Jill Scott is very happy to be your shade tree psychologist. She understands that as a musician—the kind who makes psychotherapy-like anthems that assist through breakups, make-ups and those real nasty moments where a happy hour special isn’t quite enough—that’s her role.
Bear with her, she pleads, as she tweaks her next therapeutic session in the form of her fifth studio album. She has no idea when it’ll be done. Because in Jilly from Philly’s world, it ain’t done until it’s done. But she’s working steadily on it. Know that.
Still, if you need a hit of something from Jill, why not check her out on the big screen?
Starting September 27, she co-stars as the sexy BFF flight attendant girlfriend to Paula Patton in the Black ensemble romantic comedy Baggage Claim. The film is hilarious and Jill is… everything you want her to be.
She’s happy that the loyal fans who flock to see her rock it out onstage at her live shows are happily following her film career. The first dozen or so responses to a social media call out for Jill Scott interview questions all had to do with her as an actress.
“Ah! People are paying attention, which is really awesome,” she says, after hearing about those Facebook and Twitter questions dealing with her acting career. “You sometimes do things and it feels like it goes unnoticed. This feels great that the audience is interested in me as an actress.”
Here’s what else Jill shared.
EBONY: Not every singer has been able to transform themselves as an actor. Talent aside, sometimes the audience simply won’t allow it. Why do you think that the work you’ve turned in so far has been so memorable?
Jill Scott: I love to act. I’ve been acting for 21 years now, and I’m into everything from Shakespeare to Arthur Miller. I really enjoy the work. It’s hard work because you have to let so much of yourself go, but I’m really happy that people are interested in seeing me. I always wanted to be a renaissance woman, do as many things as I possibly can and hopefully do them well or don’t do them at all.
EBONY: You turned in a really fun performance in Baggage Claim. What made you say yes to this?
JS: The script was good. I felt like anybody could be a part of this cast. It didn’t have to be an African-American cast, it could have been anybody. It was just a really good story, because who can’t identify with trying to find love? Everybody’s looking for love and you want to love somebody and be loved in return. I think a lot of us at this point—late 30s and early 40s—are ready. And the cast, you can’t beat that! When I was told who was cast, I was like, “Just get me in it!” Somehow, someway, I wanted to be a part of this.
EBONY: This is a very sexy look for you, the sexiest we’ve seen you on the silver screen. To see a sexy, curvy woman on the silver screen doesn’t really happen.
JS: I think that’s fantastic. There’s more of us than there are of them! Seriously, in America there are more big, curvy girls than there are little girls, and men love us too. We’re sex symbols too, so there should be no reason not to cast a fuller girl to play someone who is just sexy.
I saw Gayle as sexy, but I really just saw her as a person and that was just a part of her. She’s quick-witted, she’s silly, and she could care less about love. There needed to be an antithesis of Paula Patton’s character. There had to be. Gayle fit the bill so well and it was written so well. I’m always down to celebrate women with curves and I don’t think—for me, anyway—it’s all about showing everything you got. But Gayle’s a little loose with it and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed being her. I wish there was more cleavage and I wish there were shorter skirts and I wish they gave me more to do because I would’ve done it. And I would’ve enjoyed it too!
EBONY: Is there any bit of Jill Scott in Gayle at all?
JS: There’s always some of me in there! But that’s the me you don’t see. That’s my man’s Jill. Nobody really ever sees her except him!
EBONY: Is acting taking precedence right now, or is it fighting against your love of music?
JS: I’m working on two albums at the same time, and it’s proving to be a lot more challenging than I initially thought. But I’m still in it to win it. I’ve completed most of the Lullaby album that I did with Robert Glasper and John Roberts—my son’s father—and it was literally the best number I’ve heard in my life! The Lullaby album is not like any lullaby you’ve ever heard, and they’re all original pieces.
Then I’m working on a studio project with David Banner and 9th Wonder and Leo, and I have been going back and forth. He’s been on tour, so it’s been a little challenging, but we’re writing and… I don’t even want to say who I’ve done a song with because I don’t want to ruin it for you. I’ll just say it’s a California rapper.
EBONY: That’s easy to figure out, then. So what’s inspiring you these days?
JS: Change. I’m looking for change. I’m listening to music, I’m looking at us as women and how we’re behaving. I’m looking at our love relationships. I’m looking at our children. I’m looking at myself. I’m looking at this industry. I am really paying attention to everything around me and I’m interested in some change.
EBONY: Change is good.
JS: That means that the music is different, because it has to change. It means that melodically I’m going to be different. My background vocals are gonna be different, like I’m changing. I have to change things, particularly to say the things that I’m about to say.
EBONY: And where is this new Jill Scott coming from? Maturation? Or did something happen that made you shift gears?
JS: I do have a 4-year-old, and he’s forcing me to look at myself and look at the world that I’ve been gifted to bring him into. And I’m just watching us and I love us so much, so deeply. You know, humanity is an incredible thing. I just want us to get better. And not to say that I know everything or I’m the expert on how to do this, that and the other. I’m just saying that we’re human beings and there’s a journey to take, and we all need to hop on this bus, this plane, this boat, whatever. We’ve got to get somewhere else, musically and otherwise.
EBONY: I think all musicians have the ability to be therapists, but your music soothes in a real way, and that’s why it resonates the way it does with fans.
JS: Thank you! The music is intended to be medicinal. It’s always intended to be medicinal. I’ll put it to you like this. I listened to Billie Holiday [as a kid]. I didn’t get it. I didn’t like it until I got my feelings hurt. When I got my feelings hurt, it was like she opened up my soul and was talking for me and speaking through me and the tone of her voice was everything I felt. The music is depending on where you are at the time.
My intention is to make music that you can enjoy at all times. But there’s definitely gonna be some songs that affect you when you need them to. Some people have just got caught on to “Show Me,” you know from my first record. And they’re like, “Did you say…?” And I’m like, “I sure did!” But that’s what I enjoy most about my music, that it heals in its own time and makes us look at ourselves in its own time.
I don’t want to force anything on anyone. I’m not trying to bust you over the head and make you buy this record or this song or whatever. I’m presenting it to you so you can take it in. You know, it’s like trying to force a kid to eat broccoli. If I present it as trees that make your muscles grow, my son is like, “I’m down with getting muscles.” You know? It’s about the presentation. I have some things to say about a lot, but I would rather be my crazy than everybody else’s sane anyway.
EBONY: Are you happy with the state of R&B music?
JS: I don’t know that there is any R&B music right now. Is there? I don’t know. I just know what I like. I’m paying attention to Robert Glasper because it’s creative and different, and if there is any R&B music, it’s coming from him. It’s got some jazz and some funk and it’s, you know, real music. It’s really musical. There’s a lot of pop, and some of it I really enjoy. I’m loving J. Cole’s record. I’m still sweating The Game’s record.
EBONY: So when this fifth studio album comes out, will that be R&B for you, or will that be something else?
JS: I hope you’ll call it something else. I’ma just call it real spit. Accept that. Just real spit! I have not forgotten that I’m a poet first, and this is the reason why the music is taking so long, because it matters so much to me what I say to you. I just want to be able to get it right. I want to be able to say something that taps into something. Whether it pisses you off or whatever, I gotta sing this stuff for the rest of my life, so it matters to me.
I wish that I made music just for people, but fortunately or unfortunately, I make it for myself too. I’m trying to grow. In my head and in my heart, I’m on some grow or die. And I don’t want to die so I gotta grow. I hope my audience follows me, and I hope I gain some new folks too. We’ll see what happens.