The Unstoppable Jully Black

The Unstoppable Jully Black
Photo: Ivan Otis

For Jully Black, it’s not the striking photo of her toned legs strongly extending from a Foley mini that makes her latest album cover grab your attention. Rather, it’s the title, Revival, bold in its place beside her sexy frame that comes out with the strength and truth of what lies behind it.

Revival, Black’s sophomore disc, marks not only a musical, but also a personal renewal. There is fresh breath in Black’s sound, as she pulls slightly away from her hip-hop past and taps deeper into an R&B groove, and there is a discovery of new vocal range, undeniable in each of Revival’s eleven tracks; but the truest evidence of Ms. Black’s coming of age, is in the woman herself.

These days, Jully Black knows who Jully Black is, and she’s become much more than just a singer/songwriter. Since 2004, she’s done theatre, acted on television, become the CEO of Jully Black Entertainment, and gained the role of celebrated correspondent for CTV’s eTalk. “I hate to get all Laws of Attraction-ish on you, but when you speak it, it definitely comes to pass,” the Canadian star explained of her success. And so as she goes on to speak of future goals, like seeing Canadian hip-hop hit the world stage and having her own talk show one day, it’s best to take her seriously.

Flare.com: You blogged on your website that October 16th, Revival’s release date, was the best day of your life. Why is it this album, as opposed to your first album, that’s creating such a special moment for you?
JB: Now that there’s a point of reference, from the last album to this one, I realize how much I missed the first time. It’s almost like a second chance to really soak everything up, and feel what it’s like to trust yourself and your team. I’m finally at a place where I’m comfortable with all the different aspects of Jully.

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Flare.com: Well a “revival” does tend to be a positive change. Does this album fully represent that for you?
JB: Oh yeah! It’s nice to now be able to embrace every part of my voice. Growing up, I’ve always been an alto. When Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love” came out, I was in middle school and I couldn’t hit that note, so I was like, “what do I do now?”—even in choir, the sopranos were the loudest and got the most attention. But there’s been such a revival with my sound on this record, because I’m finally happy with it. I’ve come into my own. I finally have vocal control, whereas before I didn’t want to embrace that I could control the tones of my voice. Listening back objectively to [the album] now, the tone of my voice on “Mystery” versus “Never Lost My Sight”, is like night and day.

Flare.com: So what helped you find that range?
JB: Theatre. I did 106 shows (of Da Kink In My Hair), so I had to sing night after night, eight shows a week, six days a week. I had to discipline myself to go to sleep, and to not speak when I didn’t have to. I basically trained like a vocal athlete. It’s like if you do bicep curls, your bicep is gonna get stronger, and it totally paid off with Revival.

Flare.com: And how was it working with Keith Harris (the Black Eyed Peas’ drummer, who produced Revival)?
JB: It’s been awesome working with Keith Harris. He’s basically a musical genius, so I had to step up my game in the studio and not psych myself out. He plays every instrument, so I had to make my voice do as many things as the amount of instruments that he plays. It was friendly competition and it totally helped to revive my voice.

Flare.com: In the liner notes, you speak to him very openly. You get very personal there and in the content of the album lyrically. Is that something that you’re comfortable doing?
JB: Archive my blog and you’ll know! Yeah, I’m comfortable. That’s my therapy. I feel that it’s such a blessing that I’m comfortable having a sense of normalcy and sharing that I’m just like everybody else. I think that’s what’s helped me to attract my fan base, especially the women. Through e-mails they tell me that what I’ve said has helped them face what they needed to face, so while I’m blogging to help myself and get it off my chest, it’s been helping so many other people to heal and move forward.

Flare.com: Well it takes a lot of courage and a lot of confidence to do that, and in person, the first thing that people will notice about you is that you carry yourself with a lot of confidence. Is that something that you’ve grown into?
JB: Well, I’m 5’11” so sometimes my confidence just comes across from me being so tall! But really, I’ve known from a very young age that I’m going to be living with myself forever, so if I’m not comfortable with myself, then I may as well call it a day. People don’t know what’s going on until you tell them, and people can’t see my past because it only lives in my head, so I’m very much a “shoulders back, head up” [kind of gal]. Confidence is sexy. There are people that are so beautiful in the face, but they’re not sexy because they’re not confident. That’s where I carry my sexiness in my opinion—in my confidence.

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Flare.com: Well you also carry it in your hot body. You look amazing and seem to have gone through a real transformation in your look and style—the silver dress in the “Seven Day Fool” video, as just one example.
JB: (laughing) Thank you. It’s interesting. I’ve been 5’11” since I was 11 years old—literally. I grew very quickly and then I just stopped. So, imagine right? What it was like in middle school being the giant. I wasn’t looked upon as beautiful or sexy—I just used my height to be an athlete. That’s what gave me popularity. So it’s a full circle moment for me to have people compliment me on my physical appearance when I never looked at myself that way—ever. That’s what helps me be, like in the lyrics of “Queen” (the third track off of Revival), when I talk about being “the lady, the woman, the queen”, I feel like I can relate to everybody, because once upon a time…

Flare.com: In terms of your style evolution, do you pay attention to the runways or is it more about personal style?
JB: I’d be lying if I said that I did. I have a stylist and best-friend, Peter Papapetrou who’s been my everything, especially between records. He discovered my music before he knew what I looked like and wanted to work with me based on my sound. I’ve always had my own sense of style, but what you see now, that’s Papa, and that’s Canadian designers—Izzy Camilleri and Arthur Mendoça especially. I always love to represent them as much as possible because Canada’s hot, man, Canada’s hot! And I relate to the Canadian fashion industry, because on the world map, I feel like it’s still in its infancy, much like Canadian R&B music. I look forward to the day when Canada’s music and fashion are on the world’s stage.

Flare.com: Canadian hip-hop and R&B are still relatively young, as far as the rest of North America, but it definitely feels as though it’s starting to get somewhere. This summer there was the Manifesto Festival here in Toronto, celebrating Canadian hip-hop, and now your album is getting a lot of attention—do you feel like there’s a build-up happening?
JB: Absolutely. It’s in its infancy, but it’s nice to see that we’re all running in parallel lanes, like Kardinal, K-Os, Choclair, and Sokrates—all of the people I grew up with. We’re basically walking on the road that we’re paving, so when we feel sometimes that we’ve made a mistake or that it’s taken too long [for Canadian hip-hop and R&B music to catch on], who are we to say that it’s taken too long, when it hasn’t been done before? When I first came on the scene and started to get booked, some promoters were weary because they just weren’t ready. The perception of hip-hop wasn’t very positive. Basically it was ignorance, so for those of us who stuck to it and decided to be the positive faces, now things are a lot better. Hip-hop in this day and age is actually “hip-pop”. It’s the new rock as far as record sales. So I think it’s a matter of embracing our own in Canada and being proud of it, because Kanye West sells records in Canada, so it’s not like we don’t want it.

Flare.com: Lastly, you are so natural in your role as a correspondent for eTalk.  Was television always a goal of yours?
JB: I’ve always said that I want a talk show, which I still do one day, but you know it’s interesting: if you just trust your life, it’ll show you what you’re supposed to do.

Revival is in stores now. For more info, visit www.jullyblack.com

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