When Jill Scott came on the music scene a little more than a decade ago, she wanted to let the world know who she was — so much so that she named her debut album Who Is Jill Scott? Since then, the Philadelphia native has won three Grammys, sold 5 million records worldwide, and starred in a number of movies and TV shows — from the Tyler Perry film Why Did I Get Married? to the HBO series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.
Now Scott is back in the music mix with a new album, out this Tuesday, called The Light of the Sun. She tells Weekend All Things Considered guest host Laura Sullivan that while some moments on the record are mysterious and others deeply personal, her decisions about what to reveal in a song are rarely premeditated.
"Not everything is up for conversation; not everything is up for art. But do I really discern what is and what's not? That's the question," she says. "Particularly with this record, I've really just been standing in front of the microphone and blacking out musically. I come back a couple hours later and there's six songs from beginning to end."
Scott's character in Why Did I Get Married? is a woman who endures a lot of emotional abuse at the hands of a philandering husband. She says that singing songs about heartbreak, like the Light of the Sun track "Hear My Call," is a bit like acting in that it requires getting inside a character.
"I know I'm not the only one who's ever felt lost and confused by a broken heart," she says. "[That song is] actually very difficult for me to sing live, because I have to embody those things in order to give permission to everyone in the audience to feel something."
Scott doesn't play an instrument herself, so she relies on a trusted team of musicians to help bring the songs into being. She says the process is more about creating a mood than following any specific structure.
"I give them the beat with my mouth, I give them the notes, and then I describe the textures," says Scott. "I tell them, 'It's in the South. It's hot. There's mosquitoes everywhere and you're drinking corn liquor to keep them away. And your favorite woman — not your only woman — has decided that she's going to marry somebody else. Now play.'"