But behind the scenes, the Queen of Canadian Soul and R&B has travelled down many contrasting roads. Some were inspiring, while others damn near took her out. But she's still here, persevering. Not without testament to her faith and allowing herself to give in, adapt, learn and grow along the way. During this time of self-exploration, Black zoned in on her mental and physical health, healing in many facets. Now, she is finally ready to return to her love of music.
The soulstress has already released two tracks from her anticipated upcoming release, Three Rocks and a Slingshot. It's not lost on us that it's her first physical album since 2015. It's been a minute. So far, we've been served with the gritty and impactful "Half Empty" and the recent single, "Time For Jesus," which is pretty self-explanatory. Black's long healing process started with the passing of her mom and understanding who 'Jully Black the artist' is. "So, it's interesting because the main pause was when I started caring for mom in 2016, 2017. Half of this album was actually done. Then, you know, mom transitioned. And I didn't recognize myself as an artist without my mom. She was everything. So I was like, okay. I still have a love for it. I love being on stage, but do I want to go into the studio and do I wanna do that part of it?"
As I'm sure you've heard many creatives say, 'there are levels to this shit.' Indeed, one's metamorphosis never comes easy. However, learning about the other components of self you meet along the way tends to give you more clarity and focus on who you are. 100 Strong and Sexy was one of those self-exploratory things that helped Jully manage. "I was getting my cup filled. You know, by the end of the hundred days, I would always perform. We would do a fashion show. There was always something, right? So I wasn't missing music in that way. And I found a new purpose. So to come around the band four, almost five years later—then it's the pandemic."
Black continues, "Well, Caroline comes my way. I was like, okay, it's 2017, 2018, and I'm doing 100 Strong and Sexy. They present me with Caroline Or Change. I said, okay, should I put out music? Well, let's take that different avenue. Different avenue, but it's still storytelling and community connection. That was a scary thing for me—brand new. Then the pandemic hit. All of that is the journey that brought me here to 2022, to Three Rocks And A Slingshot and "Half Empty" and "No Relation" and all the things."
Black is known as a connector, the fun people-person who loves community. And if you're a fan of her work, you know that health stays on the forefront. On her socials, she shares her self-love journey by continually taking care of herself, eating healthy, exercising, bubblin' to her favourite reggae mixes and living life to the fullest. She's also been an athlete since her elementary school days. Therefore, she believes that her exercise and health venture 100 Strong and Sexy assisted with the necessary transition in play. "The Lord sent 100 Strong and Sexy to help me through the grief. The personal journey is a lifelong one of healing. But that began in such a way that it was more so in service to other people that helped me and expedited the feeling of being Jully."
Coming of age and understanding what truly works for you on your purposeful journey is difficult. You must be willing to work with yourself—the good and the bad. Black always holds her faith steadfastly as a solid pillar in her life. But two other crucial tidbits helped her overcome a few hurdles. She had to release the weight of relationships that didn't serve her growth and start focusing on those that nurtured it, and she never forgets to give thanks. "Instead of focusing on the friends of my history, I was focusing on the friends of my destiny. It's the intentional ones. Move with people who rock with you, that have the intention, and will wheel you up. And I have pretty strong gratitude. I know it's trendy, but I have my gratitude journal on my side table and stay thankful for three things every day, at least."
A lot of Black's journey is on a personal tip. However, there have been pivotal professional movements along the way too. First, creatively, Black recorded the album mostly stateside. Then, she picked her favourite writers—including Kareem James (Wale, SiR) and Missy Elliot's cousin Corte Ellis, who co-wrote "Half Empty" (Fantasia, New Edition, Britney Spears)—and went to work.
As for many artists, real life seeps into their creative process. On Black's single "Half Empty," the passion, pain and fury are palpable. You can tell Black poured the loss of a long-term relationship into the song and album's creation. Listening to her recall everything tells me that it was a well-needed outlet. "A lot of these songs are all about my relationship, especially "Half Empty." Just being that person that gives and gives and gives and gives, you know what I mean?" said Black.
She shares, "It was so cathartic, so therapeutic. I sang that thing aside from my backup vocals. I did it in one take. I went, and I just let go. He [her ex-boyfriend] and I are like the best of friends. That's one thing I can say. Let me tell you something about maturity, spiritual maturity. Like my mom used to say, everybody ages, but not everybody grows up."
Speaking of growth, it seems that Black is coming to the end of the road artistically as a singer. Yes, she's thinking about literally hanging up the mic. "So I'm very, very proud of the body of work. But I'm not sure if I will do another album after this one. I mean, I love the live show aspect of things. I think the business has just changed so much, and in all transparency, I enjoy having a machine. I enjoy having the big label push, and I think that my star needs that. And so that's where I'm at right now, on today. You know what? I don't like the indie grind. I don't like it. I've been signed since I was a kid. I know what it's like to have all that. Indie grind is not for everybody." But let's clarify the matter here. Black will never retire from music. She may grace us with a single here and there, but she will always be ready if the right label comes along.
Black is steadily evolving and making daily deposits in her body, mind and soul. She’s unapologetically living life with joy, as though she’s having a party every day. Whether professionally, personally or creatively, Black is progressing and championing her movements from the inside out. Her liberation reflects in her album. When listening, she wants everyone to feel whatever washes over them. "I want them to feel hopeful, bossy, and empowered. I want the listeners to have an opportunity to escape, truly escape. And whatever emotion comes, get on it like a wave and ride it. Happiness, sadness, ratchet, sexy, churchy, whatever it is, do not resist it. Just get on it, and ride it all the way."