Jill Scott Tests Musical Limits, Readies New Project

Logging time off for creative exploration, singer plots return.

HOLLYWOOD — After taking a year off, neo-soul singer Jill Scott is slowly returning to music.

"I'm starting to write again for this new project, which is probably going to be two albums at once," Scott said backstage at Tuesday's Shortlist concert (see "N.E.R.D. Win Shortlist Prize"). "It's starting to come fast. It's a lot of information, a lot of songs at once, but I'm ready to rock and roll."

Don't take "rock and roll" literally. The songs Scott has written so far are far from it.

"It's a lot of classical influences, strings and drums and lots of percussion," she said. "I've been learning more about my voice. I've been listing to [Qawwali singer] Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and [opera star] Kathleen Battle. I want to see how far this voice of mine can go. I'm checking out Rakim and just paying attention to those kinds of artists that really have it, that can really tell a story through their voice."

During her hiatus, Scott set out to learn more about singing and enrolled in music classes in her hometown of Philadelphia.

"I wanted to study some different kinds of vocalizing, just for fun," she said. "What the hell? If it's good, why not try to make it better?"

She also spent some of her time off pursuing other interests, like journalism. Scott penned articles for Oprah magazine, interviewed Common for One World and Patti LaBelle for Grace.

"I think you need to take time for a while, just to try some things and get your mind off what you do normally," Scott explained. "I do feel refreshed. I feel relaxed. I feel comfortable."

Now Scott will channel that energy into the follow-up to her Grammy-nominated Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 and the double-disc Experience: Jill Scott (826 Plus), which included 10 new tracks (see "Jill Scott Comes Alive With 10 New Tracks").

There's no title or release date for the project yet, but Scott said to expect something by spring or summer.