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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Exclusive Interview: Jody Watley Finds Joy in 'Shalamar Reloaded' and Peace in Addressing Her Nay Sayers

 

(Jody Watley Video Still 2016)

(ICYMI- Jody Watley is just about as iconic as they come and she's also loaded with peace, love and positivity. She'll be the first to tell you that "it's in the music" and so you need to check out this recent interview about her brand new project- SRL- Shalamar Reloaded.)

When I say the name Jody Watley a number of things may rush to the forefront of your mind. Grammy winner. Fashion icon. Soul Train and Shalamar. Eighties dance diva and of course, those hoop earrings. Even now, if you happen to catch her onstage during an energetic Freestyle Explosion set she's all sass and class. Seeing Watley perform live this past summer left me feeling like I had been handed a gift, that it was a real privilege to see her do her thing onstage. Offstage Watley exudes a peaceful, Zen-like energy that you feel even before you see that she has entered the room. It was an honor to be able to grab a few minutes of her time this past week to discuss her excitement over Shalamar Reloaded, her love for her kids and the need for people to lift each other up rather than bullying from behind a computer screen.

Cate Meighan: You've raised some eyebrows lately by finally addressing the rumors and internet trolls that have chased after you for a long time. Why did you choose to speak up now?

Jody Watley: Sometimes after you choose to stay publicly silent for awhile there comes a need to speak. I needed to say what I needed to say because the lack of fact-checking has lead to lies being spread on the internet, radio and television. I could only be thrown under the bus so much before I had to address it. I decided to deal with it in a way that establishes the fact that I have absolutely nothing to be angry about because I've enjoyed a very successful career on multiple platforms. I also wanted to try and disarm the notion that I'm some angry black woman while looking at our societies need to stereotype strong women as something negative.

C.M.: Your piece was clearly written by a strong and well-educated woman.

J.W.: Thank you. My mom actually called after reading that piece, to tell me that she thought that it was well-spoken. I've always been a writer by nature and an avid juournaler. It was written at a point in time when our first lady was taking some heat and some members of our women's Olympic gymnastic team were under heavy scrutiny and comedian Leslie Jones had been hacked and publicly shamed. I really hope that people will think about the damage that a lie or negative perception can lead to, especially when the target isn't given an opportunity to respond from the very start.

That's one of the reasons why I included the screen captures of real hostility from real people that have attacked me from behind their computer screens. It makes it a little more real when you read the person's actual words rather than just have them reiterated to you. A lot of it comes from other women that are for whatever reason, disappointed in themselves and want to bring others down with them. Women do this to each other instead of spreading support and joy. It's a conversation that needs to be had.

C.M.: Tell me about your latest endeavor, Shalamar Reloaded (SRL).

(Shalamar Reloaded Official Photo: Rosero McCoy, Jody Watley, Nate Allen Smith)

J. W.: Well, once I finally got the trademark it finally put an end to all kinds of false advertising. I knew that I wanted to take something familiar but put a new spin on it so there you have Shalamar Reloaded. I wanted to invest in new music videos and make a strong statement with whatever we put out. I've known Rosero McCoy since 1998 and working with him has always brought a lot of joy to my life. Nate Allen Smith beat out hundreds of other talented guys. He is our heart-throb (laughing). He is also just so humble and talented that it makes him a perfect fit for Shalamar Reloaded. It's really a collaboration when it comes to writing the songs. I feel like it's a gift from the universe to have a group experience that is this enjoyable. We really want to be together, we weren't just thrown together by other people and told to make it work.

C.M.: SRL has a new video coming out soon, right?

J.W.: Yes, “The Mood” will be released on Monday, Sept. 26th. It was filmed in Hawaii and was a lot of fun to make. We'll be teasing it a little earlier than that. “The Mood" will be featured on our upcoming full length album, Bridges.

 

C.M.: Aside from your work with SRL, you've also popped up on the Freestyle Explosion tour now and then with a bunch of other 80's divas such as Expose` and Lisa Lisa (of Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam). I caught the Philadelphia show and you absolutely brought the house down.

(Freestyle Explosion- Philadelphia 8-2016)

J.W.: (Laughing) Thank you! People often seem to be surprised by my performance on that tour. I just bring in some dancers and try to create a contemporary moment with some of my old music. I try to serve up fashion, fun and a fierce performance. I do remember that show and we really did have a lot of fun. That whole experience is pretty amazing because this group of artists with decades of success really does get along. We enjoy doing these shows together because it's such positive freestyle vibe. The audiences really get into it and that makes it a lot of fun.


C.M.: You're always juggling a few different projects at once it seems. Is there a real plan behind-the-scenes or do you just kind of go with it?

J.W.: Both (laughing). There is always a framework to what I'd like to accomplish but then I do just go with things as they come along. SRL is my priority right now and finishing our album. But then Jody Watley as a solo artist is always going to be around because as Nate and Rosero say, I'm “the engine that makes it all go”.

C.M.: You've had so many huge, career defining moments that anyone can find out about if they take a glance at Wiki. I've learned that the quieter, in-between moments often mean more after everything is said and done. Has that been the case for you?

(Classic family portrait: Jody with children Arie and Lauren)

J.W.: Yeah, you're right. Being able to take breaks over the years so that I could raise my son and daughter has just meant the world to me. Playing dolls and superheros, going to the park and making Santa cookies- those things have kept me grounded. My daughter is the first college graduate in our family and my son is in college now as well, studying business and finance.  To send two people out into the universe to achieve their own dreams has been my bigger purpose. It's such a challenge to work with kids but I didn't miss the most important things, being there along the way for them. Being popular with my kids has mattered most of all. I'm a real mom and now I'm getting to have my fun with SRL!

C.M.: Tell me something that you really want your fans to know.

J.W.: I'm a hell of a cook (laughing)! Well, I am but... As long as we're alive it's never too late to go down new paths and to try different things. Our world is so youth-obsessed, stop comparing yourself to others and find your joy. Forget your age, feel good and enjoy your journey. Stay excited about what's next because it's a gift to be here! Love and let yourself be loved.


Upcoming Tour Dates for Jody Watley and Shalamar Reloaded:


October 8- Atlanta Pride
 Sat. 4 PM Piedmont Park, Atlanta, GA

October 14-16- Blues Alley
 Washington DC

November 11- Yoshi's Oakland
 Fri. 6 PM in Yoshi's Oakland, Oakland, CA


Check out Jody Watley:

(Photo: Albert Sanchez 2016)


 

Check out SRL:



2 comments:

  1. Such a inspiration interview.msad part is, those who are so blinded by their krumpus spirit will miss the positivity as you and SRL continue walking in to the sunset of success. Those others are talking loud and saying nothing, but you're the only one the Press is taking too... Jody you pulled a 187 on those fools and they're DOA and don't even no it. Just dead men walking!

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  2. So many nuggets of truth and inspiration. Thank you for once again sharing realness. And... LOVE THE VIDEO nuggets.
    SRL Reloaded Rocks! Love the music and sharing

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