India Arie was 25 years old when she first came into the music business. Labeled a neo-soul singer, the talent who has the ability to write, sing and play the guitar, was pigeonholed. The complaint is made by many artists, that the label or some other external force put them into a box. But spend ten minutes with Arie, and it’s clear, she’s so much more than a singer.
On Friday, Arie’s first extended play dropped called SongVersation. Admittedly, the name may sound a little kumbaya-y, but the singer explained that 1) She doesn’t care and 2) It’s the literal meaning of what the album is suppose to do for the listener.
“Everybody has a spiritual body,” she said noting Iyanla Vanzant’s words. “Everybody has a physical body, and so your spiritual body is the stuff that holds all of your emotions like your body holds your organs, your food, your muscles, your water. Your spiritual body holds your emotional state and your mental state.”
“You wash your hands when you shake a bunch of hands. You have to wash your energy when you’re around people. It’s hard for me to say self-care is washing, although, I think it is.”
“So I made music for self-care. That’s what it’s for. That space whether you get a yoga mat or not, and it’s meant to create an energy in the room. I don’t know what anybody’s gonna see —but that’s my intention.”
Naturally, the conversation transitioned from self care to coping with everyday violence and pain we witness as Black Americans. As one of the most woke artists we know, it was surprising to hear that she doesn’t love the term.
“I’m actually not a fan of the word ‘woke’,” said the 40-year-old. “I think the connotation of that means being socially aware, which is a beautiful thing to be. But it does not take into account being self-aware. People are just out there. You know what I mean? They’re well-meaning because we’re upset and we have a lot of fear. We want to change the world, but you don’t go out there until you fortify yourself. You don’t go outside without your clothes.”
Adding, “As much as people look at me and think, ‘Well, she’s woo woo and she does that [meditation practice]’. I look at them and think, ‘That’s strange,’ just the same. What I learned is you need both. You need to take care of you and fortify yourself, and then move out to take care of others.”