JULLY BLACK performing as part of Canadian Music Week at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Saturday (March 1), 11:15 pm. $30/wristband. www.cmw.net.
Jully Black has no interest in becoming the next R&B diva droid.
A year after signing her major-label deal with MCA -- the first for any Canadian R&B singer -- the Toronto-based Black is quickly becoming familiar with the machinations of the music industry.
"I'm becoming educated on the decisions you can and can't make in this business," Black laughs. "I've been writing my songs forever, but as soon as the deal came, it was like, 'We've got this hot song for you to sing.'
"They just wanted me to sing, but I had to get writing on my record, so I ended up writing a song on my guitar, putting it together and sending it to my A&R guy. He called me, telling me it's a smash, and then asked who wrote it. When I told him I did, by myself, on my guitar, they were shocked, but that reset the tone. I have 10 years in this game already. I had to let people know I'm not an add-water-and-stir kind of singer."
With her debut album loosely scheduled for release in late summer, her CMW showcase offers a chance for Black to road-test the new material with a rare live show. Her singing has already received a massive boost, though.
In December, Black ended up singing the hook on Heaven, the pivotal track on Nas's well-received comeback disc, God's Son. The tune, and Black's crooning, have already got heads nodding across the U.S. and in Europe. That the cut is out at all, though, is a minor miracle.
"I was recording in Orlando at the same time that Nas was working on his record," she explains. "I just approached him and asked whether he would come by and check some of my stuff. Three days later, he pushed open the door and we played all this straight hiphop I'd done here with Saukrates and Agile.
"Nas got a copy of the track The Things You Do wrote his rhymes around what I was singing. I called Sauks and was, like, 'Nas wants the track. Don't say no. Screw the money.' It's a crazy opportunity."