Toronto R&B artist thrives by the 'sweat of her brow'

15-May-2008 | SHARE:


Jully Black

When: Monday, 8 p.m.

Where: Element

Tickets: $20 in advance at Lyle's Place, Strathcona Hotel, and

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If things weren't going so spectacularly well for Jully Black these days on the musical front the Canadian R&B singer-songwriter might consider another career as a motivational speaker.

The 30-year-old Torontonian -- who wowed the country at last month's Juno Awards with a knockout performance and a win for R&B/soul recording of the year -- is a prime example of the power of positive thinking.

In fact, she has been tapped to play a motivational role in the next season of Canadian Idol, acting as a mentor, confidant, critic and coach for the young contestants on the series.

CTV made a wise choice with that call. Black, who is embarking on a cross-country tour, is an inspiring woman.

Raised in a single parent home by her Jamaican mother in Toronto's notorious Jane and Finch area, Black, the youngest of nine children, rejects the notion that she grew up in a rough, crime-ridden neighbourhood.

"None of the problems found us," she says. "That's the thing about stereotypes, you only hear what they want you to hear. It's not like bullets were flying all around us. It was a wonderful, multicultural, diverse community ... I had and still have friends from all walks of life ... and we're all like family. It was each one teach one."

She also stresses that her mother made a fine living working at General Motors. "I never went without," she says. "We just had to live in the neighbourhood we could afford to live in, and, from what I remember, our rent was still $900! Market rent is market rent."

Black began singing as a child while attending Sunday church services and she was encouraged by all the positive reaction she got from people. Soon she was performing anywhere and everywhere -- at school assemblies, community talent shows, wherever she could sharpen her skills.

She got her first break in the music business while still a teen when she put together a band and performed songs she had written at Toronto's Bamboo Club during Canadian Music Week. A publishing deal led to a recording contract with MCA Records and Black's debut album was scheduled for a 2003 release date. However, the record was shelved when MCA folded.

"That wasn't a Jully thing, it was a matter of circumstances," she says. "The company does not exist anymore so you can go and ring the bell all you want -- ain't nobody home

... Yeah, you get frustrated, but not discouraged ... I thought 'What do I do now?' I had to take a moment to quiet my mind. That's when I spoke to my mom and she said 'Jully, by the sweat of your brow you will eat bread.' And I wrote a song about it."

When she rebounded in 2005, releasing a newly recorded debut This Is Me through Universal Music Canada, that song, Sweat of Your Brow turned out to be the disc's biggest single.

"You see, if (the MCA deal hadn't fallen through), I wouldn't have had that conversation with my mom and she wouldn't have quoted the Bible. And I wouldn't have run with it," Black says. "Everything that happens in life is preparing you for the next thing."

Credit: Heath McCoy; Canwest News Service


Photo: Handout / Jully Black wowed the crowd at this year's Junos. ;; Caption:

Copyright Southam Publications Inc. May 15, 2008