Jody Watley, a former member of the Disco group Shalamar, is interviewed by DiscoMusic.com member Dayna Newman.
Interview with singer Jody Watley kindly conducted and provided by DiscoMusic.com member, Dayna Newman.
Hi Jody, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you, and thank Van as well. Oh where to begin, so many questions for such a talented lady and music icon. First let me congratulate you on your #1 hit "I Want Your Love," a cover of the Chic classic. You took this song and made it your own. I'm going to ask you about how this came about later in the interview, but I just wanted to congratulate you before we got started.
Thanks so much! I'm very proud of this new milestone. 2007 marks my third decade in this crazy and challenging business. Shalamar (1977-1984) and my solo career..1987 - Current. It's a nice way to mark it!
I was so addicted to Soul Train, starting at age 12, I watched it every Saturday and would get up in front of the television and emulate every move that you and Damita Jo Freeman made. The two of you were my dance teachers and it worked because I put a killing on some dance floors in my time. Do you have fond memories of your Soul Train days?
"The Soul Train" era was a lot of fun. It's where I received my diva training in working the camera, giving attitude and 'working it'! All of the gay boys on the show taught me well!
Shalamar is one of my all time favorite groups, but to me Shalamar consisted of Jody Watley, Jeffery Daniels and Howard Hewitt bottom line. When that formula was gone so went the magic for me! How do you feel about your Shalamar days and are you in contact with Jeffery or Howard?
Shalamar made some good music. In the end, the fact that we were a 'put together' group with no control took the joy out of it and the male egos just got out of control! That said - it was a wonderful time for learning... from the concert stage to the business side. I took the knowledge and ran with it for my solo career!
My favorite Shalamar song is "Right in The Socket" you set fire to that jam girl. Do you have a favorite Shalamar song?
Not really, there are a lot I liked... 'I Can Make You Feel Good' -- the harmonies are sweet. 'Full of Fire' because it's one of the first songs I wrote. I have to say - I did not like singing 'Right in The Socket' - AT ALL!! The lyrics are so lame - but the groove was smokin'! 'I Don't Want to Be the Last to Know' was also a jam."
I was watching Noah's Arc on Logo and was pleasantly surprised to hear them playing your song "Borderline." I thought the song was a great fit for the scene. That was the first time I had ever seen the show, but now I'm going to watch it faithfully. (Logo is a gay based cable channel and the gay audience has always embraced Divas and female icons.)
I think it's because a lot of gay men worship women, but not in a sexual way so they're free to see the true beauty inside a woman as well as the talent and fierceness because testosterone poisoning isn't clouding there evaluation. Jody what is your take on this?
I was thrilled that Noah's Arc featured my ambient and melancholy version of 'Borderline.' It fit the scene so well. The show is wonderfully done. I want to be on the show now. It'd be like me with my friends! I appreciate my gay fan base so much... I'm told they admire my individuality, style, and inner strength to persevere. I've also been told that my songs have helped people come out to their families or go through break ups. I'm always humbled.
I want to tell you how sorry I am about your friend Doug Blasdell's passing. I watched the two of you on "Work Out" and you looked like you had so much fun together. I know you will hold on to the good times you shared and know that life kicks you in the gut when you least expect it, accept my blessing and I hope the pain will ease soon.
Thank you. I still can't believe Doug isn't here. I will always love and miss him. It's still difficult for me to speak on this...
When I first saw the video for "Looking For a New Love" I about passed out. I was blowing everybodys phone up saying, did you see JODY WATLEY's video for Looking For A New Love? I was already fainting over the song, but when I saw the video I swear Jody, I was transfixed. After I got over the shock of how fierce it was I would sit in front of the television and watch BET and VH1 and wait till they played it and get up and do your moves.
To this day I haven't seen videos that have made me feel something that special or given me a rush like Looking For a New Love, Don't You Want Me, Some Kind Of Lover or Still A Thrill. did~! So how was it working with director David Fincher and did you do the choreography?
I don't do choreography! I am always about the freestyle expression... and I can't remember steps! I'm proud of all of my videos - they have held up... especially 'Real Love'... which remains my favorite. I say 'WORK B****!!!!!!!!!!" David Fincher was a doll - he was worried that I wanted to do my own styling as I had always done.. I won him over... since the stylist he hired brought some clothes... very uninspired... and then I rolled out what I'd brought. and we went with that!
Not only were the videos visually wonderful but you started a major fashion trend. I and my girls would be getting ready to go out and we would call each other and say "what are you wearing"? The response was usually, Oh my jeans my black bustier and my Jody's "Large silver Hoop Ear Rings" those were what we called are Jody's, You were the first person I ever saw serving up those huge silver hoop earrings and the bustier was also a Jody Watley fashion statement. Plus your eye makeup was emulated as well it has to be rewarding to know that you have made such an impact on people and in some ways actually changing their lives. I want to personally thank you for the magic you brought to me.
