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(Soundbite of song, "Pearls")

Ms. INDIA ARIE (Musician): (Singing) There was always a power I could feel.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

Singer/songwriter and Grammy winner India.Arie has her own record label now. It's called SoulBird Music. On it she's released a new CD, "Testimony, Volume 2: Love and Politics." The recording is a follow-up to her earlier one, "Volume 1: Life and Relationships."

And as she writes in the letter to her fans on the liner notes, the mission of Volume 2 is to spread love, healing and peace through the power of words and music. India.Arie is in our Washington studio 4A. Welcome back to the show and it's so nice to meet you in person finally.

Ms. ARIE: Thank you so much. It's nice to meet you in person after seven years.

HANSEN: Seven years. We last spoke in 2002, and you were in a different location when "Voyage to India" was released. And when we talked then, you said you wanted to make a change in the way humans relate to each other and the way people relate to themselves. How does this…

Ms. ARIE: I said that back then?

HANSEN: You did. How prescient, huh?

Ms. ARIE: I've been - that's been my intention the whole way.

HANSEN: Yeah. And how does this recording accomplish that which you were talking about, like, seven years ago?

Ms. ARIE: Well, in my liner notes I say Volume 2's intention and that's actually the mission statement for everything I do.

HANSEN: For the whole thing.

Ms. ARIE: That is my mission statement.

HANSEN: Excellent.

Ms. ARIE: And the only contribution I have in that is that when I'm writing those songs, I'm very conscious of what I say and how I say what I say. I feel that I hear from whoever the higher power is, songs, subject matter that is about the human condition more than it's just about what's happening in my life. But how to take my own experiences and make them about the human condition. You know…

HANSEN: Broader, sure.

Ms. ARIE: Yeah, broader. Thank you. That's the word.

HANSEN: Sure.

Ms. ARIE: How to make them broader. And I say that that's my only contribution because my other mission statement is that God will take each song and give it to whoever wants it and that they'll get whatever they need from it.

HANSEN: And talk about the song you're going to perform for us, which is "Ghetto."

Ms. ARIE: Yes. This is not in the liner notes, but if there were going to be a mission statement for this actual album, it would be this album is about and in honor of the oneness of all things. All the songs are about that, even when they don't sound like they're about that. But this one we're going to do right now is about the oneness of all things.

HANSEN: And let me tell people you're not alone in the studio. Reggae artist Gramps Morgan is here with you and guitarist and vocalist Blue Miller is here as well. So this is India.Arie with Gramps Morgan and Blue Miller with "Ghetto."

(Soundbite of song, "Ghetto")

Ms. ARIE: (Singing) The ghetto might as well be another country. The barrio might as well be another country. When you look around, you live in another country too.

Mr. BLUE MILLER (Musician): (Singing) Too.

Ms. ARIE: (Singing) Too.

Mr. MILLER: (Singing) Too. Too.

Ms. ARIE: (Singing) Too. Places in Havana that remind me of Savannah. Parts of West Virginia that might as well be Kenya. Parts of New York City.

Mr. MILLER: (Singing) Parts of New York City.

Ms. ARIE: (Singing) Parts of Mississippi.

Mr. MILLER: (Singing) Parts of Miami.

Ms. ARIE: (Singing) parts of Tennessee look like another world to me. Oh, oh, oh. Ghetto might as well be another country. The barrio might as well be another country. When you look around, you live in another country too.

Mr. MILLER: (Singing) Too.

Ms. ARIE: (Singing) Too.

Mr. MILLER: (Singing) Too. Too.

Ms. ARIE: (Singing) Too. To be hungry in L.A. is just like starving in Bombay. Homeless in Morocco is a shelter in Chicago. Right around the corner, just down the road, right before your eyes, right under your nose. Hey, the ghetto might as well be another country. The barrio might as well be another country. When you look around, you live in another country too.

Mr. MILLER: (Singing) Too.

Ms. ARIE: (Singing) Too.

Mr. MILLER: (Singing) Too. Too.

Ms. ARIE: (Singing) Too. Now, the dictionary said that the ghetto is a place of minority, and poverty and overpopulation. But we live on this earth together, ain't no separation. When you're looking down from outer space, we're just the human race and the world is a ghetto. It's in every place and every country. Barrio. It's in every place and every country.

When you look around, do you see a brother? When you look around, it's a small world after all. Look around, we live in another country too.

Mr. MILLER: (Singing) Too.

Ms. ARIE: (Singing) Hey.

Mr. MILLER: (Singing) Too. Too.

