India.Arie returns to the Essence Festival with new music

NEW ORLEANS — India.Arie’s soulful, spirit-filled voice returns to the Essence Festival, stronger than ever and she says she’s ready for another “SongVersation.”

The neo-soul singer-songwriter on Friday dropped an EP entitled “SongVersation: Medicine,” which includes three new songs, two re-releases and two acoustic remakes of songs on her 2013 release with a similar name.

The new project showcases her feelings as someone close to her fought through cancer treatment.

“My whole career has been to spread love, healing, peace and joy through my words and music,” she told The Associated Press. “Things are so crazy right now. I look at this as soul medicine for the pain.”

India.Arie said she also developed companion pieces “SongVersation Performance” and “SongVersation Practice,” which she described as “the process of getting yourself in the state where the work you’re doing emerges from you instead of trying to make it work” and a journal/workbook that helps “get you to where you’re not judging yourself and shows you how to not force things.”

“The songs go with the practices, which include stretching, breathing, prayer, meditation. It’s all interactive,” she said.

India.Arie is scheduled to appear Friday on the festival’s main concert stage inside the Superdome before Diana Ross, who is making her first festival appearance. India.Arie has played Essence several times.

“I like the concept of the Essence Festival,” she said. “Just on the first night alone, it’s me, it’s John Legend, it’s Di-An-Nuh Ross! Who does that? I also like to see the shows, I’m able to pop in and see a little bit of this and that.”

India.Arie said her synergy with Essence is one reason she sang two songs for Thursday’s private salute to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who was praised for helping the festival grow and keeping it in the city. More than 450,000 people attended the 2016 festival, which organizers said has an annual $250 million economic impact over the holiday weekend.

India.Arie said she believes Essence is a perfect match for her.

“Sometimes when I perform I have to prime the room because it’s not set up for me or for what I do,” she said. “So when that happens, I have to spend a lot of energy to pull you into my world for three minutes. But Essence is like the world I belong in. Whenever they call, I don’t even think about it, I say ‘yes.’”

India.Arie also is scheduled to appear Saturday and Sunday at free, fan-friendly events and workshops. Later this summer, she will join Oprah Winfrey aboard the “Share the Adventure Cruise to Alaska” for a “SongVersation Performance.”

A full-length album entitled “Worthy” is scheduled for release in March.

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