Angela Johnson has always had something to say. The singer-songwriter has built a strong fan base independently with her devotion to musicality and her own voice; but on her latest album, Naturally Me, Johnson took a leap and decided to add new elements to that already well-established voice. She’s taking a different approach to her music — both sonically and thematically.
“[The new album is] different in that I’ve taken more of a political stance with this album and I have made it more live-oriented,” she explains. “I incorporated more horns, used a string section, live drums, which I don’t necessarily do on all of my projects. This album is completely arranged by myself — composed and written. This entire record was done by me.
“I believe that being independent helped me achieve a distinctive sound. You know it when you hear it “Being the sole producer, arranger and singer-songwriter, it’s given me my own sound. My inspiration does come from a lot of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s music. One of my goals for this album was being true to those genres and those periods.”
Johnson tackles sociopolitical issues on Naturally Me, and she revealed that, while becoming more topical was something that she felt she needed to do, she was very conflicted about voicing her opinions through her music.
“I have to admit I was a little nervous about it, a little apprehensive,” she admits. “I didn’t want to shake things up with my fan base. I have fans with many different types of views and I didn’t want to scare anyone off. But I felt it was time for me to speak up and talk about things as a citizen of the United States and my community.
“I live in Newark, New Jersey; and I’m seeing this gun violence thing has just taken on a whole new level. Not just in Newark, but in America, gun violence is an everyday occurrence. We’re seeing more and more of our people dying because of guns. Especially our young boys. I was heartbroken after the Trayvon Martin case and to see lately, within the last month or so, to see it more and more in the news — we’re seeing more reports on it and it’s more public and we’re being made aware in the United States. It’s so sad to see that we have not made things better for our community when it comes to violence.”
But for Johnson, the time was right for her to speak her mind and share her perspective on what’s happening in her community.
“These are issues that I wanted to talk about, not breaking any new ground or doing anything brand new,” she says. “But it is a continuation of what they did in the ’60s. We need to get back to that in our music. We’re not getting a lot of that from hip-hop. It’s not bringing the social awareness like it did in the 1980s. So these are issues that are important to me as a black mother.”