EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Syleena Johnson Talks Three New Albums, ‘Fix My Life,’ & more


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. 


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Exclusive: Syleena Johnson Gets Deep on Lack of Soul in Music + Talks New Album ‘Rebirth Of Soul’

One of R&B’s most authentic storytellers Syleena Johnson is not shy about recounting her trials and triumphs through her music. For more than two decades, the Chicago native has curated records that have brought joy and sweet pain to our hearts.

Deep and honest cuts like “Faithful to You,” “Apartment for Rent,” “Labor Pains,” and “Label Me” have championed women’s life stories while enlightening men on the day-to-day struggles of womanhood.

Johnson’s first and less documented release, This Time Together by Father and Daughter, premiered in the summer of 1995. The joint album – with her legendary father Syl Johnson – ignited her soulful stardom with songs “Keep on Loving Me” and “Piece of the Rock.”

Seven solo albums and one joint album later, the 41-year-old singer-songwriter pays tribute to her music genius of a father with her fall release,  Rebirth of Soul.

Along with the gearing up for the release of her new album, Johnson continues to secure her bag with television and health/wellness ventures.

During our 30-minute conversation, Johnson dished tribute album to her father, her new TV One talk show Sister Circle, her wellness brand SheLean and her favorite R&B artists now and more.

Check out the interview below.

Already, Sister Circle is capturing audiences across the nations — specifically women of color. How important is it for this new generation of black women to hear other black women like yourself and the other hosts empower and uplift each other?

If I can be frank, this show is important right now in a time where our current leadership is inadequate, unmotivating and sexist, which is causing our nation to adopt those undertones. In an entertainment field, where women — especially black women — are being exploited on television in such a negative way, Sister Circle is a breath of fresh air. We’re not perfect. We’re not walking around with halos. We’re still black women who have the same black women issues.

Our goal is to converse on these issues and show perspective from the African-American point of view in a bulk where the entire show is made up of African Americans. And Sister Circle is something that we don’t have right now in this climate where there are so many issues that pertain to us and our culture. It’s not black women directly. Black men, our sons. Black men, our husbands. Black men, our brothers.

What was it like having Wendy Williams, the contemporary Oprah of daytime, grace Sister Circle‘s inaugural show?

It was one of the biggest example of black women supporting each other. She’s the queen of daytime talk right now. By her being our very first guest, she pretty much blessed the show. She pretty much said, ‘I’m proud of you girls and you’re doing your thing.’ What more can you ask for? Other than Oprah Winfrey herself (laughs).

How does Sister Circle stand apart from other panel talk shows?

First of all, Sister Circle is live every day, five days a week. It’s the first all black panel talk show with no other nationalities. There is a male that represents the LGBTQ community which I have not really seen on any other talk show. Also, our hosts come from all walks of life which is really fun. Plus, we knew each other before starting the show which makes the chemistry really strong.

Recently, you started a health and wellness initiative, SheLean. Tell us about it. Also, did personal health motivate this new business venture? Or was this idea presented to you after the success of fitness DVD Mommy’s Got Soul?

No, it wasn’t personal health. Although SheLean was something that my best friend and I had already put together, what really put the fire under me is when I learned that every 4 out of 5 African American women, according to the CDC, are suffering from heart disease, type II diabetes and mild cancers. African-American women are also developing lupus and other different autoimmune diseases, which I believe is directly related to diet, poor rest and lack of vitamin and mineral content.

Also, the lack of education to be able to remedy this void plays a part. So with SheLean, the initiative is to educate the matriarch of the household, which is a woman, and in educating the woman you can help decrease childhood obesity, as well as obesity and obesity related disorders in minorities cultures, with African-American women and individuals being primary.

How do you resist food temptations and stay on a consistent workout regimen with your hectic work schedule?

During the five-day week, I eat clean. I need my energy and I need my stamina. Eating bad during the week will cause me to be sluggish and groggy. I allow myself a bad meal on maybe Friday and Saturday and then I go back to eating clean on Sunday. Like today, I had a glass of wine and a fried chicken burger. It was a good cheat meal for me (laughs).

I don’t go crazy though … like you won’t catch me eating a full pizza. I’m not really a sweets girl. I don’t get rid of temptations. I minimize them and I put them in my diet where it works. I think what happens is when people diet and they starve themselves it causes them to binge. That’s how they end up eating a whole pizza and ice cream (laughs).

Rebirth of Soul, out now, is an ode to your father, Syl Johnson. What was the overall recording process like?

It’s really easy working with my dad in the studio. So the recording process was awesome. It was all live instrumentation. On the Curtis Mayfield’s “The Makings of You,” there was a live harpist and string quartet in the studio. So live instrumentation was the most intriguing thing.

With a title like Rebirth of Soul, do you think soul has died in music? If so, why?

Yeah … and the reason I say yes is because soul is not a genre. When you’re singing soul music, you’re singing from your soul. And that means you’re singing from your story, your history, from the things that you’ve gone through. I think that the music today is talking about things that are way too surface. They’re not getting deep enough into the infrastructure of their spirit and soul. They’re not baring their soul in records anymore. A lot of artists are just taking a song that was written and they just sing it.

As far as the music you’ve heard this year, who’s music do you feel still embodies soul?

Mali Music. He’s my favorite right now. I listen to a lot of old music like Anita Baker, Sade, Earth Wind & Fire, Chaka Khan. Every morning when we come on set for Sister Circle we first listen to gospel. Then we merge to vintage R&B, which has been in my spirit lately. To be quite honest, I don’t even listen to the radio. I’m not really a fan of anything that’s out at all. I do like The Weeknd … sometimes. It’s the music that I like. It’s eerie. He reminds me of a male Sade in a way. He’s just not as poignant as her.

