When it comes to politics and love, India.Arie makes sure they live in perfect harmony on her latest effort, “Testimony Vol. 2: Love & Politics.” The Georgia Peach whose musical grassroots sprouted from local open mic sessions, has manifested a global impact with her conscious, uplifting anthologies. Even President Obama chose the southern flower child’s inspirational anthem “Hope” to convey his message throughout his campaign trail and election. ESSENCE.com caught up with the two-time Grammy-winning, folk soulstress who revealed why your man should always be your friend, the Grammy blackout, and her desire to represent young Black America.
ESSENCE.COM: When it comes to your testimony on love and politics what is the one valuable lesson you’ve learned about each?
INDIA.ARIE: The valuable lesson I’ve learned about love is that your [mate] should also be your friend. I’ve heard that all my life while listening to Luther Vandross and fantasizing about that special someone, but I only learned that between my last relationship and [current] one that couples should really be friends. You can like someone and not love them and love someone you don’t like. For me, being friends with my man is non-negotiable because I believe it helps you have a deep respect for one another. And what I’ve learned about politics is that it’s not good manners to talk about politics at an inappropriate time, but you should speak up at the right time.
ESSENCE.COM: After being nominated for five Grammys and not winning any but winning for your next album do you finally feel validated?
INDIA.ARIE: I look back now and I don’t believe in actual mistakes but I believe we all make decisions that are the exact opposite of what our intuition tells us to do. After the first year, I was nominated but didn’t win, the second year everybody told me to hurry up and get this next [album] done so I could be considered. Although I liked the songs and vocals, the polish of [the album] wasn’t there. That reality made me sad that I would treat the one thing I’ve loved all my life—music—and create it as a means to an end. I made myself sick because I didn’t honor myself as an artist, compromised my integrity and so my victory almost meant nothing.
ESSENCE.COM: That year at the ceremony the media was abuzz about your acceptance speech. Did you feel an artistic obligation to highlight the Grammys so-called “Black out”?
INDIA.ARIE: During my acceptance speech, I realized that none of the Black acts that won that night were televised, so it wasn’t about winning in that moment for me. I wanted to know why no Black acts were televised and I had to ask that question and let them know, “Hey, y’all are wrong.” This year, when Anthony David and I were nominated for the duet “Words,” we were just happy to receive the acknowledgement and that’s when I knew I had regained my power as an artist and person. It’s really not about the Grammys but about being aware of the politics and accepting it for what it is.
ESSENCE.COM: What has your artistry told the world about India.Arie?
INDIA.ARIE: As far as I know, my artistry shows that I’m a lover of humanity. I love people and I work at loving myself every day. My intention is not to get people to share those ideals but to give those who think like I do, the music they can relate to as well as share those concepts with younger people who don’t really know what a humanitarian is. Also, having the opportunity to travel abroad, I understand so clearly that in other parts of the world, like Germany, their only interaction or exposure to Black people are music videos, so I’d like to think that my [musical] presence somehow shows the diversity of young Black America.
Watch an exclusive VH1 Soul Stage clip of India.Arie performing “Pearls” from her new album, “Testimony Vol. 2: Love & Politics.”