By Janice Malone
Award-winning singer-songwriter India.Arie will make her Nashville orchestral debut this week, as she joins the Nashville Symphony to perform selections from her 20 years-plus career of hit songs. The performances will take place on November 14 and 15th at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. (tickets info. https://www.nashvillesymphony.org/IndiaArie)
These concerts are a part of her 2019 “Worthy Tour” in honor of her new critically acclaimed hit album, ‘WORTHY.’ And what an apropos title for both the album and the tour. Ms. Arie is a four-time Grammy-winning artist whose music has stood the test of time. From her early hit favorites “Video” and “I Am Not My Hair,” Ms. Arie is responsible for some of the most thought-provoking songs of her generation. These songs have included enduring messages of healing, love and compassion. Let’s not forget how she told an entire generation, especially females, that’s it’s okay and beautiful to have brown skin, thanks to her smash hit single “Brown Skin.”
Currently, after 18 years, Ms. Arie is once again atop the music charts with her latest hit song “STEADY LOVE.” It’s her first career No. 1 song on Billboard’s Adult R&B list. Here, India.Arie chats more about her upcoming concert and her music:
QUESTION: Congratulations on hitting number one on Billboard.
ARIE: Thank you! I think it’s always more exciting when it’s not expected because it has been 18 years. But I keep making music because I love to, not because it’s been easy, because the music industry can sometimes be hurtful and harmful. But it’s the vehicle that we have to use to get our music out there in a big way so, I keep doing it. I didn’t think I was going to have any sort of number one hit or anything like that for me but I do what I do because I love it…We don’t hear a lot of songs on the radio like Steady Love, that are about relationships. We hear about strife or young love or new love or that real hot passionate love. But we don’t hear about grown-up love and what it feels like to be with somebody for a while or a long time. I think singing about that kind of love just feels good and it feels right.”
QUESTION: Have you had fans say to you “Hey, I got married to your Steady Love song, or I proposed during the playing of the song, or I made a baby during this song?
ARIE: I haven’t heard the baby one yet (she laughs). But I have heard couples using it for the first wedding dance and someone made an engagement video. Someone just recently called me to ask if I would sing it for their first dance. The bride is in her late 40s and it’s her first time getting married. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it or not. But I’ve been hearing more and more couples using the song as a first wedding dance song.
QUESTION: I understand that you now live in Nashville full time.
ARIE: Yes. I’ve been living here since 2017. But I’ve always been in and out of Nashville, recording music and writing songs. Many, many years ago I took a Greyhound bus from Atlanta to Nashville, to write songs with Blue Miller (producer/musician/songwriter). He was the Miller half of the Gibson/Miller Band. I started my career off with him and continued to work with him. Blue just passed away last August so I’ve been working through that loss. It’s been tough. I would always go back to work with Blue, and also with Shannon Sanders (Grammy-winning producer/songwriter). He’s been working with me since the beginning of my career too. Shannon’s been my musical director for over 20 years. And so, Nashville’s always been my second musical home base. I love the city!
QUESTION: Other than the calendar year, what’s the main difference between the India.Arie who recorded the beautiful hit songs “Brown Girl” and “I Am Not My Hair?”
ARIE: I think the main difference is spiritual maturity. The more you live, the more you know and depending on how you process it, the way you process the wisdom you gain, is what makes you the person you are. And my music is obviously very reflective. It’s like that because I’m like that. I’ve had a very reflective experience. Over these last 20 years, I’ve like really looked at everything I’ve gone through and I feel like the woman that it’s made me into is someone who has a better understanding of human nature. I have a better understanding of my value. And I am happier. What I have learned is that if I’m pleased with things in the big scheme of things, then I can feel good and I’m happier…
QUESTION: You’re performing this week at the Schermerhorn with the Nashville Symphony. What is that like for you?
ARIE: I’ve performed twice with symphonies. I got to sing one song at a Nobel Peace Prize event, and last year I sang three songs with a symphony in Alabama for an event. But this weekend here in Nashville will be my first time doing a whole performance of my songs with a symphony. I don’t know what it’s going to be like, but I am quite excited. I keep telling myself to stay focused. Because I feel like I’ll be so distracted by how beautiful and rich the music will be. For me, the gift to sing with the symphony is that you get to hear your songs in this really big lush way. So, I feel like I’m gonna be distracted by how beautiful it will all sound. I’ve got to make sure I stay as focused as possible though. But I am plenty of excited about these upcoming shows. I’m inviting everyone to come out to hear us.