I'm proud you know... to have hit records is one thing... but to impact style and culture is another... especially being a black woman. I'm aware of the lack of props at times.. and I don't want to go all on a Kanye West rant (smiles and chuckles!!)... but at the core.. Everything was and is me.. just trying to be myself... many know of my impact... regardless of, if I get the credit for a lot of things initiated... that's not why I do it, but it is nice to be acknowledged. I won't lie!
I love your CD "Flower" it showed a wide range of material and really showcased your vocal talents. I know people pigeon hole you as a Dance Diva and that you are, but I think your voice is more educated than some people give you credit for.
Thank you... my Myspace page has a lot of live stuff... people can see.. I'm not a product of studio trickery! I think I have an easy 'tone'... and I can sing various genres. dance..jazz.. soul..acoustic. I've had hits on Pop, R&B, Electronic, and Dance... so I never understand the 'Dance Diva' label...
Did you know that a copy of "Flowers" is going for $80.00(US) on Amazon? And that's for a used copy~!! I have always enjoyed your ballads as well as your dance records.
I've seen promo's go for hundreds of dollars for my new single Flower, Saturday Night Experience. I have mixed emotions about eBay and those copies on Amazon.com! One says - 'Cool..you're stuff isn't over saturated, and therefore more valuable.' the other says 'It sucks because other people are making a profit off of my hard work!'
Do you feel that starting off doing Disco in anyway limited your career choices or do you believe that everything worked out the way it was supposed to?
Limited?? Not at all. As I said, I have charted in all formats... I perform at jazz festivals, gay clubs, theaters. I've done shows with newer neo soul artists like Donnie, Rahsaan Patterson... I even toured with Oleta Adams and Peabo Bryson for a holiday tour with an orchestra! I have a diverse career. and I've managed to keep things on my own terms.
Your CD "The Makeover" is wonderful too, I just haven't heard anything of yours I don't like, and I would say it if I didn't like something TRUST~!
L.O.L.! Thank you!
It got 4 stars out of 5 from 34 customer reviews, that's excellent.
I think people can see the growth and if I ever feel like I'm going to start making bad records and lose perspective I'll hang up my stilettos and pack the microphone away!
When you do an album where does your inspiration usually come from?
I do what I like... first... I write from my heart... and I never want to feel as if I'm repeating myself. I have not gotten jaded, which helps!! I'm just trying to get better all the way around and not dumb myself down!
And what inspired you to make this beautiful record?
I'd done some shows in San Francisco -- mainly covers... called 'Songs in The Key of My Life'... it was so well received... and I decided to broaden the scope of doing what I started out wanting to do - which was a remix record.. 'The Makeover' - plays like a groovy compilation...or mixtape.. the project was anchored with the new songs like 'Bed of Roses' and 'A Beautiful Life'."
I know I say CD, record album. I'm old school, I miss vinyl but you know what I mean.
LOL! I know.
I see you're going to be in Tokyo, thats very exciting. Are fans different in other countries or are we all pretty much alike as far as the responses you get and the hospitality?
I'm fortunate to have fans around the world. My MySpace page is representative. My music has reached places I haven't! Japan is a favorite of mine. I'm also looking forward to my single 'I Want Your Love' coming out in the U.K. and Europe."
Paul from DiscoMusic.com wanted me to tell you he loves you and Videoskooter aka Johan wanted me to ask you to marry him. LoL, I swore I would ask and I did.
Tell him thank you! I don't think I will ever marry again. I'm too independent...and it seems to run the guys away in the end.. They can't handle my truth!
What song of yours means the most to you and why?
Currently, 'A Beautiful Life' from 'The Makeover'... it just says so much.. acknowledges pain, but ultimately hopeful and full of attitude! I currently have a live, and more acoustic version of it on my Myspace page. This will be on 'SuperHits Live! to be released by SonyBMG, by license from my company. It's a part of a series they're doing. It will have some of my hits - live- and some things from 'The Makeover'. I believe it will come out in July."
Back to "I Want Your Love", How did you get hooked up with such a great project and how does it feel to be back on top and packing the dance floors around the world?
I'm still having fun! My single 'Borderline Remixes' went to #2 - my makeover of 'Looking For a New Love' - went to #1 in 2005 on the dance charts as well..I'm keeping it moving!!" Perhaps now, I will do my complete jazz record. I want to be on the jazz charts now!! I have a fantasy of winning a 'Best Contemporary Jazz Album' Grammy. I think it would be another first!"
Jody, I don't want to take up too much of your time because I know with the new record you must be very busy and again thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule for me. Best wishes and continued success, I know we certainly haven't heard the last of you.
Thanks Dayna. I appreciate it and you had good questions. Thank heavens!
- The End
Jody Watley Recommended Listening & Related Links
Jody Watley @ DiscoMusic.com