The Palladium \/\/ Wednesday, May 29, 7:30 p.m. Writer \/\/ Janelle Morrison Photography \/\/ Benedict Evans India.Arie Singer-songwriter India.Arie helped launch the neo-soul movement of the early 2000s and remains a pillar of contemporary R&B with her engaging grooves and thoughtful, positive lyrical messages. Arising from Atlanta\u2019s rich music scene, Arie earned seven Grammy Award nominations with her 2001 debut release, \u201cAcoustic Soul.\u201d She has continued with a string of successful albums (five consecutive Top 10s) and collaborations with artists as diverse as John Mellencamp and Stevie Wonder, whom she accompanied on his historic 2015 Songs in the Key of Life Tour. Among many other awards, Arie\u2019s 21 Grammy nominations have brought four wins, including a Best R&B Album nod for her 2003 release \u201cVoyage to India.\u201d Among her accomplishments and accolades are 10 world tours, millions of records sold, five Top 10 albums (including her No. 1 debuting 2006 release, \u201cTestimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship\u201d), numerous NAACP Image Awards, BET Awards, MTV Awards, command performances for three U.S. presidents (receiving public praise from President Clinton and President Obama), as well as working alongside her mentor Stevie Wonder, including sharing the stage in his history-making 2014\u201315 Songs in the Key of Life Tour. She also met the Dalai Lama and toured the National Civil Rights Museum with him in Memphis, Tennessee. Arie was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2009 and has joined Oprah Winfrey on multiple projects. She was also chosen by Winfrey\u2019s OWN Network for their SuperSoul 100 list in the Change Makers and Wisdom Teachers category. Arie is touring nationally in support of her new, eighth album, \u201cWorthy,\u201d featuring the singles \u201cThat Magic,\u201d already a Top 10 R&B hit, and \u201cWhat If,\u201d a tribute to civil rights pioneers Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and many more. Each ticket purchased for this show includes either a free digital download or CD copy of India.Arie\u2019s album \u201cWorthy.\u201d You will receive an email with more details about this offer approximately seven days after your purchase. For tickets and details, visit thecenterpresents.org. I spoke with India.Arie about the new album, \u201cWorthy,\u201d what she learned about herself during her three-year hiatus from touring and, of course, who are some of her mentors and sources of inspiration. Arie is a soulful, brilliant and multilayered artist whose timeless message that we are all \u201cworthy\u201d makes her music relevant and multigenerational. It\u2019s been a few years since you last toured. How\u2019s the preparation going and how difficult or easy is it to get back into the swing of being on the road? I wouldn\u2019t say it\u2019s easy to get back into the swing of things, but I\u2019m ready, so I\u2019m making it work. I\u2019m looking forward to touring. It\u2019s hard, but it gets easier each time you do it. I\u2019m getting prepared and still learning a lot. Looking back over the last three years, what were your experiences that led to the creation of \u201cWorthy\u201d? It\u2019s funny, this era of recording \u201cWorthy\u201d is not the first time that I\u2019ve been through a lot of hard lessons. When I was younger\u2014in my early 20s\u2014I came out with my first album . I didn\u2019t really know what the rhythms of life were. And so, I just took it as I was learning these hard lessons. Most of the time writing and recording this album, I was in a relationship, long term for me. That brings this whole set of lessons, as any adult knows. The songs on this album, anyone listening to them can hear the things I\u2019ve been thinking about. Outside of the subject matter of the songs, I have also learned a lot about writing and producing albums for myself. When I started working on this album, \u201cWorthy,\u201d I didn\u2019t actually know that I was going to make another album. I wasn\u2019t chomping at the bit like I had been in the past to make an album, and I didn\u2019t have this whole stack of songs and saying, \u2018Let\u2019s get it popping and get this album done.\u2019 But I knew that I wanted to make another album because that\u2019s what I do, but that\u2019s all I knew. I didn\u2019t know if it was going to be completed or start gaining momentum. You did complete the album, but it is unlike any of your previous albums. What \u201clesson\u201d did you learn in the process of producing this album that has changed your overall state of being? I made an album much different than anything I thought I was going to make. I learned what it means to surrender, I guess. Maybe that\u2019s the overall lesson of these last three years. I learned to love. I learned how to surrender love when it\u2019s time for it to be over. I surrendered to the music, and to the songs. I moved to another state, and I surrendered to that. I\u2019m surrendering to something new. It\u2019s been an interesting era. Ten years ago, I would\u2019ve been under the bed, afraid of what\u2019s going to happen and all that. But now, I just feel like it\u2019s life and I\u2019m ready to deal with whatever\u2019s coming. What does \u201cWorthy\u201d mean to you? In the process of making my last four projects, I\u2019ve been able to be empowered and not have to search for it. I think that comes across in my music in the way that I am able to better articulate a message of empowerment and not talking about searching for it. I\u2019m talking about being it. I think that\u2019s the beauty of the word \u201cworthy.