If you are looking to crown someone Queen of Canadian R&B/Soul, look no further than the soulful Jully Black. But even after her Top 40 hits, high-profile TV correspondent gigs, and sharing of stages with international artists such as Patti Labelle and Destiny’s Child, being successful is something the talented Toronto-based singer-songwriter doesn’t take lightly. Now set to release her studio album, titled 8ight, this spring, Black talks about her music and career strategy for making it as a Canadian urban artist.
Q: At this point in your career, do you get to sit back and reflect on all that you’ve accomplished?
A: At this point, it’s really about where I’m at, right exactly now. I’ve really tapped into being the voice of the voiceless and being a true storyteller. How many times can you have your heart broken and still tell the same story? So now, it’s about being that personality. I connect with people online and on Facebook and my brand is broad enough to where people come to me and tell me their stories. I have to be smart and wise with that information so it can help others.
Listen to "Rally'n'" feat. Saukrates
Q: How strategic have you been in building your brand and ensuring career longevity in Canada?
A: At first it wasn’t strategic (laughs). But then the strategy kind of revealed itself. I started realizing that so many women look to me and realized the platform I have. I have to protect my brand because I have to maintain my image. If I tell women to go out and break the glass ceiling and go hard to fight for their dreams … I have to live up to that. (Being on) television has played a great part. It kind of fell in my lap. But the strategy that came out of it was to always be yourself. Whether they see you on TV, at the Juno Awards show or at [the supermarket], you have to always be yourself. Always be real.
Q: What are some of the key challenges of being an R&B/soul artist in Canada?
A: There are a lot of challenges: [fitting into the] radio format, having a hit song and being stereotyped as only a particular type of artist. And being so close to the U.S.A. − too many are looking for a copycat sound. That’s been a major challenge. It can be frustrating but it goes back to building that brand. I’ve been able to be seen as that singer-songwriter-journalist.
Listen to "Until I Stay"
Q: So how do we define that Canadian R&B sound?
A: Canada now has been put on the map with the success of Drake. R&B and hip hop are mixing and you’re hearing one big jambalaya now. So you’re hearing sounds like The Weeknd, Melanie Fiona and myself.
Q: What are your thoughts on the current music scene in Canada?
A: The Canadian scene right now is like summer camp. It’s about having fun. Artists are realizing that they are empowered by the internet to collaborate with artists in different genres. There’s a lot of change, it’s transforming, and those that can embrace the change will be OK. The younger generation, all they know is [free music]. If you can realize the value of putting out material and using your online fans to tell you if they like it or not, then there’s a lot a power to be had.
Q: 8ight was due to be released in 2011. What was the holdup?
A: It was about bringing back that hunger I had [when I first started]. I wanted all my songs to be fire and it didn’t matter how long it took. We’re in a singles-driven market and whether the album comes out now or more singles drop, the music is coming.
Ryan B. Patrick
on Feb 06, 2012