Embracing your natural talent is the first step you have to take in order to become a professional. Once you recognize the talent, you mold it, practice and then share it with enthusiasts of the craft. Leela James has studied the tactical art of stirring people’s ears with her soulful voice and libretto. For her third album ‘My Soul’, Leela is capturing the gritty soul vocal on Stax’s historic record label. Singersroom sat down with Leela to discuss Walmart, grade school, and her new show on BET.
Singersroom: Your voice conveys someone whose wise beyond there years. But you’re actually quite young. Do most of your songs come from personal experience or experiences of others?
Leela James: Both, personal experience, experience of others and you know when you’re around things you become a product of your environment, so that makes you somewhat of an old soul. I think that’s what my situation is.
Singersroom: So which one applies to “Tell Me You Love Me,” your new single, personal experience or collective writing effort?
Leela James: That was definitely a collective effort. I can’t ever sing anything that I can’t relate to or feel in some kind of way. I think for all of us, we’ve been in situations where we wanted to hear those words, “I love you”, even if you feel like the person does. Sometimes you just want to hear it.
Singersroom: So you have to remain soulful in an industry that is notorious for sometimes having no soul. How do some of the negatives of the industry affect your creative process?
Leela James: Definitely the music business is very cut throat. You’ve got to stay true to yourself and focus on why it is you’re doing what you do. If it’s the love of music, then usually you can get through it, and continue to do it cause you just love doing music. You can’t be ignorant to the business around you but you still got to stay true to yourself. Let that be your agenda.
Singersroom: Who do you attribute your talent to?
Leela James: I attribute my talent to both my parents and my family in generally and God. God gave me talent and a gift and I guess I was able to hold true to it by being around family. Develop it even more-so by singing in church and things of that sort. I attribute my talent to God, He gave it to me.
Singersroom: I read you’re first studio experience came because you got in trouble with a teacher? Tell me about that.
Leela James: Yea, one of my teachers. I was disrupting the class. I was asked to stay after and I thought I was like really in some deep stuff. Basically he was like since you want to do this and disrupt my class, I’ll take you someplace where you can really exercise it and get it out of you. I was taken to the studio. I found out he did music on the side in addition to teaching. That was just my first time being in a professional setting, and hearing my voice on wax. That in itself, I was just open. I was like YEA this is what I want do!
Singersroom: Do you still know him?
Leela James: Yea!
Singersroom: Tell Singersroom one thing that your fans don’t know about you.
Leela James: Something that’s very corny, I loooove shopping at Super Walmart. I like catching the sales and going there. I like shopping there and Tarjay (Target) and watching the cooking channel. I love that!
Singersroom: Your live performances are phenomenal. Tell us a bit about how you’re able to kill it every time
Leela James: I kind of just go and let the flow and the spirit come upon me and see what happens. Hopefully its good!
Singersroom: Have you ever had any negative performances?
Leela James: I mean I definitely think we all have good and bad. What we might think is bad might not necessarily be bad. I’ve been told that I’m my worst and highest critic…I could have a great performance and still not be happy with what I did.
Singersroom: Your music is clearly influenced by the greats from the past. Are there any current musicians that you’re influenced by or want to work with?
Leela James: I’m really excited and very into Sade’s new album. I’m a big fan of her’s.
Singersroom: Are there any collabo’s on the new project?
Leela James: I got a collaboration duet with Raheem Devaughn on the new album so look out for that! (laughs)
Singersroom: I tweeted about this interview and a large group of your female fans wanted to know what you did to your hair for it to be so beautiful.
Leela James: Well, I didn’t know they thought it was beautiful so first of all thank you! I don’t do nothing to it! That’s what I do.(laughs) Thank y’all for thinking that that’s beautiful! I just brush it. (laughs)
Singersroom: Describe your new project in 5 words
Leela James: Real Leela James My Soul. (laughs)
Singersroom: What else is coming up for you in terms of touring or other projects.
Leela James: Album is dropping May 25th. The single is out right now “Tell Me You Love Me.” I’d love for you to go to your radio stations and request that they play it. Got to support! Need some variety, not the same songs on the radio all the time. Be on the look out for a new talk show I’ll be hosting on BET called ‘My Black Is Beautiful’ with Tasha Smith from ‘Why Did I Get Married.’ Also you can catch me next month in Baltimore then Chicago. HOLLER at me on Facebook and Twitter! Go get that album! (laughs)
—— By: Interview By Fritswa Baffour