R&B songstress Syleena Johnson is a true grinder. The “Stone Wall” singer has worked her butt off to expand her brand through music, television and business ventures. Johnson recently visited Washington, D.C. for her concert at the legendary Howard Theatre. During her rehearsal break, we had a moment to talk to the Chicago native. During our interview, Johnson dished on her “9INE” project with Musiq Soulchild, her new album “Chapter 6: Couples Therapy,” her duet album with her father, her experience filming “Iylana: Fix My Life,” and more.
Check out our interview below.
You recently filmed “Iyanla: Fix My Life.” What was your experience like doing that?
That was a really good experience. I did that more so for me and my mom and my sisters because with my mom moving to Atlanta and my other sister already living in Atlanta, I just felt like it would be cool to have some clarity…living together at this age –and me having a husband and kids, is like having somebody try to come in your house and try to change stuff up, chile! So I wanted to be able to get some clarity with our relationship. Maybe it would help [my mom] recognize some things about herself, me recognize some things about myself, my sisters find some clarity about themselves…my dad is in it as well. I just thought it would be cool for our family because music is a big part of our family…
Do you have any other TV placements that you can talk about?
I just did an episode for Rickey Smiley for his sitcom, The Rickey Smiley Show, with Tamela Mann, Ann Nesby, and Darlene McCoy. We were auditioning for Mr. Willy, which is one of Rickey Smiley’s characters who has a singing group. We were called the Lamentations [laughs]. It was off the chain…from Pigskin, Tennessee…that was so much fun. Hopefully I will be able to get into more TV because that’s what I really want to do.
You and Musiq Soulchild have a new album called “9INE” coming out soon. How do you plan on promoting that project?
We’re going to kick [the tour] off in the UK. That’s our plan to have a big album release overseas. So that’s the start of it. And then we have a couple of booking agencies that are putting feelers out because we want to tour from this. And it won’t be just a tour of just this album. It will be a tour of what you know of Syleena Johnson and Musiq Soulchild — it’ll be the “9INE Tour” — but you’ll get our songs too. What we were thinking of doing, since it’s a reggae album, is putting reggae beats behind some of the songs that you know. It’s going to be cool. It’s going to be a great show.
“Feel The Fire” is the first single off the album. Are you guys going to shoot a video for it?
Absolutely. We were thinking late July for the video…probably come out the top of August.
What’s the concept?
We’re thinking very sexy, very slow motion, club, grimey in Miami, in the street…dirt bike.
Let’s talk about your sixth studio album titled “Chapter 6: Couples Therapy.”
I’m about six songs into it. [The album] is executive produced by Bangladesh. It’s really, really good. I’m really excited about it.
What was your creative direction for this album?
I’d like to say new soul/R&B. It’s not your average backpacker type music. It’s more mainstream but not too far away from the Syleena that you know. I like to dance in clubs and have a good time too because I’m only 36. So, in my show, I realized that I want to sing more about sexy songs, love songs, happy songs — I do better with kind of material.Most of the album is about love and making up.
I think it’s going to be awesome to show him in this light too because he can do so many things — he’s a hitmaker, clearly — but he can also do some other cool things inside of hits as well.
What songwriters did you work with on this album?
For this record, I’m not even trying to write songs like that. I probably wrote like four songs. I just want to come in and sing. I’m not really interested in writing. It’s almost like I got writer’s block. I wrote the “9INE” project with Musiq. I was struggling through that even. I just need a break from writing. I’ve written over 100 songs. I’m tired. I wanted to challenge myself and sing something else. But I challenge [the songwriters]. I say “I wouldn’t talk like that.” “Fix That, that’s not me.”
You also have an album with your father in the works called “Rebirth of Soul.” Can you share any details on that project?
We’ve got one more song to record. That’ll probably come out next year sometime. The good thing about “Rebirth of Soul” is that it’s a timeless record..It’s a remake album. So it can come out at any time.
What was it like recording three albums all at once?
Very difficult. Very stressful. I’ll never do that again. “The Rebirth of Soul” I didn’t have to do too much. I did most of that in season one of “R&B Divas.” But I did both “The 9INE Project” and “Chapter 6” at the same time — and taping “R&B Divas” and “Mommy’s Got Soul” DVD all at the same time — I didn’t get any sleep.
You have so many projects and ventures that you’re working on. How do you stay sane?
I don’t, which is why you have scenes like the last episode of “R&B Divas” [laughs]….actually, I’m all over the place and I’m trying to get organized. Organization is key.
Be sure to follow Syleena Johnson on Twitter @Syleena_Johnson.