Syleena Johnson has been holding the mantle for soul music since she became a fan as a young person. Her almost two decades as a solo artist seems logical because of her father, Hi Records soul legend Syl Johnson. But the creative spirit was something Johnson came into after making plans to practice medicine. The shift into a music career proved to be enduring and a real fit for the edginess of her blue-toned voice. She is always associated with the “All Falls Down” collaboration she did with Kanye West in 2004. Newer fans are quick to talk about her time on the reality series R&B Divas: Atlanta. Music is her foundation and she has shared her journey within a discography that has addressed many aspects of her womanhood, relationships and humanity up until the present. In 1995 she recorded This Time Together: Father And Daughter with her dad and they have come full circle with 2017’s The Rebirth Of Soul. Their new project is a collection of soul covers from the ’50s and ’60s recorded live with some of Chicago’s most respected musicians In this interview Johnson explains the story behind The Rebirth Of Soul, her path to music and being one of the hosts of TV One’s new talk show Sister Circle.
“You can not have a Rebirth Of Soul album without Aretha Franklin”
How did you and your father get around to recording Rebirth Of Soul?
We actually did six years ago. This album has been sitting in the can six years. I was pregnant with Kingston and my dad asked me if I wanted to do a covers album. My dad came up with the concept and it was weird because I already recorded Chapter 5 and he suggested live instrumentation and I said fine if you put it all together I’ll show up. I picked some of the records. Otis Redding “This Heart Of Mine” which is probably my favorite Otis Redding song ever.
What did it feel like to record live for the first time?
It wasn’t the first time I’ve been doing this a while with my dad but what was the first time was recording live with musicians from this era. And having to recreate with them and that was tough. But I welcome the challenge because you know one thing about my dad is that he brings out the best in me because he really believes in me as an artist. He really believes in me as a vocalist he gave me the confidence to know that I could go in and complete these songs.