Leela James is one artist who lets her music speak for itself; the only way you’d hear about Leela the person is through her music…but that’s about to change.
Her foray into reality TV as a cast member of the upcoming season of R&B Divas: L.A. is surely building up to be a revealing glimpse into James’ life and personality. The Los Angeles soulstress is also prepping a new album, Fall For You, for July 8th, headed by the single of the same name and the Anthony Hamilton-assisted duet “Say That”, so the reserved singer briefly chatted with Singersroom about the album, what she’s been up to, and how she feels about exposing her life on TV.
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How does this project Fall For You, differ from your last project, Love You More?
Love You More was a tribute album and those songs all come from the records they we took and put new music to, so they would have a new life, but they weren’t original tunes, this album is all original tunes.
Are there any past or present artists who inspired this body of work?
Absolutely, I’m a fan of a lot of artists, Chaka Khan, I listen to Gnarles Barley, a little of everything, so I’m definitely inspired by a lot.
We rarely hear Leela James’ name in the media, so it’s hard to know about the happenings in your life. Tell us a bit of trials you’ve been through that we may not know about.
I’m human, but I think right now, the biggest challenge for me is that I’m a mother now, and just juggling motherhood and my career can sometimes be challenging and present moments of difficulty. But other than that, I think life is life, and you go through what you go through, but that’s the most difficult thing in the last couple of years.
What do you like most about having a family now?
Everything, in spite of the challenges, it's my greatest joy. I love being a mom.
So how much of your personal life is going into this album?
About 50% because some of the songs are from personal experiences and some of the songs are indirect experiences that are still close to me. So I tend to write about things that I’m going through at the time, or that I’m witnessing someone else go through.
Your latest single features one of our favorite male singers, Anthony Hamilton. How did you guys link up and what was it like working together?
Anthony and I have known each other for years, and we’ve talked about doing something together since we perform a lot; we’re on the same bill, same shows. So we were like “let’s get in the studio and record something,” so we did a few times, but those songs actually never came out. In fact, I actually co-wrote with him on the song he had out last year or the year before called “So In Love.” I wrote that song with him, which was originally saved for my album, but Jill Scott ended up doing it; I wrote that song. But again, a lot of times, in the business, when politics get in the way of things and label crap, you can record songs and think they'll come out, so that’s one of those situations.
So outside of “Say That,” what other songs are you excited about on this project?
I would say, as an artist, all our albums and music is like having a bunch of babies; you love them all, you don’t necessarily love one over the other. So I would just say I’m just very excited about the entire project. Somebody else with more of an open ear might be like “well I like this one over the other,” but I’m gonna say I like everything (laughs).
So, you joined the cast of R&B Divas: LA?
Yes I have already, I’m in the cast of R&B Divas: LA and it’ll be airing this summer in July, so y’all stay tuned and watch it.
How much of your life will be shown on the show?
You’ll just have to watch it! (laughs)
As reality shows go, you have the real you and the edited you. Did you have some reservations about joining the cast?
I had some reservations, cause you’re not really sure what to expect, and that’s a whole other world for me, cause I’m pretty much low key and more so about music, but the direction they wanted to go with the season this year seemed like it would be a great platform to expose my music to a greater audience, so that’s why I got involved. So yeah, it’s a little different, but I don’t know what the perception is of me, to be honest, cause I’m not out there in everybody’s faces, so if anything, I feel like people don’t even know me and when they see the show, they’ll be like, “Oh ok, I know her.” People might know a little of me through my music, but they don’t know my sense of humor, I’m pretty much a comedian (laughs).
Were you an avid watcher of the show before you joined the cast?
I caught a few episodes of the Atlanta season, and I caught the final episodes of the LA season last year.
I’m curious to know your feedback about the things Kelly Price or Lil Mo had to deal with?
I found it to be interesting (laughs). I’ll just leave it at that.
Outside of recording and touring, what does Leela James do?
Well, I’m involved with reality TV, but also I focus a lot on my family, that’s really my main job.
What’s your take on the current state of R&B as a genre?
I think R&B is good; I feel like it’s never going anywhere, you just don’t hear much from the platforms like you hear everything else, so the perception is that it’s bad or it’s sinking, but there’s so much music out there, you just have to find avenues of getting to it.
How much of a role does faith play into your music and your household and family?
Faith is what raises me up every day. It plays a major part because I don’t really know from one minute to the next what to expect, I just have to trust and believe and have faith that what I desire and pray for will be given to me.
Will you be touring soon?
Right now I have some dates on "The Truth Tour" with Ledisi. I’ m also doing the Essence Festival this year, and I’m going to Australia and there’s a tour we're working on for later this Fall, so I’m definitely excited to perform and going back out on the road. That’s pretty much what I’ve done with my career, I stay on the road, that’s where you really can find me (laughs).
What should fans expect from this project?
Know what, you can expect to hear some good sanging.
Facebook: Leela James
With contributions from Elle Breezy