Among the neo-classic soul artists to emerge in the early 2000s, following the success of artists like D'Angelo and Lauryn Hill, Atlanta's India.Arie was poised to make a major impact. A studied songwriter and guitar player rooted in the soul and blues of the past, as well as in positive-minded contemporary hip-hop, Arie debuted with Acoustic Soul. Rich with with resonant hooks and mature lyrics -- impressive, considering she been writing songs for only five years -- the album established a remarkable career that has entailed four Grammy Awards and five consecutive placements in the Top Ten of the Billboard 200.
Born in Denver to parents from Memphis and Detroit, Arie always had music in her life. The family moved to Atlanta when she was 13, and after high school she began playing guitar at the encouragement of her mother. Involvement in the fertile Atlanta music scene led to the formation of an artist's collective called Groovement and an independent label, EarthShare, which released a compilation CD featuring Arie's first songs. A second-stage slot on the 1998 Lilith Fair tour garnered major-label interest. Arie signed with Motown after she was guaranteed full artistic control.
Work on Acoustic Soul dragged out over nearly two years, but Arie's pursuit of perfection and musical integrity yielded pleasing results. The album's first single, "Video," received strong radio and club play early in 2001, and the full-length followed that March. Just over a year later, Arie completed her follow-up, Voyage to India, and it appeared in September 2002. Four years later, the singer hit number one on the all-genre Billboard 200 for the first time with Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship, which also netted her three Grammy nominations. The more outward-looking Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics was released through Universal Republic in February 2009 and debuted at number three on the Billboard 200. After a hiatus from the industry, she returned to Motown, where she released Songversation in June 2013. It was her fifth consecutive Top Ten album. She performed with Stevie Wonder during the Songs in the Key of Life tour and, in 2015, teamed up with Joe Sample for Christmas with Friends. ~ John Duffy