“As soon as I wake up, and I say ‘thank you Jesus for bringing me into another day’, I’m happy. I’m good to go!”
If you answered ‘Hell yeah!’ you might want to take a listen to the new disco-themed single by Jody Watley called ‘Nightlife,’ from the upcoming CD, Paradise. Laced with an inspired, infectious beat and a driving hook that teases “Don’t matter where you’re from, a worldwide phenomenon,” Watley aims to deliver a song that will inspire the masses to get on the floor and dance again.
Admitting that the quality level of dance changed when hip hop took over, Jody tells EURweb publisher Lee Bailey via telephone that her new music is “Diverse…up tempo and soulful.” She and Bailey go way back, and its clear they hold a fondness for each other. You can also tell that Watley, who started Avitone Recordings in 1995 after becoming fed up with her home label, is very excited about this new project.
“It’s definitely [got] a glamour to it. I guess its my way of respecting and getting that back in the conversation about soul music, pop music. The soul of it, the quality of it, the inspiration of it and making people feel good in troubled times,” she continues.
But what, you may wonder, has the music icon that burst onto the scene in 1977 as a member of Shalamar been up to since 2006; when she released her album, The Makeover?
“I go into the Sade school of just go and live your life,” Watley laughs. “I’ve raised my son and daughter, they’re in college.” The Nightlife singer says she never really set out to be famous. “I am a very private person. I’ve never opened up my life to people as a marketing tool.”
When asked what does she do when she’s out of the spotlight Jody responds, “Stay at home, cook, watch sports, hang out with my friends. I’m basically a homebody.” She reminds us that if we go back and listen to early interviews when she was with Shalamar, she often admits to this.
But that does not appear to be the case anymore. Jody says that although she hadn’t been out dancing in a long time, she now goes to Giorgio’s – a club on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood; where you are likely to run into people like P Diddy and a certain Rolling Stone.
“Mick Jagger was there a couple of weeks’ ago. He said, ‘I know you, Jody!’”
Setting her sights on bringing old school music back in a fresh new way, Watley started working on Night Life about 2-1/2 years ago.
“I get inspired every morning I do a power walk. I gravitate to my classic disco playlist. Listening to Chic and Shalamar, OJays…I said ‘I want to do something like that’. Not a nostalgic thing, but something fresh. It started from there and I’ve been performing it in concert for the past couple of years and, as only I would do, I opened my show with Night Life, a song that people didn’t know, and you couldn’t buy (laughs)… And people loved it, like right away, because from the intro it makes you sit straight up.”
She admits that the more she performed the song live, the greater her comfort level with it became. When she was ready to record she hooked up with former Shalamar original lead vocalist, Gerald Brown (1978-79), and added him on the song, “Take That to The Bank.”
“A lot of songs from that era, late 70’s early 80’s… had like a male undertone to it. So since he and I had reconnected since ‘Unsung’ I was like, ‘Gerald, I want you to sing on this song.’ He’s on the tag line, ‘It’s in the music’ and it just really gave it a different resonance and his full vocals is on one of the remixes.” The two had not sang together since Watley was 18, and she refers to their reunion as a “full circle moment” adding, “It’s like a nod to my Shalamar past, but in a modern way.”
Always exhibiting an “international flavor,” its no surprise that Watley collaborated with duo Count de Money from the UK on Nightlife; and refers to the music of musicians such as Daft Punk (especially the colab they have with Nile Rogers and Pharrell Williams on “Get Lucky”), Justin Timberlake’s Take Back the Night and even Robin Thicke (probably the controversial Blurred Lines though she never mentioned the song) as the sound and the feel she gravitates towards most.
“It’s that ‘disco soul sound’ and I think that the kids really like it and obviously the people who are old enough to remember those sounds they love it,” she adds.
“Everything that I’ve done and everything that I do comes from an authentic and organic place,” says the artist who has sold upwards of 50 million albums and singles worldwide. When LB asks if she had any trepidation about putting out this kind of record at this time she says, “I just want it to be me, because this is me, whenever, at whatever the particular time. At this time it just so happens that that classic sound just makes me feel inspired.”
On one hand, Nightlife celebrates [the] dance music tradition, its classic sounds and motifs (nodding to disco, House, soulful R&B,) while looking squarely to the future. As an artistic statement, it’s a perfect encapsulation of Watley’s career thus far: This is where I’ve been / this is what I’ve done / this is where I am and what I’m doing right now / this is how I’m mapping the future. When asked what inspired the song, she cites old-school classics like McFadden & Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” and the O’Jays’ “Message in Our Music.”
“Those were songs that made you dance but made you feel inspired,” she says. “It really started from there. I wanted to hear music like that so I had to write it because I haven’t heard anything like that from anyone else in a long time. All my songs start with what I’m feeling and what I want other people to get from it. There’s a strength that resonates through [“Nightlife”] just the same – but in a totally different way – as my first solo single, “Looking for a New Love.” I want people to feel great because things in the world aren’t great and we need sources of strength and inspiration, someplace to go to feel good about ourselves no matter what else is going on in the world.”
Jody performed some of her new music at the Essence Music Festival this past summer. She hopes people, especially those who complain that there’s no good music out there, will “support your veteran artists like me that are still vibrant, and still hungry to do great work.”
Though all of the music on Paradise, which will debut in early 2014, is original, Shalamar’s “Take That to The Bank” is sampled in a remix for Night Life as a bootleg mash-up.
And while fans consider Jody an icon, she says that she still feels like, “The best is yet to come!”
Fans can connect with Jody Watley on FaceBook @ JodyWatleyOfficial, on Twitter @ #JodyWatley, and via website @ JodyWatley.net. She is also on Instagram.
“I’m a very social media savvy artist. A lot of artists kind of shy away from it but I embrace being able to connect with the fans, for better and for worse, even the haters,” she muses.
Check out a lyrical video Jody posted of the new single, Nightlife. Support the artist: Get your copy on sale at iTunes.
Here’s some vintage Jody Watley on Soul Train singing, I’m Looking for a New Love. Fact: Watley has always been her own fashion designer. As you watch this you will notice how her look (and moves) inspired early Madonna and Janet Jackson.