If you were asked to describe Maysa Leak’s sound, “timeless” is a word that may come to mind. With a satiny alto voice, and silky heartfelt lyrics to match, the smooth Jazz/R&B styling of Maysa acts as the soundtrack to center your thoughts and sooth your soul.
The jazzy, Baltimore soloist is prepping for her tenth studio album (appropriately-titled Blue Velvet Soul on June 18) with the sultry single “When You Touch Me,” an ode to succumbing to the irresistible charm of a lover. She took time off to chat with us about her illustrious 22-year-career (working with Stevie Wonder, Incognito), her new album, attracting abundance, her never-ending list of future plans, even her favorite reality TV shows….and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
Singersroom: You’re a vet in this industry on your 10th studio album Blue Velvet Soul, which describes your music perfectly; luxurious, rich, and warm, and soulful. Is that what you were going for with that title?
Maysa: Well, my best friend said that’s how she hears my voice, that’s what my voice sounds like to her, blue velvet (laughs), so she named it that. So yeah, we kinda collaborated on that.
Singersroom: How much of this album is autobiographical vs. inspired by the stories of others?
Maysa: All of my music has some kind of connection to my life period, so the main one that I wrote, specifically for myself on this album without any regard to marketing or how it was gonna affect the record was song called “Inside my Dreams.” That’s a song I wrote for myself because it’s about me wanting to meditate, living my life, and be happy. A life where I creatively visualize what I want and it comes to me. I know that’s a reality in life and you can do that through meditation and staying positive and focusing on what you do want in life.
Singersroom: Basically the law of attraction?
Maysa: Yeah, absolutely, I totally believe in that.
Singersroom: Your son’s name is Jazz. Is he named after your love for the art form?
Maysa: Yeah, absolutely. That’s what myself and his father had in common mostly was that we loved jazz music, so we felt it was the perfect name for him.
Singersroom: You have a degree from Morgan State University in classical music. How does your formal training influence your sound?
Maysa: My formal training is very important for what I’m doing right now because had I not been formally trained, I don’t think I could have lasted 22 years of tour and recording, especially when you get on the road in all different types of weather, and to be able to sing through sickness and colds and hoarseness and all that kind of stuff, you really have to be trained to do that, whether it’s operatic training or a voice teacher, I think singers in this day and age will benefit from that.
Singersroom: You stated you want to star in a stage play about the life of jazz great Sarah Vaughn. Is that still a priority?
Maysa: I’m gonna write it to do local here in Baltimore. It’s just a little personal thing I wanna do. She was the biggest influence on the way I sound and the way I interpret music. Working with my other best friend Troy Burton, he’s’ a theater director here in Baltimore. We’re writing it together and trying to put it out there.
Singersroom: Do you have plans on maybe traveling with the play?
Maysa: That would be great, I would love that. That’s definitely a wish, a hope, so hopefully we get the right formula together and we write it and perform it and, if it gets picked up it would be really awesome.
Singersroom: Maybe it’ll turn into a movie.
Maysa: Wouldn’t that be awesome? I’d love to play Sarah Vaughn in a movie, that’d be great!
Singersroom: Because it’s’ a story that not many know about.
Maysa: Mhmm, they don’t really know her life story, not at all.
Singersroom: So, what other artist’s music do you listen to?
Maysa: Today’s artists, I’m a really big fan of Fantasia, I love Avery Sunshine, I love Bilal, I listen to Robert Glasper a lot, I listen to Lalah [Hathaway] a lot, you know my peoples. Ledisi and Jill Scott and a lot of that crew.
Singersroom: For the past decade you’ve been busy with music, putting out an album every one or two years. What do you like to do on your spare time?
Maysa: Uuh…music! (Laughs) My spare time, I like to watch TV to be honest. Like, TV, or going to the movies or like, I just like hangin’, hangin’ out, walking through parks, and I’m starting to be into going to the gym and stuff and working with a trainer. So I’m always busy, though, musically, I’m always working, 24/7, it never ends. Not even in my sleep.
Singersroom: That’s how you know it’s your calling! What’s some of your favorite TV shows?
Maysa: Oh wow, I have a lot of those. My favorite stations are like HGTV, I love the Food Network, I like “The Housewives of Atlanta,” I watch “The Braxtons,” stuff like that. And if it’s a movie, I like comedies.
Singersroom: You’ve worked with artists and musicians such as Will Downing, Gerald Veasley, and Rick Braun. Who else would you like to work with?
Maysa: I wanna work with Jill Scott directly, see where that goes. Maybe work with Eric Benet, that would be great, would love to sing with him.
Singersroom: Oh yeah, make that call ASAP!
Maysa: (Laughs) I hope that happens soon. He’s real cool, so I think that’ll happen soon.
Singersroom: You were in Stevie Wonder’s female backing group Wonderlove, then the lead vocalist for British jazz/funk/R&B band Incognito. Do you have any memorable moments you can share from those amazing stepping stones in your career?
Maysa: The first one was when I auditioned for Stevie. He came and we were all gonna sing with the choir for the Martin Luther King celebration, and I auditioned right after that, and that audition was probably the single most scariest moment of my life because, first of all, I was singing for Stevie Wonder and also what he had me singing was so intense and difficult…it was like some kind of Beethoven, Mozart, these modes and all these crazy things he had me singing. I was like “Oh my God, I’ll never pass this audition!” And the run that I did was probably one of the highlights of my life. And then singing with Incognito, I mean, just touring the world with them and the guys from that band, but Bluey, the leader of the band (Incognito), really took me around the world and showed me how much love there is out there for the kind of music that I sing. That in itself is one of the greatest experiences ever. This whole ride has been beautiful and I’m looking forward to surprising some people with some new stuff that they wouldn’t expect me to sing.
Singersroom: What do you have planned that’s different?
Maysa: One of the more simple things I wanna do is a Christmas record and also I wanna do a country album, so I’m really looking forward to that.
Singersroom: That should be interesting! Any advice for new artists to gain longevity in the business?
Maysa: I think the first think you have to do is you have to make sure you have you own sound. You can’t sound like anybody else, or you won’t make it at all. If you try to make a career and try to sound like Beyonce or Rihanna, you won’t do it because they already have that taken care of. So that’s the advice that I would give.
Check out her new official site on June 18 (www.maysa.com) when Blue Velvet Soul drops. Also follow her on Twitter @MAYSALEAK.