Ms. ARIE: (Singing) Hey, hey, yeah. Ghetto. Jamaica is a ghetto. Ghetto. Japan is a ghetto. Ghetto. Brazil is a ghetto. Ghetto. Ghetto. Israel is a ghetto. Ghetto. Slovakia's a ghetto. Ghetto. America's a ghetto. Ghetto.

HANSEN: "Ghetto" performed by India.Arie with Gramps Morgan and Blue Miller in our Washington studio 4A. The song appears on her new CD, "Testimony Volume 2: Love and Politics." That is a song that speaks for itself.

Ms. ARIE: Thank you.

HANSEN: Yeah, it really does.

Ms. ARIE: Is that a compliment?

HANSEN: It is a compliment.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: No, I mean, you state right out what it is you're talking about and what it is you're trying to say. And it's straight out there in the lyrics with a beat that you can dance to, which is always good.

Ms. ARIE: A good combination.

HANSEN: Yes, it is.

Ms. ARIE: I learned that from Stevie Wonder.

HANSEN: Really?

Ms. ARIE: Just make a social message that people can dance to.

HANSEN: Really. When did you get that advice to him or is that something you just picked up?

Ms. ARIE: Just in his music.

HANSEN: Yeah, it's true.

Ms. ARIE: (Singing) Hello, Jesus, Jesus' children.

That's jamming. I love that. Who says that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Given this is a follow-up to "Volume 1: Life and Relationships," and you're talking about making your music and what you're singing about matter to more than just what's happening to you and your relationships, how would you say that you have grown since you released "Volume 1?"

Ms. ARIE: Oh, since I released "Volume 1."

HANSEN: Well, I can go back further. We can go - how about since we last spoke seven years ago?

Ms. ARIE: That's even more. I think for certain, back then I wanted to just live my dream. And so, not whatever somebody said, but almost whatever they said to do I did. And when I spoke with you, when I did "Voyage to India," I cut that album in four months because they said, well, if you go ahead and cut this album quick, you could win some Grammys this year.

They'll just give it to you because of last year. And I didn't want to do any of that, but I took the advice, and I did win the Grammys. But I didn't feel fulfilled. I love that album. I love the songs, I love the vocals, but there is a polish that is lacking because I did it in four months. I'm a very slow songwriter, very methodical and slow.

I take two and three and five years between albums. So four months is unheard of. But the point I'm making with all of this is that music was the lens that I looked through to learn all these life lessons. And because I'm so sensitive about my music, my heart was hurt a lot. And I got to the point where I couldn't not stand up for myself. I couldn't not take care of my own business.

So, all of that need to speak my truth all the time, which is still scary to me, but it's scarier to feel the way that I felt, that heartbroken feeling of just having everything stuffed inside, that need to speak my truth all the time is the biggest difference.

HANSEN: The journey has led to your forming your own record label. Is that part of, I guess, getting out of that cage that you were in in the music industry?

Ms. ARIE: Yes. That's part of it. This album is the biggest part of it. I always considered myself a world music artist. But I couldn't - I felt like I wasn't able to accomplish that sound. With this album, I accomplished the sound.

I was, like, I don't know if anybody's going to like it, if they're going to accept it, but this is what I have to do, this is how I hear myself, this is how I hear these songs. And, also, a song like what we just sang, "Ghetto," I would've never said those things in a song because I would've thought it was too much, or too preachy, or too political or whatever.

But those are the things that I think. So, learning to speak up in my business, in my life, in my personal relationships in my music.

HANSEN: Ah. Being true to yourself has its rewards.

Ms. ARIE: I found that out.

HANSEN: Yeah.

Ms. ARIE: I found that out.

(Soundbite of song, "Therapy")

Ms. ARIE: (Singing) I need your therapy. I need you to come and lay hands on me. Oh, I need your therapy.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Hey.

HANSEN: India.Arie's new CD, "Testimony Volume 2: Love and Politics," which is available on SoulBird Music, Universal Republic Records label. A profound thanks to engineer Neil Tevalt(ph). Thank you to Gramps Morgan, thank you to Blue Miller and most of all, my profound thanks to India.Arie. Thank you for coming in and it's a real pleasure to meet you.

Ms. ARIE: My profound thanks to you too.

HANSEN: To hear all the songs and see a video of "Therapy," go to the music page of our Web site, NPR.org. To see photos of India.Arie, go to NPR.org/Soapbox.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

(Soundbite of song, "Therapy")

Ms. ARIE: (Singing) Boy, I can't bear to leave 'cause I need your therapy. Giving me everything, so much I am couldn't be without you, I'm weak in the knees, I need your therapy. I need your therapy. I need you to come and lay hands on me. I need your therapy.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Hey.

Ms. ARIE: (Singing) Puts his hand in my lower back, he's facing my neck and says…

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