Jazmine Sullivan took a break from music in 2011, so when she returned with a new album last year, the stakes seemed high.
“I hadn’t been out for a while, like two or three years,” Sullivan tells EW of when she started recording Reality Show. “There was a lot of pressure to make it good.”
Fast forward to the end of 2015, and the 28-year-old singer’s calming 12-track R&B set racked up three Grammy nominations for Best R&B Song, Best Traditional R&B performance, and Best R&B Album. It took Sullivan nearly two years, during which she moved back in with her parents, to perfect her comeback record, she says.
Despite receiving eight prior nominations for 2008’s Fearless and 2010’s Love Me Back — including a Best New Artist nod in 2009 — it might be the result of her moving back to mom and dad that earns Sullivan her first Grammy. “The first time I was nominated, I was nominated for five Grammys for my first album, and I just remember being shocked,” the Philadelphia native recalls. “[This year] all the categories that I’m in are pretty tough, so whoever wins is going to be deserving.”
Ahead of the Feb. 15 award show, Sullivan spoke to EW about the possibility of taking home her first Grammy, who she considers her biggest competition for a statue, and what she wants to discuss with Beyoncé when the night comes.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Reality Show was your first album in five years, so how does it feel to get this kind of recognition for it?
It’s amazing. The fear of not being out for a while and having to come out, it’s overwhelming at times. So to have that and put the album out and do so well, and then to be nominated for a Grammy for your work, it just validates all my hard work that I put in.
What would it mean for you to win after having been nominated so much for your first two albums?
These are some pretty tough categories this year. I think every time I’m nominated they’re tough though.
Any category in particular in which you’re eyeing a win?
I am eyeing to win all of them hopefully. Mainly the Best R&B Album because I put everything into it. To be recognized for that one would be the icing on the cake.
Despite not having won at the Grammys before, I’m sure you still have some fun memories from attending the ceremonies.
I went to the Grammys with my mom, my ex at the time, and my dad the first time. We were getting ready to sit down and my dad and my ex took two tickets out of this envelope and they went to go sit down. When we looked in the envelope we saw that they took the wrong tickets so they were all the way up front in the front row and for some reason, it didn’t occur to them that they were in wrong seats. So we were panicking and had to wait for them to come back. It was pretty funny that they thought their seats were all the way up front.
Obviously you were supposed to be up front. Do you think you’ll bring your parents again?
I have to have them with me, regardless of if I win or lose. They’ve been such a big part of the process.
How long did the recording process take?
It took about a year and a half, maybe 2 years. It was a long process because you know, when you’re working on an album, you may start out with one idea but as you go along, it kind of changes. There was a lot of that going on.
You’re nominated in Best Traditional R&B performance for “Let It Burn,” but what does it mean to you to be considered “traditional?”
I don’t now what that really means to be honest. I guess that it has a feeling of being kind of classic. And I think that song falls in the category of being a classic song, a timeless R&B song.
Then in the Best R&B Song category, you’re up against D’Angelo, The Weeknd, Tyrese Gibson, and Miguel.
I definitely think that category will go to The Weeknd because that song [“Earned It”] was so huge. It’s a great song. When I heard it I was like, “Oh this is amazing.” I wasn’t even thinking about Grammys and nominations.
You tweeted that you wanted Beyoncé to rewrite parts of [Reality Show single] “Mascara.” If you see her at the Grammys would you ask her about that?
I would be so scared but I think I would. This would be my first time meeting her. We know of each other and we love each other from afar, but if I see her I’ll be too scared to bring it up. If I have a drink or two.
Is there anyone else you’re looking forward to seeing at the Grammys?
I’m looking forward to seeing Kendrick Lamar. I am very excited about all of his nominations, I think he’s so deserving of it. I went to one of his concerts and was blown away by the musicality of it. You don’t go to a lot of hip-hop shows and feel really fulfilled. It was a really musical show. Also D’Angelo. I’m excited to see him and to be nominated in that category.
The 58th Annual Grammy Awards air Feb. 15 at 8p.m. ET on CBS.