Leigh Jones: In Love With Music

At first glance, Leigh Jones seems like your average blond haired, blue eyed pop singer. But at first listen, all of those notions are put aside as it becomes clear she is one the most soulful artists to come along in quite a while.

The daughter of a respected Hollywood session singer, Jones was exposed to Jazz and Soul music at an early age. After singing the Pointer Sisters’ “American Music” in her first grade talent show it was evident that there was something special about her. After years of honing her talents she crossed paths with Kerry Gordy, son of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, and has since been building a heavy buzz for herself. With the release of her debut album, Music in my Soul, Leigh is going cross genres, break boundaries, and really reminding people what the true essence of soul music really is.

Singersroom: You have a really jazzy, soulful voice. How did you come to discover and develop your sound?

Jones: I really can’t explain it other than the fact that I just love music. I’ve loved music ever since I was a little girl. Both my parents are musicians. My dad would have a lot of soul music and older Jazz stuff playing in the house. You know, Etta James and Billie Holiday stuff. As I was growing up I loved singing Natalie and Nat King Cole. When I was a little girl singing in my little talent shows it would always throw people off that I was singing “Orange Colored Sky” in the third grade. I just loved it and my dad had moved us out here to LA to be a studio singer. The pressure was already on him so they weren’t putting any of that on me. I just naturally gravitated towards it.

Singersroom: You have the voice and the look, why didn’t you try to become the next pop sensation?

Jones: [laughs] I didn’t want to go there. For some reason I did not. I had opportunities through just finding my way and meeting people when I was just starting out. Every single person you meet is going to have a different idea of what they think you should do. And of course they’re thinking of what works for them because they’re worrying about trying to make money. Initially I started to record with different producers, and this is a few years ago before the whole neo soul thing. Actually, Alicia Keys wasn’t even out like that yet, so the sound was there but people just did not get it. People would just look at me cross eyed. And then there was Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Christina is good, but what they were doing was just very bubble gum pop. I did not want to do that. I love this kind of music and I know there’s a listener out there looking for someone to make this kind of music.

Singersroom: What is it that separates your music from anything else out there?

Jones: We made an album of real songs here. They’re very lyrical. I was always looking for people doing that same thing but every time I’d look for it, it always took me back to the old. I wanted to do something more updated but still keeping that classic format.

Singersroom: How involved are you in the writing and production of your work?

Jones: I co-write with a few people. There were quite a few songs that I wrote that I chose not to have on the album due to the fact that I wanted to keep it short and strong. There are two songs on there that I co-wrote. One is called “Leaving You” and the other is “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love.” I just didn’t want to leave any room for any down time on this record. I didn’t want to lose anyone’s attention by putting on too many songs. I f you look at the credits and stuff I’ve worked with some of the most incredibly talented writers ever. My measly little songs were cool to me but when you look at the level of writers I was working with…their stuff was just strong.

Singersroom: The legendary Berry Gordy is listed as a producer on your album. How did you two link up and what was it like working with him?

Jones: He is my manager Kerry’s father. If you know anything about Berry, he doesn’t make things easy for his kids. He’s one of those parents who wants to see them do it on their own. Once he sees that potential, once he sees that you’re driven, he’s all behind it. But it’s hard because it’s like “I needed you in the beginning.” And he’s just like “Yeah, but I’m hear now. You’re doing a good job.” Kerry and I have been working for a couple years. We always knew it would be amazing if we could get Berry involved. But he’s not the kind of person you can force into doing anything. We didn’t even want him to feel the pressure of us wanting him to get involved. We played it real cool. And he’d ask every once in a while “what’s going on with Leigh?” And we let him hear a couple things. This one song, “Cold in L.A.” he’d be saying “that song is a hit. I’m telling you. Just go in the studio and change this one little thing.” We’d go change it then play it for him and he’d be like “Oh, so close. Now all you got to do is change this one thing.” So we’d go back into the studio, change it, then play it again and he’d be like “You’re almost there.” So after awhile we’re like “please just come with us to the studio.” We were running up studio time and all that we could’ve saved if he came in the studio with us so he did. Working with him was amazing. Before going into the studio everyone was like “he’s really rough so be prepared to just take it and run with it and do whatever he says.” So I was totally frightened. But when he came in he was the sweetest, most supportive, most creative person. He’s so smart and he’s coming from such a loving place. There wasn’t anything scary about him. You could tell he just loved doing it. I don’t think he had been in the studio for a while so it was just a fun, exciting experience for all of us. It was pretty crazy.

