This is part 2 of our inspiring interview with India.Arie. In case you have missed part 1 of the interview, please find it here.
Soul Love: In ‘Just do You’ you sing: “I heard a voice that told me I’m essential, how all my fears are limiting my potential”. Where did most of your fears come from?
India.Arie: India laughs a bit and says: “That’s a good question”. You told me about showing both my sides — there’s a quote by Maya Angelou that I use in my SongVersation and the quote is: “There’s no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you”. The flip side of having such a public life is those secrets feel like they have more power over you, but I didn’t set out to be courageous and show both sides, but what I set out to do is to be me and I could not any longer bear the consequences of not fully being myself.
I knew what it felt like, I had the health ramifications and stuff, like having ulcers and just feeling generally horrible 90% of the time, just feeling bad, feeling tired and exhausted, I just wasn’t willing to accept all those consequences anymore, so I really don’t see it like a courageous thing but I saw it as a necessity — either I was gonna give up being a public person, give up my music or be real and I decided to be real. I don’t think that there’s anything I’m afraid to say and if something comes up in the moment and it’s true I will say it.
But those fears come from me, and I used to think that the people around me were usurping my power and I was giving it away. Then I started looking at what else am I doing that I’m thinking other people are doing to me and I realize now that people say things and having their opinions and try to scare you because they’re scared and they’re worried about not making enough money when I sing about the things I want. Everybody has their own agenda. I used to buy into that because I was afraid that my life wouldn’t work if I didn’t say “yes” to their fears. I wasn’t even clear on my own agenda, it was me saying yes, it was me being afraid and it was me thinking it was not gonna work and once I realized that, I realized being afraid is okay. But it’s not okay to let the fear stop me from living a life that feels like my life, not my mom’s life, not the record label’s life, not India.Arie the public person’s life but the real me, living my life and letting India.Arie and me be the same person.
SL: One of my favourite songs on your album SongVersation is ‘Break the shell’: You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself, you cannot fly until you break the shell. How did you manage to peel back all of the layers before you could really fly?
India.Arie: It’s about getting to a place where I can be really honest with myself about myself. I told you that’s why back in 2009, I just tore my whole life down because I couldn’t see myself and that scared me because I was always really in touch with how I felt. I lived inside of my emotions and then all of a sudden I didn’t know how I felt and I didn’t know what I wanted and I didn’t know who I was and so I spent all these years being honest with myself and having a relationship with myself and expressing that with the song ‘Life I know’ was that my muscle was stronger in that way, so deciding to dive in back into that pool was a familiar place. So I would break the shell, allowing myself to go numb to any parts of my life. I look at things and I deal with it and the cumulative effect of that is the life I’m living today.
I am of course still finding things about myself — I’m in that dating phase, like being open to date and now all these men are coming out of the woodworks all over the place. It is fun practising breaking the shell in that way too, like I just remind myself to be myself. It’s so easy to not be yourself when you’re first meeting a man and all those things, but you know… I guess living a life of having the shell broken and continuing to break all the little pieces that try to attach themselves to me under all the new circumstances that are happening like doing interviews… I think it kind of happened in this interview, I was about to say something that wasn’t true and I reminded myself: “That’s not really true”. To me, that’s breaking the shell, just in every moment, being honest. But I also look forward to being 85 and knowing what it feels like to have lived that way, you know, for four decades.
Break the shell was actually inspired by actress Cicely Tyson. In her I see a person who is a walking symbol of values — She walks into a room and you think of all these things, you feel it coming of her and that’s what I want to be. I want to be a person who can be felt by people when I walk into the room and you can’t do that with a shell.
SL: Your lyrics are very sensitive and you express yourself so beautifully and balanced. However, we know that many artists often have trouble to find a balance between the public appearance and their private lives. They can be even very lonely and depressed. How do you deal with this?
India.Arie: Especially by being myself. Yeah, just being myself. I tell people the truth and people are almost never mad at that. It’s so cool to be honest. It seemed so hard to be and now it’s hard to imagine not being honest.
SL: In Break the shell you affirm that “So much disappointment to finally understand, that there’s no such thing as perfect, we’re all simply doing the best that we can”. Isn’t that already perfect India? Isn’t that ‘perfection in the moment’ for you, doing the best you can?
India.Arie: Yes, that is perfect and I think that in the song lyrics I was referring to the unrealistic goal of perfection and looking for that in other people, in stead of looking at the perfection people already are, including yourself. Everyone is perfect.
SL: Love plays a crucial role in your songs and in your personal life, but I know that this love is much more refined, deeper and spiritual than an average love song out there. What does love exactly mean to you?
India.Arie: I see love as the energy that comprises everything and I see it as the most powerful energy in the Universe. I see love as the only thing that there is, which makes it hard to not be it and hard to not be doing it, or maybe even be impossible. But on an interpersonal human level, I feel that the highest form of love is acceptance without exception. Of course it all starts with me and I accept myself fully and I love everything about me!
SL: ‘I am moved by you’ India! You’re our Super R&B Soul!
For more information, please visit India.Arie’s website: soulbird.com
To buy her album Songversation now, click here.
INTERVIEW BY: DIRK TERPSTRA – SOUL LOVE FOUNDER
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