“SOMETIMES I SHAVE MY LEGS AND sometimes I don’t,” India.Arie sings on the self-affirming single “Video” from her Motown debut, Acoustic Soul. The track is a pure hit about loving herself unconditionally from her freckles to her thighs. She’s an inspiring, positive individual in these days of bling-bling and player-hating.

“That’s how I was raised,” explained the 25-year-old Atlanta-based singer/songwriter. “I would never want my mom or little sister to hear me talk like a lot of people talk on records.

“I wanted ‘Video’ to be my first single because of what it says about me,” she added, “so people can understand where I’m coming from and then they can decide if they want to like me or not.”

So far, the response has been incredible to this newcomer, whose healthy messages are couched in her brand of “acoustic soul” a cool vibe of R&B, blues, jazz and hip-hop.

She played some radio and promotional dates back in February, prior to the March 27th album release, then ventured over to Europe for promo dates with her six-piece band keyboardist Shannon Sanders, guitarist Ricky Quinones, drummer Elgene Porter, bassist Bryant Russell, and background vocalists Kerisha Hicks and Tony Harrington.

In the next month, she is finishing up some more radio dates, doing a Gap campaign and rehearsing with her band for a summer tour.

Booking agent Mark Cheatham of ICM, which came onboard a month ago, immediately secured India on the opening slot for a 31-date North American tour with Sade, which runs July 14th to September 1st. He said by then, her second single will have been released and he hopes to get her on a co-headlining bill in theatres or headlining smaller venues.

Named India by her parents (mother, a fashion designer known only as Simpson, and father Ralph Simpson, a basketball player) because her due date matched Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday (Arie was made up, India says, but turns out to mean lion), she got involved in music for the sheer joy of it.

After learning the recorder when she was deemed too young to join the school band in her native Denver, she moved on to sax, baritone clarinet, trumpet and “a little” French horn. All the while, she was singing in the school choir.

She picked up guitar later in life while taking a jewelry-making class at Savannah College of Art & Design. Not “feeling” her study choice, India started writing her own material and co- founded an artist collective called Groovement/Earthseed, which played to as many as 2,000 people at the height of its popularity in Atlanta.

A 1996 compilation CD, which contained “India Song,” sold an estimated 4,000 copies from the stage and some stores. Another version contained different songs that she made herself on cassette and CD.

“A record deal didn’t cross my mind,” she admitted. “I was too young. Years before, when I was 16, my mom wrote a song for me and I recorded it. I had a cousin who would take me around. It was little stuff. It wasn’t very serious.

“Now that I look back, in hindsight, I knew I wanted to be a singer but I didn’t really think you could do that as a profession.”

India Arie

When the compilation led to an offer to perform acoustically on the B stage at Lilith Fair in St. Louis and Nashville, the latter appearance led to meetings with Universal Music talent scout Reen Nalli and Motown President Kedar Massenburg.

Signing with the label that originated from Detroit, where her mother grew up, the acoustic guitarist started thinking of all the possibilities in which to present her lyrics.

“For five years, I toured. I had an album and I was playing, just me and my guitar, and I don’t play the guitar that well,” she laughed.

“So I was all about singing and the vocals and the lyrics. That’s what I wanted on the album. That’s why it took so long. It took a year and a half to do my album because to translate it from guitar to a produced song was way more difficult than I thought it would be.

“I knew that I wanted to add (to my sound) but at that time, I just wanted to have a simple band,” she continued. “It would be recorded and done in a month. But as I went along, I found I had an audience that I wanted to reach and the different artists that I wanted to be focused in the same vein of, so I had to have a more modern approach to my production.”

The resulting Acoustic Soul, which contains such positive pennings as “I See God In You” and “Strength, Courage & Wisdom,” doesn’t lose its message in the urban music.

India returned to an earlier question about what she strives to achieve through her songwriting, as if she was figuring it out during the course of the interview.

“I just want to finish (answering) for myself almost. As far as any songs on my album and how I strive to write, I think the positivity chose me,” she reflected.

“I don’t recall ever writing, ‘You get on my nerves’ or ‘Can you pay my bills?’ because I don’t think that way. My mom is hard working and very moral. My mom doesn’t cuss. My mom is positive. She doesn’t drink. She always says, ‘When I turn 50, I’m gonna cuss and I’m gonna go have a beer’ and she’s 51. ‘OK, when I’m 60.’ So I have this responsibility that’s my birthright.

“And that’s who I was even before I knew the power of words. I knew that if I was going to say something over and over again in a song, that it was going to create that energy and that words have power. I just knew that I wanted it to be positive. But now, in the last six months to a year, I’m saying something positive for other people and now, I know my purpose was through music.

“This is an album about healing the heart.”