10 minutes on the phone with the inimitable Erykah Badu | Music

Here’s the deal: Erykah Badu is available for a phone interview, but she only has 10 minutes to speak. Could one of the most visionary and empathetic singers living in our space-time have something uplifting to say about life on Earth inside that tiny window of chatter? Let’s find out.

For Badu, a 10-minute phone call from his home in Texas is more than enough time to discuss loyalty, longevity, the comforts of recording at home, the joys of twerking abroad and more.

Q: Do you feel a special connection with your audience here (in Washington, DC)?

A: DC is one of the chocolate cities. The DMV, period, is chocolate town. It’s where I’m appreciated and people look forward to being there every year, to seeing us play. We always become a living, breathing organism because that’s the same need we have: that need to release something. In my case, it will be through music; in their case, it’s by returning that love and that energy on stage. And it’s always like that. Still.

Q: When was the last time you were on the public side of what you are describing?

A: We just got back from our European tour and Megan Thee Stallion played one of the shows, and it was so cool because I had never seen her play. She has this very big, beautiful energy. There was this moment in the show where she brought people on stage to twerk, to dance – and my band pushed me there! And I tore it. For Texas.

Q: When you’re on tour overseas and people ask what’s going on in America — and Texas — right now, what do you say?

A: Nothing. I’m not talking about that. When I’m on Instagram, I don’t say anything. I don’t give an opinion. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to do that at this point. I am as perplexed as everyone sometimes about the things that are going on. It’s one thing to get the information in the news, and another is how we experience it, how we experience it. I prefer to talk about that on stage: how to breathe through everything in front of us.

Q: I’ve read about your work as a doula and the work you do with dying people. Do you think your music helps people in the same way?

A: That’s what they tell me. This is the report I get. That I help. And I believe them.

Q: Do you feel… wise? I guess this is a convoluted question.

A: No, I think I know what you mean. I feel wiser than some people. And I always feel like I don’t know anything about certain topics and certain things. And I think the things I’m the wisest about, the things I talk about the least. Like when someone posts [online] about some kind of self-help thing – it’s because they need help with it.

Q: Can you tell me about your musical life these days — how do you make music and how do you listen to it?

A: I have a studio at home and, I mean, I have speakers everywhere. Sonos hooked me up. And I listen to music all day, every day, all the time. My registration process is pretty much the same as it always has been. Music is always first. I create this first, then the words live somewhere in there – maybe you can figure out what I mean. So I start by humming a melody along with the music, leaving room for the kick and the snare, then I start tapping a mantra, or a beat, and the words come somehow other.

Q: How do you know when a song is finished?

A: I never know. I never want to let go. It’s hard to. But then something happens, like a lifeline or a deadline, or something like that. I’m not going to get my money back or anything. And then it’s like, “OK, kiss him goodbye!”

Q: Is the idea that you want to keep the music for yourself?

A: No. But once I take it out, it’s not mine anymore. I always have my peers in mind, other artists that I admire, and I think of them listening to it while I’m doing it.

Q: I know people always want a new album from you, but I also think people trust music when it comes out on its own schedule.

A: Yeah, I do that. And I’m glad they trust me as a musician.