Interviews

Leela James | Keeping the Spirit of Soul ALive

With Leela James’ talent, no matter what she does, you are going to stop and pay attention to her vocal gifts. Knowing this, James bundled her creative styles with the spirit of Etta James to pay homage and reintroduce the late legend to a younger generation.

The namesake songbirds share a delivery of raw emotions, felt over any musical backdrop from Jazz to Rock, which is why Leela is one of the best selections to carry the torch with her forthcoming album ‘Loving You More….In the Spirit of Etta James.’ In what started as one track of adoration, the respect grew to an album, not of covers, but the spirit of Etta James with the perspective and interpretation of Leela. While the instrumentation differs on the rendition records, what is constant is the delivery, which reminds you of each moment passed.

A Piece of Etta’s Soul… This is a tribute oriented album. I do have some original songs on the album as well. I wasn’t going to do the entire record initially, I was just thinking of doing one song to pay homage and tribute to her. As I started going along, I decided to dedicate the record because a lot of her songs, a lot of her music, I felt was not heard. This was a way to give it a fresh twist, because none of the music sounds like the original. It has a whole new take on it and it is reintroducing it to a new generation of listeners to pay homage to her. It is kind of getting people to really respect the legacy she left within her music. Hopefully people will have a deeper appreciation for her after hearing this album.

Misunderstanding of the “James” Name… There is definitely a connection there because of the name. I’m always being approached when I would do shows from the stand point of whether there was a relationship between she and myself because we share the name and also because the styles of music I tend to be drawn towards and I guess my sound.

Incorporating New Material… What we try to do is keep it in the spirit that is why the album is called ‘Loving You More….In the Spirit of Etta James.’ It is still all surrounding the songs that we chose of her’s. It is still all in that same theme of love, relationships, good, bad; just describing certain aspects of relationship with a couple of original songs dedicated to talking about that subject particularly. One song addressing the relationship in love with music and how it all ties into never dying; the spirit of music can never die. You can die physically, your flesh, but music when it is authentic and real, the soul of it never really dies.

Legends Overlooked… These legends are sometimes forgotten and we got to keep them alive because in my opinion, they represent what music really is and what music is suppose to be. When they are physically no longer with us, their soul is still here so we I feel like it’s a duty to keep stuff in people’s face and this how I’m doing it. This is how I’m keeping her soul in people’s faces.

Learning Moments… In researching a lot of her music not know that “Something Got A Hold on Me” was written by Berry Gordy. That was a very interesting discovery. A lot of times when you are working on projects [you realize] there are a lot of things you were not aware of in terms of how the music was made. It is always very interesting.

A Feeling Everyone Knows… I don’t know if that is necessarily important [but] people feel pain. I think the more sincere the music is to you the more people feel. In the sense that if I’m going through something and I record a song at that time, the emotions I’m going through is gonna come through in that song and that is gonna make you feel in my opinion, feel it just a little bit more. When you just singing a song, just to be singing, you can sometimes feel that too.

Like Etta Not Conforming to a Specific Genre… I have always made it very clear that whether people follow it or not, that I didn’t want to be in a box. I love all kinds of music and I am a true singer and I am a true artist. With that being said, I can pretty much do all kinds of music and when you are an artist of that caliber you can’t be boxed. I am not surprised Etta James did a lot of different styles; she was a real artist and a real singer. That is just like Aretha Franklin. Aretha Franklin can sing some opera which she has done and still sound soulful. It is her voice. It is the soul in her. It does not matter what she does. Etta James voice was just that voice. Whether she was doing a Rock N Roll song or a straight blues record, it still was raw and it was still Etta.

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