We caught up with Syleena Johnson for a Grown Folks conversation that covered her recently released album Chapter 6: Couples Therapy, her evolution as an artist and some real, reality tv talk. Read below.
GFM: You have a new album: Chapter 6: Couples Therapy. Before we talk about the album, the first single was “Perfectly Worthless” and the video addresses a very serious subject. Talk about the video. Who came up with concept? Is that a subject that’s very close to you or very important to you? Why did you want to address it in the video?
SJ: I just feel like it’s a very real situation. I have been in a situation where that was kind of what was going on. I don’t really like to get in to it. I just know that it’s a very real situation. And I wanted to portray something a lot deeper. I think that we’re very surface normally when we talk about love relationships most of the time. I just wanted to really hone in on the pain portion. Tangie B. Moore had the idea of the video. Obviously, she got the whole pain part. It’s a broken relationship. But, I really wanted to add in the gun and I wanted to add in elements like that. Her drinking and smoking– that’s the stuff I know. I’m not from the streets, but I’m from the hood and actually that is the kind of stuff that we (women) would do when we would get mad. I’ve have staked outside of men’s homes and all of that back in the day. I just wanted to touch a real subject matter that really doesn’t get to be touched. There’s a back story to this video. This video is a spin off to something much greater that’s coming. You’ll get to see the tenacity of the situation and why it got to that point. It’s not just like, ‘Oh he cheated on me.’ If you pay attention closely, he cheated on her with their therapist and got pregnant… had a baby with the therapist. So that right there is bananas enough, but it’s even deeper than that. Obviously something’s wrong them if they’re in therapy. Not wrong, but there’s obviously some mental issues going on and some things going on in their relationship where they would need therapy. For him to cheat on her with the therapist is kinda like ‘wow’, and then get her pregnant… he’s living a double life, actually. It’s a lot that goes on with this video, but I like the way it turned out. I’m very pleased with it, actually.
GFM: Let’s talk about the album itself: Couples Therapy. Talk about the writing and the production on the album. How did the collabos come about? You have a few collaborations on the album.
SJ: The writing was collaborative with myself and the producers, which are Kajun and Pierre Medor. The collaborations were just people that I have good relationships with that I know are extremely talented. I’ve always wanted to work with Dave Hollister my entire career since I was young girl. I remember being a freshman in college and loving Blackstreet, so I’ve always loved him and his voice.
GFM: It’s a gorgeous record (“Harmony”) by the way.
SJ: Thank you. I agree with you.
SJ: Leela James is a good friend of mine, so that was easy. (I) just call(ed) up Leela to come do the song with me. I love Leela’s voice because it’s different and she reminds me of myself. We get classified a lot because of the tones of our voice. I really just wanted to give a double-dose of something that people ain’t used to you know? (laughs) Willie (Taylor) is a good friend of mine. He’s from the same hood as I am. He’s super duper talented. He doesn’t get the credit for being that talented. He was in Day 26, so obviously people know he’s talented, but he’s more talented than that. (He’s more) talented than people really know. I was going to work with him on Chapter 5, but our song didn’t get to make that album. We were able to have the opportunity to work (together) on Chapter 6, which was great.
GFM: How would describe you describe your evolution as an artist since the beginning of your career until now?
SJ: It’s been a real-life maturation. It’s been real-life growing pains. You all have seen me actually go through these growing pains, well hear me go through these growing pains, and I now see me I guess with R&B Divas. I just put them into songs. What you get to hear is my journal. That’s basically what you’re hearing. Some of the things that I’m dealing with (and) some of the things that I’m thinking of through song.
GFM: Speaking of R&B Divas– with you being on TV and cameras on you and you just saying you are transparent in a lot of your music– what’s that like to have that light on you all the time? Do you ever think, ‘What did I do,’ as far as being part of reality TV? How has that affected you?
