Defining Her Own Vision: India.Arie Returns with a New Sense of Empowerment and a Fresh Attitude towards Life
By Kemba Banton
Soft, deep-throated, sultry croons that soothe our senses. Lyrics of grace and truth that saturate our thoughts with an immediate will to be positive, to be empowered, to sparkle with our own inner light. This is the enchantment of the India.Arie we have come to love. And after struggling with her own experiences of disappointment and discouragement over the last several years, the singer-songwriter has re-emerged with a refreshed perspective of business, life, and knowing how to keep herself whole.
India’s long-awaited album, SongVersation, is expected for release on June 25th, the first studio release in four years. Speaking with Heart&Soul in a recent phone interview, India said “SongVersation” refers to a combination of singing and conversation, a style fans will quickly recall as all her own: she sits effortlessly before her microphone, a brilliant flower in her hair, holding her guitar, conversing with the audience like she would with old friends and family. She calls it a “talkback session” – it is relaxed and easy – her way of bonding.
The album, which India says is meant to be “inspirational, accessible and truthful,” will feature more of this. But India says she imagines her album will also be giving her audience something to talk about. And some would say the conversation has already begun, as the appearance of lightened skin on her released album cover sparked an incendiary public response.
But the songbird who has always demonstrated a fierce passion for the beauty of her chocolate-brown down seems to be keeping it positive, despite confusion over the claims. Laughing good-naturedly when she mentioned the incident, India confided, “I was totally not expecting that. My team and I laughed about it; they said, ‘Well hey you said you wanted a conversation; now you have a conversation!’”
I have very little doubt any of this boat-rocking will sway India much, however. She seems more sure-footed than ever, and distinctly unafraid. She has been through the rough, emerging with the full shine of her inner glow and a new appreciation of her power. Reflecting on the last several years after she announced a retirement in 2009, India says she grew to realize she just had to rest her spirit.
“I was healing from disappointment…just trying to keep my balance. When I relaxed, that’s when I realized I didn’t want to quit, I just wanted to do it on my terms.”
Doing it on her terms means being in control of how she is managed. Along with her goals of becoming even better at singing, and better at making music and producing, India envisions achieving her highest potential as a businesswoman, aligning her creative talent with practical decisions that also empower her.
With a pointedness in her tone that highlights the gravity of her experiences in the music industry, India said, “The lyrics and my vocals have always been me, I was doing that on my terms. But the business part – how I got marketed – that wasn’t me.”
“I decided to take a chance to navigate my career on my own terms, I’m free to talk about what I want to talk about. I’ve never said anything I didn’t want to say, but there are a lot of things I’ve wanted to say that I didn’t. And now I’m not afraid.”
Re-focusing on her art, and allowing herself to find her own vision of success, India says her new lessons have changed her life. When asked what she does to keep herself grounded emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, the singer responded with some gems that we can certainly apply to our own lives.
India says she prays and meditates a lot. She is also sure to tell people how she feels, instead of holding things in. She says she does it gently, understanding that the truth hurts and sometimes we need to take our time with the way we express ourselves. She also gives herself what she needs. She is so often bound to schedules, and someone always has something for her to do – sometimes she has to put her foot down. “I give myself time to do the things I want to do…reading…dancing. I have to carve out time for myself and say I need this hour…self-care. That’s what it is. Self-care.” India also writes constantly. She says writing gives her a strong sense of peace and makes her feel good. She does a lot of journaling. Erupting in laughter, she emphasizes, “I mean a lot.”
The multi Grammy winning songstress has not only added a rare brightness to the music industry, her words and music have helped so many of us get through the darkest times, and know how truly amazing and powerful we each are.
We are waiting eagerly for more.