a lot of fun being a songwriter and expressing who I am. I have grown musically over the years, but there’s still the essence of Jody Watley and I’m very proud of that. I’ve never tried to be someone I’m not. That is one of the beauties of doing something that you truly love to do.