Jill Scott interview

Seven things you didn't know about Grammy-winning soul star


Multi-millon-selling, Gramy-hogging soul/jazz/R&B singer Jill Scott has drawn comparisons to Minnie Ripperton, and has long been the go-to provider of soul hooks for hip hoppers from Mos Def to Will Smith. She also played the lead role in The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Her new album, The Light of the Sun, is out now.

Her first experience of live music was a New Edition concert.
‘I think I was 12. I loved it – I felt like such a big girl with my New Edition T-shirt and my buttons and “Ralph is the best” sign! I’m still a fan, but my grandmother stopped all that. I came home one day she had torn down all my posters from my bedroom wall. She told my mama I was idolising those boys and that breaks a boundary. It destroyed me: at the time I was so heartbroken I think I cried for two or three days. But at the end of the day I’m so appreciative of it. She saved me, she did! Yeah, it’s big ups to grandma!’

She’s always had a nomadic spirit.
‘I started catching the public bus when I was 10. Once I knew how to get from home to school, I would get on any bus at all and ride until it changed and turn around and ride back. I just wanted to see other parts of Philadelphia and sometimes I met people. I remember getting off in South Philadelphia once. I hadn’t been to that area before and I was walking around and there were little old Italian ladies that were sweeping the steps. I said hi and I guess one of them liked me, and she told me, “Come, come,” and I went. I don’t know why I trusted older women – I love grandmas –and she fed me. I had rigatoni for the first time.’

Her dad had a handy skillset for parenting.
‘He used to have a couple of jobs. He was a police officer, he then went into lie detection, which is really cool. Did he ever use the lie detector on me? Naahhh, I’ve never actually seen one, really. I would keep it for my kids, though –“Oh what, you got a boyfriend? Come upstairs!” I would actually do that!’

She has a sideline in poetry.
‘I just read at the White House a few weeks ago. Not bad at all! I read a very short poem called One Second of Warped Security, about HIV, and how you manage to get it, how it happens. And I read another piece called Womanista.’

The reaction was great.
‘I heard whoops and some ummms –the internal stuff, that’s what you wanna hear from the audience, you wanna hear gut sounds. There were a lot of poets that came to read that night and at the end the President said my name first –“I just wanna thank Jill Scott” and I said, “Oh my God!” Really, it was great, it was awesome.’

She once lost a fight with a climbing frame.
‘I have a playground wound under my right arm. I was standing up on a climbing frame and the thing had a little piece of metal sticking out. I went to sit down and it went in my arm. It went all the way up, yep. Did I go to hospital? No, my daddy took care of it! But it bled and it scared me but he put some ginger boo boo on it and fixed it… My dad is a fan of making up words. He never uses the same one twice. Never.’

A goat once ate her ice cream. But at least it didn’t try to fight her for it.
‘No –this is my worst fear. Yeah, better than that, my worst fear is to be eaten alive. That would be horrible. I don’t want to see you kill me, you know what I’m saying! I don’t wanna see it, cos it’s terrible. But a goat ate my ice cream cone once. I was a child and the goat just came up and ate it. Was it just a random goat? I was at the petting zoo! I’m from North Philly, we don’t just have goats wandering around.’

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