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India.Arie Launches A ‘SongVersation’ At The Wilbur

India.Arie performs at the BET Awards ceremony last June. (Frank Micelotta/Invision/AP)

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India.Arie wants one message to be clear, she’s not returning to music just to release an album and embark on a 30-city tour. She’s out to spark a “SongVersation.”

“I hope each performance reaches out to the intellectual, analytical and creative,” she said during a recent conversation. “A ‘SongVersation’ is a concept performance that is completely unscripted and includes music, spoken word, and images. It’s not just me playing a specific set of songs before an audience; it’s a conversation with everyone in the room.”

India.Arie, who will be closing her “SongVersation” tour Sunday, Nov. 24, at the Wilbur Theater, began playing music as a child in Denver, Colorado, the daughter of NBA basketball player Ralph Simpson, and Joyce Simpson,  also a singer, signed to Motown as a teenager.

In 2001 she released her debut album “Acoustic Soul,” and her career immediately took off. Since then she’s amassed 3.3 million record sales, four Grammy awards and 21 nominations.

However, despite the success she said, in the fall of 2009, that she was fed up with the control that came with being in the industry and was dead set on walking away for good.

“I was heartbroken with the direction things were headed after I had been doing this for eight, nine, ten years,” She said. “I was looking into colleges and how I could go to school and enter the next chapter of my life.”

The songwriter said she felt that she didn’t have responsibility for her own day to day decisions, and that her obligations had been cared for by too many managers.

“I felt no power,” she said. “I was worried I was going to become this 40-year-old teenager with other people caring for everything she did.”

However, in writing her fifth studio album, “SongVersation,” India.Arie says she reclaimed ownership of her life and career and has emerged with a stronger voice.

“You’ll be stuck on the ground until you finally break the shell,” she proclaims on “Break the Shell,” a poignant ballad on the new album.

“I’m definitely back in the music industry, I mean I’m in the middle of a 30-city tour,” she said. “But the important thing is now I’m having fun. I feel like I know what I’m doing and I know what I want. “

India.Arie hopes the “SongVersation” concept evolves into a conversation between her and other artists. She would love to have SongVersations on stage with some of her heroes including Maya Angelou, Bill Withers, James Taylor and Deepak Chopra.

“I’ve worked really hard to get to this point and I want people to know that if you are excited by spirituality, by literature, by spoken word, then these are performances for you. These are the people I have in mind when I write my music.”

 

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