Interview: India.Arie

R&B diva India.Arie has a great memory. “You had mauve on last time, right?”

She then shows me her latest purchase in Paris – an amethyst ring set in gold. “You can appreciate this since purple is your colour.”

Colour is a part of her life – music and clothes reflect her soul.

She can be orange and vibrant; purple and spiritual; white and serene.
“You should do your hair purple!” she advises before we embark on our Voyage To India…

musicOMH: What does each interlude represent?
India: Growth is expansion, growing, life experiences. Healing is healing. Gratitude is saying thank you for the growth and the healing and life and everything that’s happening.

musicOMH: Are you Headed in the Right Direction?
India: It feels like I am right here (puts hand on heart). In the song it says, “I’ve got faith and intuition.” I just keep following my heart and my intuition. I’m not just thinking about it but doing it.

musicOMH: Is life your inspiration?
India: The process of learning about life. Writing songs, internalising things then putting them out as songs helped me to learn about life and people.

musicOMH: It’s like “self-help” music.
India: That’s the difference about life being inspiration and learning about life being inspiration. I don’t think that I would’ve put the songwriting in the same way that I do if it wasn’t for the fact that I have the quest to learn. I think that’s wicked.

India.Arie - Voyage to India
Voyage To India

“Writing songs, internalising things then putting them out as songs helped me to learn about life and people. “
– India.Arie

musicOMH: You did a duet with John Mellencamp, much to everyone’s surprise. But I don’t think you two are all that different…
India: I don’t either. In a certain way, we’re very kindred – the way that we use our music to [voice] our opinions. But we had a good vocal [range] too.

musicOMH: How did you get together?
India: He said he was looking for someone to sing with who was a female voice, but also a female personality who’s all about the music. I like to experiment with different parts of my voice to blend with other singers’ [voices].

musicOMH: You told me last year that you’d love to duet with Stevie Wonder – you did and it was nominated for a Grammy!
India: But it’s not the real thing. I didn’t really get to do actual writing. It was just a Christmas song from an EP. But I think we are going to do some stuff together.

musicOMH: What about guests like hip-hop/rap artists doing remixes?
India: It’s depending on who it is. I get very wrapped up in my own self when I’m making albums. Every album I’ve done so far, I’ve had songs left over. So instead of going and trying to do it with somebody else, I still gotta figure out how to get all this stuff out of my head! But there a lot of people I want to do something with.

musicOMH: What would be a Beautiful Surprise for you? Or has it already happened?
India: There are certain things that I want in life, that I expect every day. But every day, something happens that I didn’t expect.

musicOMH: Do you still design jewellery?
India: No. I haven’t made any jewellery in a while. Remember that heart necklace? I made that. I always said I would have a jewellery shop, a workbench in my house.

musicOMH: Does colour express how you feel inside?
India: Colour has a great significance because I feel it. If I wear white, I feel very calm, clear. I wear pink and it makes me feel really loving and more open. Yellow is a lot of energy and orange is very sensual. It’s not something I learned from a book or anything. It’s just something that works for me.

musicOMH: Your words are as colourful.
India: [When] I started writing songs, I just wanted to play the guitar. I had a lot of musical training and I was always an excellent English student. I kept a journal, wrote stories. When I put my musical training and my writing [together], it was all very natural that it would happen. And I just came out of nowhere: “I’m leaving school. I’m about to be a singer.” Just like that.

musicOMH: How did your parents react?
India: My mom didn’t like it for about a few months. Then I was like, “You know that I could do this.” She was like, “I know, but I need you to have a job, I need you to go to school. I give you one year.” She just helped me for the next three, four years. Now I’ve just got my own house, my own food, I pay my own everything!

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Interview: India.Arie