NEW YORK (AP) -- When India.Arie debuted in 2001 with "Acoustic Soul," a CD brimming with messages about self-worth, inner-beauty and positivity, she was seen by many as a strong, self-assured musician who was impervious to the more vain and superficial pitfalls of celebrity.
The 33-year-old singer says people misinterpreted her image as a "role model" and she struggled with her own insecurities.
She's taking a new approach with her fourth studio CD, "Testimony, Vol. 2: Love & Politics," released this week.
The Grammy-winner hopes to expand outside the R&B/soul genre to a more world music sound with her new disc. She traveled alone to Hawaii for 10 days to refresh her spirit, and that's where she wrote most of the album's songs.
AP: It's been three years since your last release. How'd you prepare yourself for a new album again?
India.Arie: It's funny because you know how everybody watches TV, everybody reads magazines, all of us, and you constantly (see) there's (one) or two or three female artists who talk about, "I had another breakdown, I had to take a little break. I was working so hard I almost had another breakdown." ... It's really a common experience as a woman in the music industry because we're wired to be emotional, so if you have these things that are kind of like assaulting emotionally over a long period of time, your emotional body gets kind of worn out, you get tired. It's not a tired that sleep fixes, it's tired that you have to go home and fix. That's where I was.
AP: Can you talk about your new CD?
India.Arie: I always considered myself a world music artist. With the production of this album, I made a world music album, all kinds of sounds, all kinds of guest appearances, all kinds of different people from different cultures. ... It really is my interpretation of world music. And also lyrically, just talking about more than just my world, my internal world, which is what I normally like to talk about ... (and) addressing my opinion about what's going on in the world.
AP: What sparked this kind of sound and approach?
India.Arie: What helped me want to expand the subject matter and the sound of this album is because I'm expanding as a person. Just like in my everyday, personal life growing up, one of my biggest lessons of the last 10 years has been learning how to speak my mind, speak up, have hard conversations with people, say things I want to say even though I know people might not like it. Be myself, even though I know some people around me might not like it. Really, the last three years that lesson was super-intensified.
AP: How do you feel compared to the early days of your career?
India.Arie: I think when I first came out the image that people had of me was that I was a person comfortable in my skin, particularly because (of) the song "Video." But one thing that people didn't understand about the song "Video" or about me as an artist was that my songs for the most part are affirmations. So I'm writing these songs about who I want to be, how I want to see the world and what I want to see humanity be. That's why a lot of people say it's too positive because I'm not talking about what's really going on in the world — but I'm not CNN, I'm a songwriter.
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