SJ: As far as the way that I’m portrayed, I’m pretty much what you see is what you get. For me, and maybe I’m lucky, because everybody else seems to think that editing has ruined their lives, but maybe I’m the lucky one. There has been some editing stuff that I’ve been like, “I didn’t say that… not ‘I didn’t say that,’ because I said everything.
GFM: But not like that?
SJ: No, I said it like I said it too, but what I’m saying is I didn’t do that at that time. For instance, it will be real simple stuff. We did a performance on Season 3. For the order of the show, Keke didn’t go last. I went after Keke and then Angie came on and did a set, but they only showed Angie do one record, because it was drama behind the scenes. It was Meelah, Monifah, Keke then myself. Keke chose not to go and Mo picked to go first, but they (the producers/editors) did the order how they wanted it to go. They did it how they wanted to do it. That’s okay. I don’t care about stuff like that. To me, that’s not ruining my life. (Another example is:) They might put a scene that you know you filmed two days before– they might have to put it later. That’s the type of editing that I see. I don’t see nobody putting no words in nobody’s mouth and taking words from over here and putting them over there. I’ve never seen that so I don’t know. As far as how I’m portrayed, I’m portrayed pretty accurately so far. I don’t know what’s gonna happen coming up. (laughs) The only thing that I don’t like about reality TV in general– it has nothing to do with R&B Divas it’s just a general thing– is the anxiety that it causes. I have anxiety because of reality TV.
GFM: How so?
SJ: I don’t like to be in conflict with people and reality TV causes real-life conflicts. I hate that. I hate that with all my heart. I really wish that we could get out of our own way sometimes and just be like… friends. The best experience that I’ve had so far is Marriage Bootcamp. And I was real stressed, I was so anxious because we had to take a lie detector test and we had do all of these hard drills. It was a lot of soul searching and all of that on TV. I don’t really care about people seeing me be vulnerable. I don’t care about that. But, it was really tough. If the cameras were on, the drills were tough, but we all became so close. We left that house close– like friends. Well, not like friends– we left that house as friends. Every single person in that house talks to each other and loves each other. I’m on four-way feeds with Heidi, Natalie and Rachel every other day. We’re planning a trip. We have a good time. It’s not the same with R&B Divas. That’s really sad. I don’t like that. Me and Monifah are very close. Me and Meelah still talk. When I see Latavia, I still talk to her, but you know the other ladies– we don’t talk. I think it’s the show that has done that. Not per se the show, but being on the show for some people–they’re not strong enough. They can’t look past what’s going on. People be in their feelings real good and they can’t get past the fact that some of this stuff is entertainment. Some of this stuff is for ratings and for television. It’s still on television. But, it’s not like they’re (camera crews) following me around all day. You have a call time. It’s not like they’re at your house. Now (with) Marriage Bootcamp, you wake up and the cameras are in your bedroom. But R&B Divas? There are no cameras like that all in your house. No, they show up and that’s when the cameras are there. When they leave, the cameras and mics and stuff are gone. So, you really have control of what you say and do. They’re not catching you saying nothing. You can control that.
GFM: What has the positive experience (from reality TV) been? How have you felt that it has helped your music career?
SJ: The exposure and being able to take and expand your brand. All of that is really cool. I have a good time. (laughs) People have a bad time. So far, I’m having a good time. I don’t wanna be like ‘yeah, everything’s great,’ and then next week it’s like ‘oh… the editing!’ (laughs) So far it’s good.
GFM: Because of R&B Divas and reality TV, we think we know Syleena Johnson. But my question is, who is Syleena Johnson?
SJ: I’m still trying to figure that out Child. (I’m) a mom, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a recording artist, a motivator, a health and fitness advocate. I’m so many things. I’m every woman. How about that?
Get Chapter 6: Couples Therapy at Amazon and iTunes
Watch Syleena Johnson on R&B Divas: Atlanta and on the upcoming season of WEtv’s Marriage Bootcamp: Reality Stars
Connect with Syleena Johnson
At miptags.com, type in SJ
On Twitter: @syleena_johnson
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/Syleena.Johnson.OFFICIAL