SHULMANSAYS: We had the pleasure of meeting at Giorgio’s – the white-hot center of the disco renaissance, thrown by Bryan Rabin and DJ Adam XII, at The Standard Hollywood – where you have been dubbed “Queen of Giorgio’s” (Watley laughs). What are your favorite songs to dance to?
JODY WATLEY: Oh, I like ‘em all! Certainly, you should never make requests to the DJ – that’s a no-no. But I’ve gently suggested to Adam (not the night of, but via Twitter, you know “If you would consider… LOL”) songs like “Love in C Minor” (by Cerrone), “Let’s Start the Dance” (by Bohannon), “I Want to Thank You” (by Alicia Myers), and that Phyllis Hyman song, “You Know How to Love Me” – and anything done by Chic (“Chic Cheer” for Chic, and “Spacer” for Sheila and B. Devotion, and “Lost in Music” for Sister Sledge), they’re all amazing. So yeah – all of ‘em.
SS: My initial thought upon hearing “Nightlife” was “Wow! If this had been played at the balls, there would’ve been some very happy Vogue-ing queens, up in Harlem.” What was the inspiration behind “Nightlife” that you’ve released on your own Avitone label?
JW: Well, I’ve been releasing independently since 1995, and Avitone is all about fueling my quality music. Since 2000, I’ve been doing electronic ambient music, and really working in that genre (that I love). But I noticed, since doing my last album – The Makeover (2006) – that I’d really been in that mellow, vibe-y space. But leading-up to working on new material, there wasn’t anything specifically in dance or electronica that I was inspired by; and because it’s become so popular and mainstream.
I love to listen to music when I work out (each morning I do a run/walk), and my playlist was the classic dance/disco songs, that really made me feel energized. So I got to feeling that I really wanted to do a funky disco/soul record. And it came from there, from listening to those classic grooves. You know that people will always love to dance, obviously. And I wanted to do it, not in a retro way, but in a very contemporary style that was really steeped and rooted in classic disco and soul. Like all of those songs they play, at Giorgio’s.
I started working on this two-and-a-half years ago, and I’ve been performing “Nightlife” and a few other songs live (which is a very classic approach), and over the past couple of years of singing it, I’ve been able to make it better. And I’m so glad I didn’t rush it, because since that time Daft Punk and Nile Rodgers and Pharrell have come out with “Get Lucky” – and Justin Timberlake with “Take Back the Night” – so I knew I was on the right path, because it’s a classic sound but it’s modern. When I first wrote it, the last thing that I added was the chant (“Ibiza, Africa, Dubai, St. Tropez…”); and I hadn’t thought to have a male vocalist sing with me. That came from doing the song live. And so many of those classic soul and disco records from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s (including Shalamar, obviously), had a male-female thing going on. Chic was always a male-female thing; and with Change, those four voices, male and female, blended together. So, that chant, was the last addition to the song; and I asked Gerald Brown, who I hadn’t sung with since [Shalamar’s] “Take That to the Bank” in 1978, when I was a teenager, to sing with me – and it all came together, organically. But I’m just really inspired by the music of that time.
Next time, Jody Watley talks about her new album, Paradise, and the New Disco phenomenon.
NIGHTLIFE Remixed EP
Click HERE to listen or download
Get into it!