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: Its 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 shes 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 Ill hang around in the hotel playing video games Im a big The Sims junkie. [Players micromanage the lives of virtual people, the Sims.] Or Ill watch a movie or hang out with the band or crew.
Do you hang out with Queen Latifah and Erykah?
Were all on different schedules, even though were on the same tour. Latifah will have work to do, shes doing voice-overs now, and Erykah obviously has her children, and Im sure shes also working on an album as well, so sometimes we see each other, but sometimes we wont, but thats good, because when we get to the shows were 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, its the nectar of the gods. I think three-fourths of the planet is covered with water. And were 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 McLachlans 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. Id like to see someone like Beyoncé on the festival, I think thatd be really nice, where she can just sing, cause the woman has an extraordinary voice. Id love to see Lauryn Hill in the festival. Id love to see John Legend and Anthony Hamilton. The artists that can actually do it live, thats 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 thats what so positive about it. If anything, its 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 thats whats going on here. [She laughs.] Floetry opens the show . . . I mean, I dont want to tell you everything, because I want it to be a surprise.
Lets 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 did Sesame Street. How did
I got a phone call asking me if I would like to do Sesame Street. It wasnt 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 Id 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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