You may know her, or you may not. But, if you’ve heard her sing, you surely haven’t forgotten about her. Though Syleena Johnson has been in the music game for many years, she still struggled to find her place in mainstream. But nowadays, she is worried about that. With her recent spot on TV One’s hit reality show, R&B Divas, a new live album that just hit stores and a new singing group under belt, Johnson is well on her way to getting her shine.
EBONY: Congratulations on your new album release!
Syleena Johnson: Thank you, I’m really blessed.
EBONY: How did you balance the music, R&B Divas and family life?
SJ: It was really hectic and I barley balanced it. I just hired a new assistant who is awesome! I’m just trying to get organized. That’s my main thing. Especially for season two of “R&B Divas”. Don’t quote me on that, it’s not set in stone. But I like to speak it into existence [laughs].
EBONY: Most artists these days aren’t bold enough to record live. What was the difference recording in a very intimate, live setting as opposed to recording in a studio?
SJ: It was different because it was quick. It was like recording the whole album in one day. When you record a studio LP, it’s a lot more tedious. The live album was way easier because you get to be yourself. If you listen to the record, I’m not perfect, but it’s me. I think a live album is a great representation of my true artistry and what I bring to music.
EBONY: How has been trying to remain relevant in a musical pop culture takeover?
SJ: I don’t think so much about staying relevant, but more so staying connected with my fans. I just do me. I stopped that whole trying to be young crap years ago. I’m me. It is what it is, and my goal is to stay connected to my fans. If that’s not good enough for the popular mainstream world, I don’t know what to say.
EBONY: One would assume being on reality TV show is helping you remain connected to fans. Were you at all nervous about opening up your personal life on “R&B Divas?”
SJ: I wanted my fans to see me and get to know me. When you’re mainstream and you’re on awards shows all the time, your song is playing off the wall and you’re doing tons of interviews and what not, people really get to know you. I’ve never had that exposure. So I never got a chance to be Syleena at a capacity where people could buy into me. “R&B Divas” is a vehicle that allows people to get to know Syleena as a person. I want people to know that I love music. I want people to know that I’m passionate about it; I live for it. I was excited about the opportunity, not nervous.
EBONY: Reality TV has its pros; you can gain so much exposure. I think it opens up the doors for new fans to meet you as well. But it also opens up the your vulnerability too. Were you ever on edge about your “not-so-good” side coming out?
SJ: There were times where I wanted to go off, I’m not going to lie to you. But, I’m the type of person that will laugh before I cry. It takes a whole lot to really ruffle my feathers. I’m not easily moved. The only people that can take me on are my parents, because they are off the chain! As I’m maturing, I’m starting to understand that you have to take people for who they are. So I was able, with great patience, and prayer, to dissect situations before I reacted to them on the show, and I’m glad that I did that.
EBONY: How are your relationships on and off the show? Are you all close? Do you all still hang out when you’re not filming?
SJ: Absolutely, we are all friends. While the show is going on, we’ll be like, “girl look at your hair” or “girl, look how greasy I am!’ Yes, we go back and forth with each other. Some of us more than others, but not because we don’t like each other. It’s because that’s our personalities. Faith is not getting ready to go back and forth with us. Faith is very laid back. But Kiki and I will be dead laughing at jokes, talking about ourselves. I’ll call her say things like: “look how fat I look!” You know, doing women stuff. Monifa is going to give you a perspective speech, that is just who she is. But she has jokes too; don’t get her twisted. Nicki is consistently talking about herself the whole time! We have to spend 15 hours telling her, “Nicki it’s not that bad, Nicki it’s not a big deal”!
We are always communicating, it’s just like if you have friends that you don’t talk to for like a month and you get on the phone with them and you pick up right where you left off. That’s the kind of friendships we have.
EBONY: Can you update us on your future upcoming projects? Is there a tour in the works or current entrepreneurial projects you’d like to share?
SJ: Yes, first of all I have an amazing R&B super group called Lake Shore under me. I like to call them a “super group” because each person is a soloist that came together to form a group. It’s like putting Jill Scott, Ledisi and myself in a group. So they’re not a game. It’s like when Tyrese, Tank and Ginuwine did their group thing. They are from Chicago and they sing back up for me. So I’m working on them right now, trying to get them established. I’m also doing a fitness DVD series called Mommies Got Soul. Obviously, I’m a mom and one of my best friends has four children and both of our husbands play basketball overseas. It was so hard for both of us to get good workouts in as new moms. So we created are own work out series. Mommies Got Soul is a workout DVD for moms trying to get their bodies back. The purpose is to have the moms gradually losing the weight with us. The Mommies Got Soul series also has nutrition tips and all that cool stuff! Now, I’m just trying to find a distributor for that. Lastly, I obviously have R&B Divas. My new album called Rebirth of Soul will be releasing overseas digitally. I’m just super, duper busy. As far as shows, I actually have a show coming up in New York on October 26th and one Chicago in November. So I’m constantly booking up on my calendar.
EBONY: How can fans connect with you and get all of your updates?
SJ: They can follow all of my social media outlets. Follow me on twitter @Syleena_Johnson and my Facebook name is Seleena Johnson Official. They can also go to my website: Syleenamusic.com. Follow me on Instagram at SyleenaJohnson. And please go out and get the R&B Divas compilation CD, which is in stores and online.