Mary J. Blige Shares Her Favorite 'Empire' Characters at SXSW 2015
Mary J. Blige may have briefly appeared on last week's episode of Empire as an old friend of Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), but she'll be glued to her couch just like everyone else for tonight's finale. "I love it. Cookie is one of my favorites because she's a woman's woman, and Taraji happens to be my real friend so I know who Cookie is. I love Hakeem, he's so adorable, and I love Jamal…"
Blige was freshly animated (and, judging by her toned midriff, in excellent shape) at Samsung's Supper Club studio on E. 2nd Street during South By Southwest on Tuesday (March 17), where she played a brisk 10-song set to a room that maxed out at around 130 people (including indie-rock duo Phantogram, Orange Is The New Black's Danielle Brooks and KWL Enterprises chief Kevin Liles). Reaching deep into her '90s discography ("You Bring Me Joy," "Be Happy," "Real Love") and reprising her rap identity Brooke Lynn on a few occasions (including set-opener "Enough Cryin"), Blige slowed things down only once to sing "Doubt," a standout ballad from her new album The London Sessions.
Though a proper tour isn't on the books just yet, Blige will play Global Citizen's 2015 Earth Day event in D.C. next month. She's also set to attend the upcoming Tribeca premiere of Mary J. Blige – The London Sessions, a documentary that chronicles the making of her album with collaborators like Sam Smith, Disclosure and Emeli Sande. Billboard sat down with Blige for a few minutes after her Samsung performance to learn more about the new Mary.
You've said that making The London Sessions was a big challenge for you -- what made you want to take that risk?
I've been doing this for a very long time, and I felt that my music was, for me, getting stale and just the way I did things. So if it was no longer inspiring to me, it was no longer going to be inspiring to my fans. Although they would accept or tolerate anything I did, they appear to love me so much, I just felt at this point in my life it would be selfish to me and to them to keep doing the same thing. And then I had a real rough patch that kinda pushed me, you know the last four or five of my years have been really rough, and I needed to do something different. I needed to leave the United States, so I took that and I changed up everything just for me and my fans so we could have something fresh.
Have you thought about what a tour might look like?
I don't know what a tour might look like but I know it's gonna be great because everything's just so fresh but it's still Mary J. Blige. I've done a few performances with Sam, and that chemistry is amazing, but we'll see.
We saw you in a brief flashback sequence with Terrence Howard on last week's episode of Empire. Will we see you again in the finale?
You won't see me, but you'll hear "Doubt," so spread the word. It was amazing, the cast was so supportive and loving. Just acting, I love it so much -- I really wanna do more of it.
And are you up on the show? Do you have a favorite character?
Am I up on the show? What? I can't wait to get home and sit on my couch at 9 o' clock and watch in real time. I love it. I mean, Cookie is one of my favorites because she's a woman's woman, and Taraji happens to be my real friend so I know who cookie is. I love Hakeem, he's so adorable, and I love Jamal and in real life these guys – Terrence is amazing. But my favorites are Cookie, Jamal and Hakeem. Anika kills it, too. You believe her.
Your documentary for The London Sessions premieres next month. What can we expect?
It's just basically the making of the album. If you saw the last couple years of my life, I went over there with a lot of that heaviness but no one to see it. So you get to see me doing interviews about what I was feeling, how did I get out, how did I feel about myself. And you get to see the making of the album, writing song with Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes and Naughty Boy and Emeli Sande and Sam Romans, who actually wrote "Doubt" with me. And you'll see me visit Amy Winehouse's dad because I really wish I could have had a visit with Amy, because I've been such a huge fan forever. Embracing the culture is embracing Amy Winehouse someone who I absolutely love. So that's why I met with her dad, to tell him how amazing Amy was. It was actually right around the anniversary of her death that we met. It was heavy.
Hopefully we'll also see you back on the road properly soon. I'm ready for "My Loving" to come to life.
Oh, we gonna make it so hot and special for you.