“I didn’t know if I was going to make music anymore,” says a recently missing-in-action India.Arie. After selling more than 10 million albums worldwide, scoring 21 Grammy nominations, and winning four, India Arie Simpson just stopped the music.

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Four years later, she’s returning with her long-awaited fifth studio album, SongVersation, and the “Brown Skin” and “I Am Not My Hair” singer says that, for the first time, she completely controls the when, where and how of her career.

It didn’t come easy.

Describing 2009 as “just the worst year I could imagine,” India, 37, says, “I was at rock bottom career-wise and health-wise. I was working so hard and getting very little in return. I didn’t know if I was going to make music anymore. I didn’t know anything. I just knew that I wanted to have a life that felt good.”

By applying some of the lessons of self-love and self-acceptance found in much of her own music, India turned that difficult corner of her life. “I really took the time to look at myself and look at my life and decide who I want to be, and not what anyone else wants,” she explains. “I learned who I am and understand that I am responsible for myself and for my life.”

This new perspective has made aspects of the music business she once loathed—long hours in the studio, doing press interviews— a lot more pleasurable. She’s even putting out fires, like claims that her image was purposely lightened for the cover art of the album’s first single “Cocoa Butter.”

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