Jill Scott looks deep into her soul

Jill Scott is running about an hour late. There’s no diva-ish behavior to blame, just simple humanity. She’s been up since 4 a.m. and now, 12 hours later, her body insisted on a brief nap.

But when she finally does arrive, luminous in a cream-and-black ensemble that showcases her toned curves – about 60 pounds fewer of them – she offers a bright smile and a polite handshake, accompanied by a slight bow.

The classy setting at The Mansion on Peachtree turns out to be an ideal complement to Scott, the introspective soul/R&B singer-poet whose career has been defined by her strength, vulnerability and frankness, both in her music and her life.

Her visit to Atlanta in late June was timed to the release of her fourth studio album, “The Light of the Sun.” It’s an eclectic and affecting piece of work, earthy yet feminine, with jazzy touches interspersed with more muscular R&B creations.

The week following this interview, “Light” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart, a first for Scott.

Buoyed by first single “So In Love,” a slinky summer romp with Anthony Hamilton, the album finds Scott uncovering her own reasons for gratitude on “Blessed” and scatting around Doug E. Fresh’s beat-boxing on “All Cried Out Redux,” a sort-of update of the 1986 Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam hit.

Scott, Hamilton and Fresh, along with Mint Condition and DJ Jazzy Jeff, will play two nights at Chastain Park Amphitheatre this weekend.

For anyone worried about the 39-year-old high priestess of neo-soul since her last album in 2007 and the personal tribulations and celebrations that followed – a divorce followed by an engagement to her former drummer Lil’ John Roberts, the birth of their now-2-year-old son, Jett, and a split with Roberts – she’s doing just fine, thanks.

In fact, she said, during this hourlong chat inside the lavender-accented lounge facing The Mansion’s acclaimed English Garden, she’s happy, peaceful and balanced. Observing her laugh frequently while taking a few sips from a Lemon Drop martini, there is no reason to contend her self-assessment.

Rare is the interview when the subject is so willing to stay and talk openly, even when a patient manager continuously beckons that it’s time to head out for yet another press appearance.

Sometimes, it’s best to just get out of the way. This is one of those times.

On why she won’t take son Jett on the road:

“I’ve tried, but it’s not good for him. He can’t rest properly on the bus with the movement, he wakes up every 20 minutes so he doesn’t get any rest and Mommy doesn’t get any rest. The last time I took him on tour, he had an ear infection, the croup, some other kind of cold. Rest is very important for him – and all babies. If I’m anywhere for longer than two days, then he comes. But to take him out for just a day is unfair. I don’t want to disrupt my little boy.”

On her commendable weight loss:

“My trainer is here with me, and will go on the road. He’s like a brother to me so he’s security at times and my trainer at others. I’ve tried to work out with other trainers and they’re just mean. I don’t like to pay someone to yell at me. Why you yellin’? I’m over here struggling with this and you’re yellin’? That’s not beneficial. So we mostly play, swim, play ball…I like that I can run up my house stairs now, 19 of them. I used to get to the 11th step and be out of breath. I’m doing it for my kid. I like him [laughs]. I want to be a fun mom.”

On her workout regime:

“I do about four days a week. I’m not beating myself up about it, that’s the thing. I don’t want my existence to be about my size; it never has been before. I’m glad people see [the weight loss] and appreciate it, but at the same time, I don’t want my existence to be about my weight. My thighs are still thick and they’re still mine. I’m healthier. I’m working on healthy.”

On why she’s said this record is the most fun she’s ever had in the studio:

“Because I didn’t go in thinking it’s time for me to make a record. I tried that and I sat around for four months making songs that were probably good, maybe even great, but they didn’t ring in my heart and my spirit. I don’t want to create music I’m going to have to sing 20 years from now and not have it touch some place in me. I called some MC friends I know and asked them to come in and play and all of this stuff started pouring out, some songs, some raps, some poems, that’s how it started. I called some musicians in and we walked out of that studio sweating and clapping and hugging each other, it was like a journey. That has been so much fun. It reminds me of why I do this.”

On whether she considers this record a rebirth:

“Now I have a template. I know to call in the Marcus Millers and Herbie Hancocks. Producers, [they always] want to create me, to tell me how to sing a song. It’s not that I mind collaboration; I just really don’t like to be told what to do in general. Collaborations are great, but I can’t be ruled, I just can’t. If we work together we can accomplish much, but if you’re trying to rule me, it’s just not going to work out, in a relationship, in business, in any of it. I will rebel automatically.”

On why she left her hometown of Philadelphia for California more than two years ago:

“I don’t know [why I left Philly]. I had purchased a house in California before I knew I was pregnant. I found this great house and loved it, bought it, found out I was pregnant right before I left for Africa. I came back to Philly and all I wanted to do was get to California. I hear about this nesting thing women have when they’re pregnant. I HAD to get there. I had a month to pack all my crap up and get to L.A., to leave my mother and grandmother and my friends, people who would have helped me with the baby. I don’t know what that was, it was an urge so strong I couldn’t even fight it. I wanted to be naked in the backyard with my child as often as possible and California feels like the right place to do it.”

On spending time in Atlanta:

“I don’t get here as much as I’d like. I’ve come here before to shoot a film or two and done Chastain and the Fox. Chastain is so sexy to me, all the candles, most people end up wearing white, I find it really romantic. And if people are drinking, I’m drinking, too. Somebody will have something to eat and I’ll ask for some! And the Fox, that ceiling is gorgeous.”

On the diversity of the songs on “Sun”:

“I appreciate how diverse it is because that’s me, I like everything from collard greens to sushi, I’m that girl. Of course I want a little ragtime and girl group harmonies. Of course I want Doug E. Fresh to beat box. Of course I’m going to rap-sing, or whatever you want to call it. This is music, it’s supposed to be fun.

I don’t understand parameters or boxes. For what? Who is one thing? I find with country singers, the ones I like are really soulful, and the rock singers. Steven Tyler? Goodness gracious, he is so soulful.”

On the meaning behind “Blessed”:

“I know people use that term a lot. It feels like such a cliché at this point because they say it. But it’s like when someone says ‘how ya doin’?’ is different than ‘how are you?’ So for me I’m singing this word and I mean it because man, my grandmother really did live to almost 92. I had her for so long and she really was my dear friend and she gave so much insight and wisdom into little things.”

On any future acting possibilities, including Broadway:

“I get scripts and some of them are good. Broadway, if I were to do it, it wouldn’t be a musical, but straight drama or comedy. The different with theater is that it’s rigid and that is almost like murder to my sooouuuul. I can’t. I’m not there yet. If I were to do a musical, I’d only do it for a month and six shows a week, not eight. I missed 10 days when I did ‘Rent.’ They told me I had 10 days off and I took all of them. I was like, this is a part of my life, this is NOT my life. It’s the same lighting with the same outfit at the same time [onstage]. There’s an audience there, but you can’t feed off of them. You have to do the same thing. You can’t rejoice in this interaction, because there is no interaction; it’s a show to be watched. I don’t like it. It’s just not me.”

Concert preview

Budweiser Superfest with Jill Scott, Anthony Hamilton, Mint Condition, Doug E. Fresh and DJ Jazzy Jeff

7 p.m. Aug. 19-20. $49.75-$200.75. Chastain Park Amphitheatre, 4469 Stella Drive, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.