Grammy-nominated R&B Diva Syleena Johnson has released her new album Rebirth of Soul; a conceptual album that explores her interpretations on Classic R&B Songs recorded with all live music and produced by her father the legendary Syl Johnson. I caught up with Syleena Johnson to discuss her new album, new Daytime talk show Sister Circle and much more…
Terrance: You released your new album Rebirth of Soul and by definition what is soul to you?
Syleena Johnson: Soul isn’t a genre. A lot of people think soul is a genre, like it’s a category and oh I sing soul music. A lot of R&B singers aren’t soulful and so they don’t sing soul music. Soul is when you have a story to tell and sing from your heart and sing from a personal experience and that’s not everybody in R&B as you know and my father Syl Johnson who is an older, older soul singer taught me that. Soul has nothing to do with genre.
Terrance: And speaking of your father. Talk about the process of creating the Rebirth of Soul album with him.
Syleena Johnson: It was originally his idea and it just came together for the both of us. It’s something we both ended up wanting to do and it was all live instrumentation and all live musicians obviously and from the era of the 60’s so that was really cool as well.
Terrance: Live music is rare in a lot of today’s music. Why do you think that is?
Syleena Johnson: We’re in a microwave industry on all levels and we don’t want the original. We want the carbon copy and the reason? It costs too much to bring in musicians when you can create it in a computer. It’s hard to sing notes right so you can just put it in auto-tune you know? Nobody wants to do any work anymore. The good news is we’re able to do it in less time. The bad news is the quality is in jeopardise.
Terrance: Looking over your past catalog, is there a particular song or album that standout to you?
Syleena Johnson: I probably would say it’s between Chapter 2: The Voice and Chapter 3: The Flesh. It’s kinda hard because it’s like trying to pick your best child (laughs), so it’s really very difficult because every album was very special and relevant to me at that time and I never slacked on putting my best foot forward and my best self at that time. Chapter 2 was very special because it was my second try to really pray before I understood what I wanted to say. I was in a place where I really understood what I wanted to say and what I wanted to say had a bigger picture and it wasn’t real personal like Chapter 1: Love, Pain & Forgiveness, where it kinda was about myself and isolated incidents. With Chapter 2, it covers such a wide and general audience that’ll stand the test of time. Also Chapter 3 because I was able to work with so many amazing people on one album so those two albums are probably the most important in my career.
Terrance: What would you say is the most proudest moment in your career so far?
Syleena Johnson: Now there are a lot of proud moments but I would say the album Chapter 4: Labor Pains which was written and pretty much produced by me.
Terrance: Right. I remember that album was released through your own label.
Syleena Johnson: Yeah I dropped it on my own label so that was a proud moment obviously but I have to say a proud musical moment was when I worked with a French Hip Hop group by the name IAM. They were huge in France like the Wu-Tang Clan of France and so they were doing a compilation CD and had people like Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Beyonce on this album and they chose me to work with. The cool thing about the project is that I had to sing it in English while they rapped in French and I wrote my part and the name of the song is called, “Ici ou ailleurs” and that was just a very big moment as a writer and different for me. One of my favorite moments.
Terrance: Bring me to date with how the opportunity was presented to you for your new daytime talk show Sister Circle on TVOne.
Syleena Johnson: I auditioned. My sister Syleecia had a conversation with Georgia E. Dawkins who was moving to Georgia for the creation of Sister Circle and long story short I did a phone interview and then I did an in-person interview and on that day walks in Rashan Ali, Kiana Dancie and Quad Lunceford and those were the ladies that auditioned. There were over 200 women who auditioned and on my day those ladies walked in and it was just meant to be and we ate afterwards and talked and laughed and stayed out for hours.
Terrance: Awesome. Now getting back to Rebirth of Soul. What do you hope fans and listeners take away from their experience?
Syleena Johnson: What I tried to do is emulate the energy, the tone and the feel of that time. I’ve always had an old soul anyway, so this is a natural progression for me.
Terrance: Got it. Will you be taking the album on the road?
Syleena Johnson: My website will be relaunched this month. It’s almost done. You can follow me on all social media handles. Instagram @syleenajohnson and Facebook @Syleena.Johnson.OFFICIAL. The tour kicks off December 12th at the City Winery in Atlanta.
Terrance: And to wrap it up. Is there anything not discussed you would like to leave with the readers?
Syleena Johnson: Rebirth of Soul is a specialty album. People should get it as a collector’s item and play it for their children and young generation. I hope people love it and I will be performing it live. And watch Sister Circle at 9 AM Eastern.