\u201d It\u2019s all-encompassing. Telling someone \u201cYou\u2019re worthy\u201d is not saying \u201cYou\u2019re good at what you do\u201d or \u201cYou\u2019re pretty\u201d or \u201cI like the sound of your voice.\u201d Telling someone \u201cYou\u2019re worthy\u201d is basically saying \u201cYou deserve to exist.\u201d I don\u2019t know if that word would resonate with me the way that it does or that I could write a body of songs about it the way I have if I didn\u2019t understand that for myself. What do you hope people take away from the \u201cWorthy\u201d album? I want people to get whatever they\u2019re meant to get from it, but I feel that some people need to be reminded because there\u2019s messages everyday all over TV and social media that teach us we need to be a certain thing to be \u201cworthy.\u201d I wanted this album to be a reminder and a message to anybody who never heard someone say, \u201cNo, no, no, the world will tell you different, but you\u2019re worthy, you\u2019re significant and you matter because you exist.\u201d I want it to be a voice of that, but also, I just love the word and I want it, through me, to be something that\u2019s living in the world for a while. At this point in your career and life, you have gained more insight and more control over what direction your work is going. How has your message evolved now that you are in complete control of it? I can never say what anybody gets from a song. I can really only speak to what my intention is because people get different things, which is the beauty of music. I know for me, my intentions in those first two albums were to express myself and to do it in a way that I knew I would feel good about what I was saying. In the beginning, it was theoretical that I would be singing these songs for the next 20 years. I hoped that people would want to hear them 20 years later, but I didn\u2019t know. At some point, I decided that if I was going to be singing them for the next 20 years, I want to be able to phrase things in a way and use words that are empowering to me. Until I had reached my third and fourth project, it felt more like I had things that I needed to get off my chest. By the time I got to my \u201cSongVersation\u201d album, I had been through so much growing up that I understood, just from experience, how words can affect people. The notion of being in this industry for 20 years is no longer theoretical for you. What does it mean to you to still be creating and producing songs for another generation of fans? In the beginning, it was my hope and wish that I could be around for 20 years, but inside of that wish was all the stuff you can imagine. Maybe people\u2019s children will grow up on my music or maybe people will walk down the aisles to my songs or maybe somebody will say I taught them something\u2014because that\u2019s what the music I love does for me. It\u2019s taught me things about life and is a part of my actual life. I hope that I can be that for someone. With \u201cWorthy\u201d, I want to continue to let people in on my process and where I am in my life and what I\u2019m thinking about. For anybody who\u2019s been with me these 20 years, I want them to continue to walk my journey and my growth with me. But also, people who are younger and just learning about life, I want to be something they can turn to that has that energy in it. There\u2019s lots of music coming out every day. Music is so different right now\u2014the things people are saying and think are OK to say, especially with how much candid talk about drugs and what kind of drugs people take. For me, that\u2019s one of the most shocking things right now, and I want to continue to be an alternative voice. People can listen to what they want to listen to, of course\u2014whatever they find entertaining. I want to be something that can be on their shelves too. For their quiet moments or Sunday mornings or when they\u2019re struggling with something. You have mentioned that some of your mentors include your mom and Stevie Wonder. [Arie\u2019s mother, Joyce Simpson, was a Motown singer who opened for Stevie Wonder and Al Green.] How have they impacted and how do they continue to impact your personal and professional development? Yes, my mom is a vocal talent, but she also taught me how to write songs. I watched her write songs, go into the studios, and produce and record them. My mother makes all my stage gowns and my stage clothes, and she\u2019s also a person that I can count on. She never asks me for things. She doesn\u2019t ask me for money. She doesn\u2019t use me or try