Singersroom: Speaking of the song, “Cold in L.A.,” you talk about a lot of things that go wrong for people trying to become stars. How much of that is taken from your own experience?

Jones: Thankfully, I was born out here in L.A. Most of that is stuff I saw happening around me. I know you probably want me to say “Oh this happened to me” but I can thankfully say I was born with a pretty good head on my shoulders. But, of course, I know what goes on out here when you’re young and naïve. You want someone to record you and do the kind of music you want so you meet someone who’s like “yeah, I have a studio at my house. You can just stay there for the whole week while we work. Don’t worry about it.” And you have some people who will fall for it like “he said don’t worry about it. He seems like a very trustworthy guy.” It’s really just about the hunger. You want to get your foot in the door. I’ve seen all that. People who move here from the middle of nowhere and start to wild out. They go crazy then in like two months they’re moving back home. And it’s like damn dude, you could not hang. When you get here it’s all about taking advantage of opportunities without getting in too deep.

Singersroom: Is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with on future projects?

Jones: I would love to work with Raphael Saadiq. I’m such a huge fan of all the stuff he did with D’Angelo and Joss [Stone]. I’m just a fan of his. Production wise, I love that sound. He and I met recently doing this performance for FYE. He was doing a show to promote his new record. So he’s standing there then he looks at me and says “hey, how long you been working for FYE?” then I was like “no, I sing.” So he’s like “Oh, you’re an artist…” so I ended up sneaking him a copy of the CD. I definitely tried to take full advantage of that one. It was so bad. I felt so cheesy. I’m all like “can I give you a copy of my record?” and he was like “yeah, sure.” He was so cool about it. But you can only imagine how many people do that to him on a regular basis.

Singersroom: You can’t fault yourself for taking advantage of the opportunity. It’s part of chasing the dream.

Jones: I know. If this record wasn’t something I was super proud of, I wouldn’t be so willing to talk about it or give it out but I’m really, really proud of it. It took a long time to get to this point. It’s the kind of record that I wanted to make when I first started out and I really don’t know if that happens for a lot of artists. I’m so glad it happened for me. There were hurdles that needed to be jumped but I kept saying this is what I really want to do. If you really want to do something, it could take 10 or 15 years but it won’t matter because you’re going after what you really want.

Singersroom: What song do you feel best describes you as an artist?

Jones: I probably would have to say “Music.” It’s the second track. I like it because on that one I kind of get to sing in my lower register. People don’t always let me do that on most of the songs. They’re all like “no, go ahead and hit the big note.” Big notes are cool but when you can really just…it’s almost where I can just speak. It’s my chance to really just talk and get something off my chest. That song is very autobiographical. I love singing that song. It’s a good mix of all the sounds I like.

Singersroom: What would you like to see happen for yourself and your career 10 or 20 years from now?

Jones: I would love, if in 10, 15, 20, 30 years, if I could still just get up there and sing and do shows every night. Just doing shows with a cool little combo. If it goes to the moon or not I’d be happy with that. If I could just continue to sing in shows and support myself and make music that I love, that makes sense, that tells a story and that connect with the audience I would be happy. As long as the rent was paid and food was in my little belly I would be so happy with playing in little clubs every night. I love to sing. I would be happy just singing and connecting with people like that. —— By: Interview By Haaron Hines


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