It’s a rainy day in Nashville as singer-songwriter India.Arie prepares for an evening of interviews before embarking on the Worthy Tour, a 21 city trek which includes a sold-out stop at Birmingham’s Alys Stephens Center, May 14. The tour, in support of her eighth studio album Worthy, marks the songstress’s first full-length record in half a decade.

However, Arie is anything but absent from the music industry.  In 2015, the R&B songstress released Christmas with Friends, a holiday collaboration with pianist Joe Sample, Brandy, and Tori Kelly. Two years later, Arie would release SongVersation: Medicine, an EP follow-up to her fifth album of the same name.

Released in February, Worthy reunites fans with India Arie ’s cleverly weaved world views on love and relationships while experimenting with new sounds. Her first single “That Magic”, a reggae-infused banger, peaked at number 6 on the Adult R&B Songs chart. The 16-track collection opens with the self-empowering intro “Worthy” where the artist chants “everyone is worthy.”

And it all started with a conversation with Oprah Winfrey. Or so it seems.

Back in 2013, Arie was a guest on Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday” where she and the media maven sat down to discuss her then-new record SongVersation.  During the interview, Winfrey asked, “How long has unworthiness been your calling card?”

“She’s one of my heroes. For her to ask that just drove home what I really was,” Arie says in a phone interview. “And it made me think. It made me really have to assess myself. Is that really how I look to people? I realized to some I really did look like that. That I wasn’t worthy. And, more than making an album, I just decided that I was going to go on a journey and shifting that narrative for myself and for other people.”

Arie admits the episode wasn’t the catalyst that inspired her to make a new record, but that it was a sign. However, making the album didn’t happen overnight. Despite the desire to create new music, Arie recalls a period of being uninspired, often seeking guidance from her close friends. As she puts it, “No one was really listening to music.”

While India Arie was recording what would later manifest as Worthy, the 43-year-old singer-songwriter cites working without expectations and a “completed developed vision” helped the process.

“I knew worthy was my favorite word and it still is,” Arie muses. “So, I called [the album] that and understood the process of writing songs and it started to take shape on its own. I told myself ‘if you do this and it doesn’t take shape, I just won’t make an album’. I ‘m so happy that it did and that I was open enough that I didn’t have this completed developed vision. I think this turned out better than I imagined.”

Produced by Aaron Lindsey, Worthy features several powerful tracks, including love ballads “That Magic”,” Steady Love” and the Civil Rights-driven anthem “What If.” For the four-time Grammy award-winner, addressing social justice and politics is nothing new in her music. Once criticized for being “too preachy,” Arie believes musicians like never before are now expected to use their platforms to tackle these issues in their lyrics.

“I write and do what I feel,” says Arie on her songwriting methods.  “I’m authentic to me and that’s it. So, even with addressing the political climate now, I’ve always [done that]. But now people are expecting artists to address the political climate because things are so crazy. Now I’m not being called preachy.”

Since breaking into the music industry in 2002 with the debut album Acoustic Soul, which included chart-topping singles like “Video” and “Ready for Love,” the songstress said she’s grown more “empowered and self-defying” with her music. With almost two decades in the business, Arie reflects on her growth as an artist and a person, which shows on Worthy.

“Eighteen years ago, I would’ve never written a song about wanting to be married or have sort of family life,” Arie explains. “I was thinking about wanting to have my first real relationship or wanting to know what relations are really about and I sang about breakups and heartbreak. My music has changed as much as I have.”

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