Jill Scott debuts at No. 1 and discusses how she 'stopped believing in love'
Jill Scott’s fourth effort, “The Light of the Sun,” marks two major firsts for the singer. It's her first No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 and her first release under a recently inked distribution deal between Warner Bros. and her own Blues Babe Records.
The triumph, however, hasn't come without its share of pain.
"The Light of the Sun" lands after a four-year hiatus from recorded music, a period in which Scott garnered plenty of headlines -- the positive ones touted her acting career. Among the singer's credits: A role on HBO's critically acclaimed series "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency,” two Tyler Perry flicks and Lifetime’s “Sins of the Mother,” which scored her an Image Award.
Yet it was Scott’s personal life that started to overshawdow her career. Following a divorce from husband Lyzel Williams in 2007, and the breakoff of her engagement to her former drummer, Lil' John Roberts, which came after the birth of her first child (with Roberts) in 2009, Scott was a tabloid target.
Additionally, there was a rather public legal battle between the singer and her label of 10 years, Hidden Beach Recordings, which led to a countersuit from the label claiming that she hadn’t completed the terms of her contract. The split was described as amicable in a press release from Hidden Beach, and was ultimately settled.
Scott lets out a long sigh when questioned about the label drama.
“The only thing I can really say about that is I’m glad that I’ve moved on. I’ve learned that friendship does not equate business, business does not equate friendship,” she said backstage after a recent taping of “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” “And they have the right to do it … they have the right to do it legally. Big lesson: Be accountable for your own actions. I chose to give them everything whether I liked it or not.”
Her new deal with Warner Bros. has obviously paid off. With multiple television specials, a headlining gig at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans on Saturday and her Live Nation-produced summer tour, the Jill Scott Summer Block Party, kicking off July 28, the 39-year-old is getting some of the best promotion of her career.
“Being with Warner Bros., and having them as a distribution company, it gives me that machine,” she said. “I said, ‘Give me all the colors of the crayon box, and let me see what I can do.’ That’s all I want. I don’t want to piecemeal things anymore.”
Though Scott's brand of sassy girl-from-the-block soul is on full display on the new disc, there are plenty of moments about heartbreak. For someone who finds as much catharsis through music as she does, it wasn’t surprising that a lot of the album’s tracks developed as freestyles and jam sessions -- with songs such as “Hear My Call” and “Quick” offering a glimpse into what she calls the “darkest moments” of her life. She says the album contains songs that will be hard to relive on tour and that hurt to sing publicly, but she adds that the songs are a "must."
“The stuff that came out through the year and a half that I worked on the album just surprised me. I don’t know that I was necessarily ready to say what I’m saying. But I didn’t want to fight it, or fix it, or make it neat,” Scott said. “I let go. I felt like I blacked out in front of the microphone. This was the most healing project that I’ve ever done. I’d listen to it and bawl like a baby.”
Scott said this with a smile. She said that she finds solace in her son, who cried for his mom when he had to leave the room before the interview, and that she looks to him as her motivation to get through it all.
She is certain, however, that she’ll be writing about the pain she felt at the end of her relationship for the rest of her life.
“I had never been so sad in my life. Never. Never felt so lost or confused. I’ve had relationships, married, and had a divorce. But this time, I don’t know. It was the darkest ,” she said, now dropping the smile.
“To try to write about that, it was a block. Who can write about that? Maybe Taylor Swift or someone, but I don’t know if she’s ever hurt like this. This is the first time in the history of myself where I stopped believing in love. And that, for me, is the worst thing that’s ever happened.”
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Photo: (Top) Jill Scott. Credit: Gomillion + Leopold. (Bottom) Jill Scott performs onstage during the BET Awards '11 at the Shrine Auditorium on Sunday. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images