For music and media impresario Ryan Leslie, there’s nothing like sharing the gift of music with the world. Especially when that gift has an often personal and human touch that seems to connect with everyone from budding songwriters and producers to those simply going through different stages of a relationship.
Sitting down with Singersroom shortly after the release of his debut album, Ryan Leslie shares not only the story behind his debut, including the song “Gibberish,” but also the fact that he’s human, just like the next man or woman, and lives with no regrets.
Singersroom: How does it feel to finally have your album on the shelves and be recognized as not only a producer and songwriter but an actual recording artist?
Ryan Leslie: It feels good for folks to see me in that light. I’ve always been in that realm and that’s actually why I even became a producer so I could make my own records so it feels great.
Singersroom: Your debut has a ton of records related to relationships, are these records directly correlated to your life in recent years?
Ryan Leslie: Yes. It directly correlates to my life in recent yearsâ¦100 percent.
Singersroom: Women are discussed throughout your album on records like “Addiction” and “I.R.I.N.A”…if you had to pen a record right now about a woman in your life (past or present) how would you tie in the phrase “Soul of a Woman?”
Ryan Leslie: I think it’s extremely personal when you talk about knowing the soul of a woman. I think it’s actually rare when you get down to the nitty gritty of someone’s soul. You tell what’s going on in someone’s heart by how they act but their soulâ¦I mean…
For me, coming from a deeply religious background that’s something that only God can see so I would never represent myself to have the divine power of understanding anyone’s soul, much less the complex makeup of what a woman’s soul might be.
If you want to talk about a woman’s heart I could definitely integrate the fact that she wants attention and she wants exclusivity. She wants to be number one and she wants time, effort and energy. She wants all the things that represent to her that she’s valuable.
Singersroom: What stands out to you in a woman?
Ryan Leslie: Being an artist…Over the years I’ve been able to see beauty in many different ways and many different forms and so really what I look for is an inner beauty that’s exuded from intelligence.
She values herself enough to want to explore and want to engage and expand her mind. She (has) to value herself enough to know that she is capable of being independent and pursue her own dream (by) making things happen for herself. She has to value herself enough to walk with her head held high everyday because she knows she has a great moral compass.
Basically the characteristics I look for are grace, poise, intelligence and strength.
Singersroom: Artistically you’re kind of in your own lane, especially in terms of your video concepts and even swagger… where did your inspiration come when pulling off the video for “Diamond Girl?”
Ryan Leslie: That was really inspired by a throwback to the great television performances so I actually rebuilt the stage that James Brown performed on for a television performance he did in 1966.
Singersroom: Do you feel like you’re setting an example for youth that you don’t have to rock baggy jeans and sing/rap about a “Bust It Baby?”
Ryan Leslie: I do everything based on the value system that I was raised on and acquired through my life experiences. If people can take away from that something, then I definitely am honored.
Singersroom: I respect that. There’s a track called “Gibberish” that is getting a lot of attention now…tell me about that track…
Ryan Leslie: It’s really about that moment when music is more powerful than words. You may be at a loss for words or you may be struggling with figuring out what to say so you know there’s a melody that you’re hearing or there is music that is being created in the chemistry between you and someone else that’s special to you that can still be captured and I did my best to capture that on a record.
Singersroom: Some have already said it seems like a parody of sorts to music from The-Dream and T-Pain, how do you feel about those comparisons?
Ryan Leslie: The music, when I created it, made me feel great and the comparisons mean that they feel great when they listen to T-Pain and The-Dream so if they feel great when they listen to that song (“Gibberish”) then I think it’s great. The way that people respond to music is very interesting to me because I’ve read all the reviews and it’s a talking point (comparisons). People are sometimes just as entertained as they are by the reviews as they are with the music.
It’s a common practice to compare or categorize but at the end of the day for me I make this music because it inspired me or made me feel a certain way and I really enjoyed it and I want to share it. It’s a gift and what anyone does with that gift, or how they respond to it or how they criticize it, that’s up to them.
For me I’ve given the best offering that I could make. I think the T-Pain comparison comes from the fact that…I’m running my voice through a pitch correction software which was widely popularized by T-Pain.
Singersroom: Having documented success on YouTube, where fans have seen you in the studio doing everything from cutting new tracks to playing over Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop”…. What is the most embarrassing or ‘oops I shouldn’t have done that’ moment you’ve had on camera?
Ryan Leslie: There are quite a lot of funny moments that stay in the Next Selection archive. I want people to first and foremost appreciate me as a musician and an artist. Once the exposure grows I’m sure that we’ll begin to start letting some of those other moments out. I think those moments will continue to fill out and paint the picture of me as a human.
We all make mistakes. We got bloopers, funny moments and embarrassing moments. Anything that’s been captured has been captured because it’s me and I’m a human being so I don’t really have a lot of regrets in life.
Singersroom: On to a lighter question…we’ve got ten whole months left in 2009, where do see yourself in December in terms of projects, new releases, etc?
Ryan Leslie: We’re already going in to start working on the second album. I’m going in with Mary J. Blige in a couple of days. Been on the phone with 50 Cent on doing some work. Been on the phone with Rick Ross about doing some work. I released a single with Slim (of 112). I got a record coming out with Jim Jones. Had a phone conversation with Chris Brown and I’m working on a new artist named Krys Ivory.
We got a lot of stuff on the horizon.
I’m launching Next Selection Pictures and we also got some new ventures with Next Selection New Media where we’ll be providing web and new media technology consultation and marketing. Kind of taking that expertise we gleamed from the successful launch of Cassie’s project and some of the more successful online tactics that we’ve been employing at RyanLeslie.com
Singersroom: Should fans expect a lot more from you and Cassie this year?
Ryan Leslie: Cassie’s sophomore effort has been a labor of love, the last record [was] nearly two and half years ago. I’ve done some work on it and she’s worked with a variable list of who’s who producers including Bryan Michael Cox, Pharrell, The-Dream, Rodney Jerkins, Eric Hudson, Swizz Beatz, Kanye Westâ¦to name a few and myself. I’m sure when she’s good and ready, because I’m not rushing her, she’s going to pick the songs which mean the most to her.
Singersroom: As an artist, what message are you trying to send with this debut album and why should people pick it up?
Ryan Leslie: I’m not into “let me give you a sales pitch for my album.” At the end of the day …it’s available.
Go to Ryanleslie.com, If you’re not familiar with the music, go listen to it. I made it because I am a musician and music is something I’m very passionate about. If you listen to the music and you like it and it moves you or inspires you or provides the soundtrack that gets you through a good time or a bad time, a new love or lost love, or gets you hyped for the party. Whatever it does, if you find some value in it then I say.. “you know what”…support it because I’m only going to reinvest those proceeds in going and making more.
I’m really about getting what I deserve. If you listen to the music and you feel like “this guy doesn’t deserve my ten bucks” there’s many other ways in this recession to spend your ten bucks and I encourage you to do so. —— By: Interview By Njai Joszor