The Sugar Water Festival brings together three of the most dynamic personalities in music today: Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and Queen Latifah — all platinum-selling, Grammy-winning artists, but each offering a unique sound and performance. Different from the usual tour package, Sugar Water reminds us of the old Motown revues: It’s a showcase of strong black female voices, something for the women, for the men and for music lovers of all ages. We decided to phone the fierce poet-actress-singer Scott while she was on tour in Detroit, because she’s got so much going on, and we really wanted to find out more about the woman behind steamy hits like “Love Rain.” Jill was upbeat, almost giggly, even called us “honey” a couple of times. Sweet.
L.A. WEEKLY:Today was your day off — what do you do on a day off?
JILL SCOTT[laughing]:I chiiillll! Sometimes I visit friends. Or I’ll hang around in the hotel playing video games — I’m a big The Simsjunkie. [Players micromanage the lives of virtual people, the Sims.] Or I’ll watch a movie or hang out with the band or crew.
Do you hang out with Queen Latifah and Erykah? We’re all on different schedules, even though we’re on the same tour. Latifah will have work to do, she’s doing voice-overs now, and Erykah obviously has her children, and I’m sure she’s also working on an album as well, so sometimes we see each other, but sometimes we won’t, but that’s good, because when we get to the shows we’re excited about seeing each other.
I know there has to be some inside meaning to “Sugar Water.” We had a really long line of names for the show. We thought that Sugar Water was very simple — a lot of people could relate to it. Sugar Water meant to me that water is the sweet nectar, it’s the nectar of the gods. I think three-fourths of the planet is covered with water. And we’re that sugar in the water.
How did this show come together? Erykah and I both got a call from Latifah saying that she would like to go on tour [her first in five years]. Then we all came up with the idea of having a festival and owning the festival ourselves, quite similar to the Lilith Fair [Sarah McLachlan’s all-female tour]. We were all like-minded, all multiplatinum artists, all Grammy winners — it just seemed like a really good match, and the more we talked on the phone, the more I liked their personalities and thought, “Yo, we could work together. We could do great things together.”
What is the Sugar Water Festival all about? We hope it will be something that happens every year, with artists that can perform live with a live band — no DATs, no recorded music. Live bands, live vocalists.
Could you see Angie Stone or Lauryn Hill or Mary J. Blige on this festival? Oh, absolutely, without a question. I’d like to see someone like Beyoncé on the festival, I think that’d be really nice, where she can just sing, ’cause the woman has an extraordinary voice. I’d love to see Lauryn Hill in the festival. I’d love to see John Legend and Anthony Hamilton. The artists that can actually do it live, that’s who we want.
Is it intimidating at all, to go on before or after Queen Latifah and Erykah? Everybody is bringing their own thing to the table, and that’s what so positive about it. If anything, it’s a motivating force — once somebody goes onstage and they do their thing, you know you really want to do your thing, too. You really want to represent yourself well. I think that’s what’s going on here. [She laughs.] Floetry opens the show . . . I mean, I don’t want to tell you everything, because I want it to be a surprise.
Let’s talk about your acting and your poetry book,The Moments, the Minutes, the Hours. I took off two years and did a couple of things I wanted to do. I wanted to be on a television sitcom — I really enjoyed being on Girlfriends [UPN]. I did a movie with Kevin Bacon and Aidan Quinn, Cave Dwellers for Showtime — that was a good experience, it let me get my feet wet in the small screen. And I wanted to write a book of my own work — I had so much of it just waiting to be read, felt and seen that I decided to compile everything and create my own book.
Do you have a favorite piece? I really like “Mrs. Bird” [a poem about a woman named Nokia who wanted to be a singer but wound up on the streets].
Speaking of birds, you didSesame Street. How did that happen? I got a phone call asking me if I would like to do Sesame Street. It wasn’t even a question, a thought, it was immediate, like, “Hell yeah, I want to do Sesame Street!” It was great, I loved it so much. Oh, my goodness. It was life-affirming in so many ways, cause I’d always wanted to meet Big Bird. [She laughs.]
The Sugar Water Festival comes to the Greek Theater Tuesday, Aug. 9, and Wednesday, Aug. 10.
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