Published Jan 22, 2010For Jully Black, hard work has unquestionably paid off. By stepping out - breaking out - of the career-limiting confines of "Canadian R&B singer," the vivacious Black has drawn her own map, blazed her own trail, and apparently arrived at sustainable success. The Toronto-based Black today wears many hats - singer, songwriter, producer, TV personality - all of which are a perfect fit. One week she could be in Paris, the next in Hollywood - yet all the while keeping her feet grounded and not forgetting her roots in Toronto's much-maligned Jane and Finch neighbourhood. With the recent release of The Black Book, her third studio album, the Juno Award winner says she's in a good place. She fearlessly co-produced the genre-blending 11-track project in a style she calls Durban Rock. "It's dance, urban and rock together. It's definitely not what people are expecting from me," says Black.
Black has become a household name and this February sees her performing during the Vancouver Olympic celebrations before embarking on an extensive cross-country tour. Her target audience for her music, says Black, is everyone and everybody. "It's for anyone that can feel. I feel I was born to be a leader: why not speak to the people of Red Deer and to everyone else in the country?"
What are you up to?
Touring and staying busy with the new album. I'm opening my tour at the Olympics in Vancouver. Life is great.
What are your current fixations?
Fitness and staying fit are huge for me right now. So much so that I'm thinking about making a fitness DVD.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
I would say books. I love to read. It's about the power of the imagination and how people interpret things differently.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
That would have to be May 2006, touring with the Black Eyed Peas in Johannesburg, South Africa. That's where I met Rita Marley and it was so beautiful and surreal to be of Jamaican descent and to meet Rita in Africa.
What have been your career highs and lows?
I've done so much in my career that it's hard to say. But I'd say losing my manager Bonnie O'Donnell was a very low point. She meant so much to me and my career. Rest in peace Bonnie.
What should everyone shut up about?
I wish the tabloids would just take a break. I'm tired about hearing about Tiger Woods and the rest. It makes my stomach turn.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I love that I love myself. I love that I have humility, drive and determination. As for dislikes, I'd say in the past it would have been my self-doubt at times.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Sunday is designed to be a family day. It's about going to mom's for food and spending time with the fam. In my adult life, I've broken the church habit. I think that my spirituality doesn't have to be connected to a physical place that we have to go to every week.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
On a relationship level, I could have saved some broken hearts if I had listened to people around me.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
Dishonesty. You could be Prince on the guitar, but if you lie you're out. In the bed? If someone isn't coming correct, they got to go! You've gotta play by the rules.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
I think of diversity. But I also think of denial. Canadians are mostly in denial about the current state of the industry.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
I saved up my money for the Whitney Houston record. The one with "Saving All My Love For You" and her in the bathing suit on the back cover.
What was your most memorable day job?
Working at Taco Bell at Jane and Finch. I used to make the burritos extra big for all my friends.
How do you spoil yourself?
Good question. How do I spoil myself? I'm the most non-shopping person you'd meet. It's partly because I get too much free stuff. I don't really spoil myself. You've given me something to think about because it's something I need to do.
If I wasn't playing music I would be...
[Practicing] entertainment law. If I ever decide to go back to school, I'd open up a law firm for entertainers that would be free.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I met Tim McGraw at a Bill Clinton birthday party in Washington. He hugged me from behind and they took a picture. The next day the National Enquirer contacted me and offered to pay me money if I said I was his mistress.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
James Brown. I'd make some oxtail just to see how he'd chew on the bone.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
There's nothing she wishes I was doing instead. She's old school. She's been supportive and happy for me - she would always say that your gift will make room for you.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
My song, "I Travelled."