By Chuck Arnold Debra Lewis Boothman
June 08, 2009 12:00 PM

>• The blue-eyed soul pioneer, 53, celebrates 30 years in the biz with Congo Square, out June 9.

ON HER CD’S TITLE Congo Square is a place in New Orleans where slaves were allowed to go dance and sing on Sundays. I went to New Orleans to write and record this album, and then I found out my [family is] from there.

ON BREAKING COLOR BARRIERS I wasn’t trying to be a pioneer, just wanted to sing what was in my soul. I’m sure it’s easier now for [all races] to make the music they want.

ON THE NEW BLUE-EYED SOUL DIVAS I think Amy Winehouse writes some amazing lyrics, and she actually credits me as an influence in her Frank liner notes. And Adele’s “Chasing Pavements” is an incredible piece.

ON LATE MENTOR RICK JAMES I miss him all the time. He was my musical soulmate. We were engaged once, used to steal from each other’s closets. Now I have to not just represent myself but him.