Amidst her very busy schedule, we got the chance to speak with the amazingly talented songstress Jhené Aiko to discuss her recently released Sail Out EP, and her upcoming album Souled Out. The soul-full singer opened up about her recent Yoko Ono/John Lennon inspired collaboration with Childish Gambino, some the hardest things she’s had to deal with in her career and even discuss what she’d be doing if she wasn’t singing. Known for having collaborated with names like Drake and Kendrick Lamar, we even got to verify that an even bigger collaboration was in-store for the album: Jhené’s daughter. As effervescent fielding questions as she is singing, the beautiful Jhené let us know not to get it twisted though, she's more than meets the eye. Read more about it during our discussion below.
How does the Sail Out EP bridge to your upcoming Souled Out LP? Where's the connection between both projects?
The Sailed Out EP that I just put out is seven songs and serves as an introduction to people that are just getting familiar with me. I just wanted to keep it light and somewhat feature-heavy. I feel most people are starting to now getting familiar with me because of these features with Kendrick and Drake. So I wanted to keep it along the lines of that, while the album more personal, and myself digging deeper into my music and my stories. I think the EP is the appetizer before the main course.
Your daughter serves a special guest on Souled Out. How did this come about?
That is true. I heard this No I.D. production and it was just pretty. When I started writing the song, I really wanted to make it an important one. During the writing process, I started talking about my daughter. I realized that the hook was something my daughter would like to sing along with. So I brought her in with me and she did it. (laughs)
If she decided to become a recording artist, would you encourage her?
I would tell her to finish school first. If she really loves singing and she really would want to do that, then she will also be able to wait. I would encourage her to get better at whatever she wanted to do while she was in school. She would just really have to make sure that she pursues something she really wanted to do because she had a passion for it and not just because I do it or to be popular. She really has to make sure that that’s what her passion was and keep her safe from all the craziness that can happen. I would just more so try to lead by example.
The theme and titles of your releases, from Sailing Souls, Sail Out and Souled Out perfectly tie in together. Was this something you mapped out in advance or was it rather a natural development?
It happened naturally when I decided to name the first mixtape Sailing Souls. I had a conversation with my friend Chase N. Cashe on Twitter. He misunderstood the title and was like “oh you mean S-E-L-L?” Consequently, I started playing with all the words that sound like sailing and sail. That’s when I came up with Sailing Souls because it sounds like sell, as selling your soul for money. For me personally, sailing implies going with the wind and being free. It is like the complete opposite of having a price. So ever since, I’ve just been exploring the wordplay with those words. Eventually, when I started working on the album, I knew that I wanted it to be called Souled Out and do the wordplay with the soul and sold. I decided to take a few songs and turn it into an EP. Sail Out was the happy medium between what Sailing Souls is and what Souled Out will be.
Are we going to hear your alter ego on this new album? Jay Hennessey?
Jay Hennessey was featured on “The Worst” and “The Vapors.” She hasn’t blossomed into the rapper that she wants to be yet. One thing's certain though. Souled Out is more musically of this comforting feeling that gives you a good glimpse into what Souled Out is. Just very personal and very open and musically, as far as the tracks, they’re very different vibes. In Sail Out I still was like wanting everything to flow into each other nicely and be like easy listening type you know, but I feel like Sail Out was more hip hop, and Souled Out is – even though it is hip-hop it has a lot more live instruments and just a grander type of sound you can say.
Speaking of sound, your collaboration with Childish Gambino Bed Peace was inspired by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. How much Yoko Ono is in you and how much John Lennon is in Donald Glover?
I think that we’re both inspired by them and I don’t think either of us are even half of what they were but we’re definitely just inspired by them and I think we both believe in what they were about and what they were -– what they wanted to do with their music and their art. Our only wish would be to be half as good as them. We had talks about it after the video. We should start doing this and we should start doing that just because we have some of the same views on things. He’s open to do more with his career than I am. We want to do the same things as they did basically.
If you weren’t doing music what would you be doing?
I love writing. Everything that has to do with writing –- books, articles, editing, screenplays -- fascinates me. I’ve always been interested in acting, I’ve always been interested in astronomy. I’ve always been interested in animals. I’m one of those people that just doesn’t believe you have to pick one thing that you’re good at and just do that for your whole life. I also love school. That's definitely something that I would like to do -- pursye a degree in something.
What was like the biggest moment for you would say in like 2013? Which one would you say is your most favorite and why?
I think that the release of Sail Out because it’s really my first commercial release. It is my first project that I put out that you can buy and it was all written by me -- all the songs. It was just my project. I’ve put out material on other people's projects and soundtracks before when I was younger. This, however, is the closest thing to an album that I’ve put out and so, yeah, Sail Out.
You are currently on the road with Drake, Future and Miguel as part of 'Would You Like A Tour?' How would a Jhene Aiko solo tour differ from that?
I think my tour – I would really want to do small intimate shows. Even if it was a couple of nights, I would want to do some really creative venues such as small, cool little clubs. I would want to do like a pier, some places that were just out of the ordinary and I would just, I feel like my shows are unplugged type of shows -- anything can happen. It also incorporates a lot of live instruments. With my shows, it’s more about connecting with the audience and everyone is real chill and vibing.
What do you think the biggest misconception is that people have of you?
The biggest misconception is probably that I’m this sweet young girl that happens to write aggressively sometimes. But the truth is, I’m a single mom that’s been through some things. I do think that I am sweet, but I’m definitely not the princess, the little, dainty girl that a lot of people think that I am. I’m super goofy and sarcastic. I’m just a regular girl. I think people that really follow me and they follow my twitter and my tumblr, they definitely know that I’m not innocent.
Career-wise, what has been the most remarkable moment for you in 2013 and why?
I think when my brother passed away that was probably the hardest part to try and hone in that energy and do something productive with what I was feeling type of thing. It just taught me that even in your darkest moments you can turn it around and make art out of everything and share with people.
Rest in peace to your brother.
Any final words you would like to say?
I’d like to thank everybody for supporting, especially the day one fans that have been there through it all. I would just like to promise the people that there is an album on the way. I’ll always put out music as long as I am alive and breathing just because that’s how I express myself, and it’s always going to be me. Even if it evolves into something else as I grow as a person, it’ll never be something that someone else is telling me that I should sound like or anything like that. They never have to worry about me selling out, only sailing out, on the boat. (laughs)
Jhene Aiko's Sail Out EP is out now.