to get me to sign things for her friends or get to show up to places so she can look cool\u2014she doesn\u2019t do any of that. My mom is grounded, and she\u2019s what helps me to be grounded. She taught me everything I know. She supports me in everything. And Stevie too\u2014just the fact that he wants to be there for me is an inspiration. He\u2019s my favorite artist\u2014period. Not just musician, he\u2019s my favorite artist. For him to be available for me to ask questions or to vent about things or even to talk about personal stuff, relationships and all that, is inspiring, just because who doesn\u2019t want their favorite artist to be on their side? What do you enjoy when you\u2019re not performing and creating music? Another thing that is really important to my life is travel. I learn so much through the people that I meet. I\u2019ve had conversations with all kinds of different people. I\u2019ve talked with old African priests and had a chance to talk with Maya Angelou on several occasions. I got to talk to Nelson Mandela one time. Oprah has been a source of inspiration and mentorship. Anytime I email her about something, she answers back, right away. She\u2019s always so cool. I emailed her the other day\u2014it had something to do with diet\u2014and she answered me right away. I\u2019ve also been able to learn a lot from different elder musicians. I remember having a conversation with one the of Temptations and once with Tony Bennett. He\u2019s inspiring, as you know. I talked with him one time outside of a hotel and just what he said got me straight about some things. Some people I talk to periodically and other people just have the perfect words at the perfect time, and I take it in. I take it seriously when Tony Bennett is telling me something. Having great mentors assist you along your journey, how important is it for you to mentor those who seek wisdom and guidance? It\u2019s funny, I don\u2019t know if other people have this happen to them, but it happens to me all the time where I think, \u201cWhat do I have to teach anybody?\u201d But there\u2019s always somebody who is coming up behind you who needs to know things that have become basic for you, and I find myself having conversations with people and not realizing that I\u2019m actually mentoring them. I think it\u2019s important, especially in the music industry, because there is so much that you don\u2019t know until you are down in the trenches. I think it\u2019s important to have people to talk to about it, and it\u2019s weird because in the music industry, everybody is doing their own thing and it\u2019s kind of a self-absorbed way to live. You\u2019re so busy all the time, and you\u2019re worried about you or you\u2019re worried about your crew\u2014you might have 18 people on the road with you, and that\u2019s all you think about for two months. There\u2019s not a sorority or fraternity for the music industry, though I think there should be, that could help a lot of people who go through things that are sometimes painful. When somebody asks me a question, I will give them everything I know because sometimes it\u2019s all you have. Most of the people in your life have never been on tour or don\u2019t know what it\u2019s like to have a whole bunch of personal stuff going on inside and still have to sing a happy song on TV at 6 a.m. because it\u2019s your single. Most of the people in an artist\u2019s life won\u2019t know what that\u2019s like even if they empathize with you and love you. I\u2019m here for whoever wants to talk and wish that I could do it more often and that people would ask me more. Whether it\u2019s about men, touring, money, managers, not just music, call me. I just want to put myself out there the way Stevie did for me. I wish there was a way, especially for women , where we could be together and talk once a quarter or something. We have our parents and stuff, but it\u2019s different to have someone who loves you who does what you do. That\u2019s what my relationship with Stevie means for me. In addition to running your own lifestyle\/music brand SoulBird , you also produce your own podcast. Are you continuing to produce that while on tour? Yes, I took a break after the new year. Since I\u2019m doing it on my own, I called the next round of shows \u201cSeason Two,\u201d so before this tour, I recorded six of them, and they\u2019ll come out while I\u2019m on tour. I do it myself, on my laptop, and engineer the whole thing. It is call \u201cSongVersation: The Podcast,\u201d and I love doing it. It goes back to your last question\u2014it is a certain type of mentorship. It is based on music, but it\u2019s really not about the music but the wisdom behind the song and the process of recording the song and where it comes from. I\u2019m really just sharing my experiences and wisdom. I love doing this. I hope anybody who likes to talk about music and spiritual things, personal growth and how those things intertwine, that\u2019s what my podcast is about. Follow India.Arie\u2019s podcast, \u201cSongVersation,\u201d on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Anchor.