Tapped as guest mentor for Team Usher on the sixth season of NBC’s “The Voice” — which kicks off Feb. 24 — Jill Scott has also been busy juggling two other major projects: a co-starring role in the James Brown biopic “Get On Up” and a new album for Atlantic.
Given her background as a Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and spoken word artist plus various theater credits (including a Canadian tour of Broadway musical “Rent”), Scott felt she could truly “be of service” during her “Voice” stint. “It’s a show I watch and enjoy because singers are really being given an opportunity to sing,” she explains. “It’s not all about the look or the visual. It’s really about the tone of the voice, the passion that lives inside of it.”
Scott’s own creative passions erupt when the discussion turns to “Get On Up.” Starring Chadwick Boseman (baseball’s Jackie Robinson in “42”) as Brown, the biopic counts Mick Jagger and Brian Grazer as producers with Tate Taylor (“The Help”) directing. In the movie, Scott plays The Godfather of Soul’s second wife, Deirdre “Deedee” Jenkins. Called to audition for a smaller role while on a press junket for her last movie, 2013’s “Baggage Claim,” Scott later learned the Jenkins character was being written for her. To help her channel the role, Scott spent time with Jenkins’ grandson, who shared photos and stories.
“This wasn’t a character study,” she says. “I looked at the film as a mosaic with the most important part being her still unbridled love and adoration for this huge personality and talent.” Jenkins, who is still alive, married Brown in 1970 and divorced him in 1981.
Adds Scott about her month-long shoot, “I’m from the Mos Def school of acting. I love to immerse myself in a character and be around people doing the same thing. Tate is an easy spirit to be around, and Chad just went all the way in.”
With “Get On Up” slated to premiere August 1, Scott is hoping her yet-untitled Atlantic album will also be on the launching pad then. Working primarily with longtime collaborator Andre Harris (Kanye West, Miguel) from Philadelphia and fellow songwriter/producer Aaron Pearce (Cassadee Pope, Celine Dion) from Nashville, the singer describes their late-night recording sessions as “a meeting of Philly and Nashville soul.”
Other than that, Scott says she’s “still in the cooking process, cutting and chopping but much closer than I was two months ago.” Before the film and album are released, she’ll head down to New Orleans in July as a main stage headliner at the 20th annual Essence Festival (7/3-6).
“The Light of the Sun,” Scott’s 2011 fourth studio album released through her Blues Babe Records and Warner Bros., earned the singer her first No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200. With current sales of 473,000 according to Nielsen SoundScan, the album spun off the Adult R&B (No. 1 for 18 weeks) and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (No. 10) hit “So in Love” featuring Anthony Hamilton.