What’s your favorite cut on the new project? Also, out of all the covers, which did you want to nail perfectly?

My favorite cut on Rebirth Of Soul is Otis Redding’s “These Arms Of Mine.” I was so happy to do this record because it’s my favorite Otis Redding record. And the song I wanted to nail was “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin. I knew that people would compare me to Aretha Franklin, like they already have. I knew attempting a record of that caliber I had to shut it down. So what I set out to do was to do it exactly like her. I mean timing wise, run wise, range wise — as well as singing it in her key. To me that was the best way to pay homage, to show respect and to celebrate Aretha Franklin. She is truly the Queen of Soul.

Rebirth of Soul is available digitally for purchase and streaming now. Packed with 10 amazing covers, including Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” and “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James, this incredible body of work is definitely a collectors item.

Make sure to follow Syleena Johnson on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, follow Sister Circle TV on all social media platforms.

Meet R&B’s New ‘Pretty Girl’ Rhyon Brown

With roles in That’s So RavenLincoln Heights and Get Rich or Die Tryin, Rhyon Brown has made her mark in the film and television industry. Now the millennial entertainer is expanding her entertainment resume in the field of music.

Under the guidance of Grammy-nominated producer Harmony Samuels, the West Coast native is making waves with her debut album, Pretty Girl. Released last month on BOE Music Group/EMPIRE, the project features her catchy tune “California,” as well as her emotional track titled “Gone.” 

In support of her debut album, Rhyon released a short film with the same title. The premiere event attracted plenty of Hollywood influencers including Kofi Siriboe, Megan Good, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Paige Hurd, Tasha Smith, Keith Powers, Niecy Nash, Skye Townsend, Nicki Micheaux and Insecure’s Y’lan Noel, to name a few.

Rated R&B recently chatted with Rhyon about her debut album, working with Harmony Samuels, her short film and more.

Check out our interview below.

What is the inspiration behind your debut album Pretty Girl?

My inspiration initially was simply to be honest. I’ve been in the entertainment industry for a long time but this was my first introduction into the music industry and I knew the only way this would ever work was for me to be honest. People see through an artist not being who they are, fans are smart. Now, my inspiration has changed, and its to encourage people to recognize how great God has made them.

The album surprisingly doesn’t contain any features. Is this by coincidence or something you did purposely?

We didn’t have any features per say as far as my track list is concerned. I wanted to grow my fan base organically, with people finding me, liking my music and enjoying my message. I didn’t want people to like me only because I had another artist on my record that they were fans of. But I can say I have two songs graced with the presence of Andre Troutman, incredible artist and the best person I have ever had the pleasure of seeing work a talk box. No one does it better than him.

Along with your album, you have a short film. Tell us your experience creating that.

It was a rollercoaster. We pulled off a large feat with a group of very talented and dedicated people, but also a very small group. There were a lot of people wearing many different hats. Making this film and seeing how it is affecting people its literally a dream come true, but it took a lot of long days with very little sleep.

What is your definition of a Pretty Girl?

Someone that recognizes that her beauty isn’t found in anything this world can provide, and she shares that inspiring other people to feel and act the same way.

What’s your message to a girl who may not feel like she’s pretty?

The world does a really good job of telling women what they are supposed to look like and how they are supposed to feel, its not on the world to determine that for you. Being pretty is a choice, because everyone defines beauty differently. But when you choose to be pretty others will chose to look at you the same, because your belief makes it undeniable.

You’re signed to Harmony Samuels’ label BOE Music Group. How did you connect with him and is there anything you’ve learned about yourself while being under his wing?

I met him through someone that really believed in me that got Harmony Harmony to take a meeting, and rest was history from there. I’ve learned so much from him, the guy is a genius and one of the hardest working people I know. But its the fact that he’s a risk taker, and when God tells him something he’s willing to put everything on the line to make that happen and he reaps the benefits of that trust. So its made me be more of a risk taker, and more of a believer in my own purpose.

Although you may be new to music, you’re certainly not new to entertainment. Your acting resume continues to grow. Is there anything you’re currently filming that you can share with us?

My episode of Irv Gotti’s new BET show Tales actually just aired on October 24th.

Follow Rhyon on Instagram at @RhyonBrown. Stream Pretty Girl below.

Syleena Johnson Readies New Album ‘Rebirth of Soul’

Syleena Johnson is ready to reintroduce classic R&B songs using her voice. The singer has teamed up with her father and legendary musician/singer Syl Johnson for a new album called Rebirth of Soul. 

Scheduled for a November 10th release, Rebirth of Soul features Syleena’s rendition of R&B songs from the ’50s and ’60s. The songs were recorded in real time with live musicians just like the good ole days.

“The inspiration behind Rebirth of Soul is my father,” Syleena said in a press release. “I wanted to honor him and classic soul music in a time when auto tune and electronic beats reign supreme. While I am not against this kind of creative musicianship, there is so much more to the real thing. True Soul music tells stories…stories that can heal a nation.”

The first single from the album is “Make Me Yours,” which was originally recorded by Bettye Swann. The album will also include a mix of landmark and underrated R&B gems from back in the day.

“For each song I channeled the emotions of the record,” Syleena said. “I put myself in the mind of each storyteller and in doing this I was able to merge myself into the story of each record. This is how I was able to put my own personal stamp on each record.”

Over four years ago, in 2013, Syleena told Rated R&B about her plans to release a collaborative album with her father.

“The good thing about Rebirth of Soul is that it’s a timeless record,” she said. “It’s a remake album, so it can come out at any time.”

In other news, catch Syleena as a co-host on TV One’s new talk show Sister Circle weekdays at 9 a.m. local time.

Listen to “Make Me Yours” below.

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