Nero: The theme of the album is 'underrated.' How did you come up with this theme?
Syleena Johnson: The fans. The fans actually named the album -- like, for real, for real. I did a post on Twitter and Facebook and asked them what it should be and they came back strongly with this. And why not? Sounds good to me.
Nero: Why do you think you are such an underrated R&B artist?
Syleena: You know, for me it's not such much underrated, it's much more underestimated. My fans think I'm underrated probably because they haven't seen me on a lot of mainstream things that they feel I probably should be on. I guess that could contribute to why, but I'm not runnin' around throwin' a tantrum. I think it's a cool title; it gets peoples' attention.
Nero: You're not seen a lot on award shows and lot of these high profile programs and things on television and the radio. Is that by choice or do you think you're being overlooked by the mainstream?
Syleena: I think overlooked, and that's where the 'underestimated' comes into play. I just don't think that they think I'm good enough and that I'm relevant enough and in that aspect that's where the title of the album really comes into play.
Nero: Other than the theme of the new album, what sets it apart from your first four albums?
Syleena: I'm at another place in my life, I'm ready to spread my wings, I'm more mature lyrically and I'm more courageous musically and vocally. Those are the missing components that I think that -- not to say that any of my albums were incomplete or not right for the time -- but I think now is a time where I'm very confident in what I'm doing with myself, with my gift.
Nero: Do you have a favorite song on Underrated?
Syleena: "Like Thorns" is my favorite song right now. Just the dynamics of it, it showcases a different element of my voice and I'm really in love with the lyrics.
Nero: You said that's your favorite song "right now" -- has your favorite changed over time?
Syleena: It changes all the time, from week to week, because it's my baby, it's my album and I listen to it a lot and different songs stand out at different times.
Nero: Over your career and in particular on this album, you've shown a lot of versatility. You've been able to sing R&B obviously, but you also have kind of a soulful voice and you've worked with a lot of hip-hop artists in the past, and if I'm not mistaken, you've done a song with (blues guitarist) Buddy Guy earlier in your career. How have you been able to be so versatile, and is that intentional, where you've worked in all these different genres in music?
Syleena: You know, I'm really glad that you pointed that out. You're the first interviewer who actually pointed that out to me, and I mean ever. I'm versatile because -- and this is the main reason why I hate to be put in a box -- because I love music and whatever umbrella music is under, I can do, because I'm into music. I used to sing classically, I started out with classical. I grew up in a house with a Blues singer who also also sang R&B, but then I was trained classically and I also played instruments and everything.
Nero: One of my favorite songs on Underrated is "Angry Girl," the song that you did with Tweet. It's both sad and beautiful at the same time; I was curious as to how that collaboration with Tweet came about, because she hasn't been recording a whole lot of music lately.
Syleena: I love Tweet, I'm a Tweet fan. So when I created the song, I had her in mind. And I reached out to her and she said 'yes.' I was so grateful. I just love her voice and always have. I was a kid in a candy store when I got the call back and I heard her voice. To be a fan of someone and then to hear them on a song with you, it's a big thing, it's huge.
Nero: Another song I thought was really great, it's a fun song, is "Label Me." How'd that song come about?
Syleena: I love that song. That was the first song I recorded for Chapter 5. I just tired of people labeling me and 'oh, you should do this, you should do that.' I'm like, just shut up. Let me be. And if you're gonna label me something, call me Gucci, call me Prada. Label me the finer things. This is the level that I'm on.
Nero: Are you going to be touring in support of Chapter 5?
Syleena: Of course. I'm starting out a 15-city tour in New York the day after the album comes out. And then I'm about to tape a reality show. So I'll be all over the place.
Nero: Tell me more about this reality show.
Syleena: It's called Diary of a Diva and it's with Faith Evans, Nicci Gilbert from Brownstone, Keke Wyatt, Angie Stone, Monifa, Lelee from SWV and Teisha Jaretta, who's also from Brownstone. All of us are friends and it's gonna depict our lives and how hard it is in the industry. It's gonna be great. It's gonna be awesome. I'm really excited about it.
Nero: Do you have a network lined up for the show yet?
Syleena: Yes. I can't tell (but) we are in negotiations with one network that's pretty promising. We're going to air in January.
Nero: Will the show focus on your lives individually, or will you all be together at some point? You all live in different cities, right?
Syleena: We're all going to be in Atlanta. They're going to put the ones that don't there, they're gonna put us there for awhile. Most of us already live there, with the exception of me and Faith. And Faith is coming in and out; she's gonna be there, but not a lot.
Nero: Alright Syleena, thank you. I really like Chapter 5, I'm going to publish a review the day before the album drops.
Syleena: Awesome. Can you also put in there for everyone to tune in to www.stageit.com/syleenajohnson the day before the album comes out because I'm doing a live acoustic show through the computer. It starts at 8 pm Central, 9 pm Eastern. You turn on your computer and you'll be able to see me live. Tweet is going to be performing with me and we'll also be shooting a video for the song "Angry Girl."