A&E » Arts

The 'revival' of Ms. Black

Canadian R&B chanteuse celebrates her ‘great 0-8’



Who: Jully Black

When: Sunday, May 18, 10:30 p.m.

Where: Garfinkel’s

Tickets: $15 (presale)

This Toronto-based R&B singer and songwriter hasn’t performed in Whistler for almost eight years, but Jully Black is finally coming back over the May long weekend to blow the roof off of Garfinkel’s with her rich, powerful lyrics, and over-the-top stage presence.

As the youngest in a family of nine children, Black is truly a natural-born performer, taking to the stage for the first time at the age of six with her church choir.

“I got a positive reaction from people, and you know, a child likes attention, but in an interesting way, I knew I was giving something,” said Black.

Song writing, another aspect of her career, also started during her childhood.

“I was basically writing my feelings… I actually wrote a song called, I Got a Fever, when I was like 10 or something,” she said, adding that she finds the process of writing therapeutic.

As passionate as she is about writing, Black would never step off of the stage to pursue a career behind the scenes.

“Performing is my drug of choice,” said Black. “I get such a satisfying feeling from performing.”

This is Me , Black’s first full-length album, was released in 2005, garnering a lot of industry attention and accolades. And just seven months ago, she released Revival , featuring a solid backdrop of live instruments, which gives the album a confident, vintage-inspired sound.

“I’ve grown a lot as a writer, and Revival came at a time that I was a lot more comfortable with who I am and really being a woman and being able to speak about things that I’m comfortable speaking about,” she said.

One of the songs on Revival , Seven Day Fool, a cover of the Etta James classic, scored Black a 2008 Juno nomination for Single of the Year.

“When you think about some of the great songs that we’ve loved from back in the day, those were live instruments — it wasn’t a digital time!” Black said wistfully.

Though her hit, Seven Day Fool, didn’t win in that category, Black ended up taking home top honours in the category of Best R&B Solo Recording, and performing during the Juno award ceremonies.

“It was totally amazing, but even more amazing was being able to perform and close that show, to have my mom see her baby, like, ‘Wow, okay, this is why I migrated to Canada, so my children could dream and actually have them come true,’” said Black. “There’s no trophy in the world that could make me feel better than knowing that my mom was so proud.”

Success hasn’t come easily for this talented performer.

“I would say I’ve been on an incline, where it’s been hard work and being in the right places and continuing to train myself and my craft to, when the opportunities came, I was ready for them,” she said. “There was no one ‘big break’ moment.”

As if she doesn’t have enough of her plate, Black has just signed on as a cast member for the upcoming season of Canadian Idol.

“I’m a mentor, I’m a friend, their confidant, I’m not a judge — I’m someone I really wanted to have in my life when I entered the business, and didn’t have someone at arm’s reach,” said Black. She hopes to be an encouraging voice of support for these aspiring artists, helping them avoid some of the pitfalls she encountered on her “long road” to success.

“For some reason, a lot of people are afraid, in the business, to give information, and that’s how you empower people and empower yourself, by sharing.”

It’s just that type of positive attitude that really shines through on, Revival .

“Looking at the audience, shoulders back, chin up! Like, really, be strong and know that the judge is just giving his opinion,” she said. “This whole world is full of judges and if you let them get to you, why even be alive?”

Over the course of her career, Black has had the opportunity to work with some big names in the business, like Nas, 50 Cent, and Jay Z. She’s written for Destiny’s Child, and has worked as an entertainment reporter for E-Talk Daily. And Black doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon.

For now, she’s getting ready for her stint on Canadian Idol, which has already started filming, before her next single and music video are released. And she has a lineup of festivals to perform at during the summer months. But she’s still very focused on promoting her latest album.

Revival is only seven months old, so I don’t want to sell it short,” she explained. “I want to put all my energy into this record.”

Black seems to take all of the ups and downs of life in stride, and plans to keep riding the wave she’s on.

“When you enter the business, you enter it knowing that you’re a contender,” she explained. “I always felt that it was only a matter of time, and still, it’s only a matter of time before I’m on the world stage and representing my country fully. It’s like an Olympic race.”