Leela James conducted by Hugo Lunny  

Leela James - Soul's Interior Decorator

June 2005

Talking to Leela James after hearing her music and you'll be shocked. The dramatic change between her sung voice and spoken voice is astounding. To the ear when she talks, she's a timid, cute girl - but on record, she's a fully grown, sexy woman. Having prepared for her debut release "A Change Is Gonna Come" for the past four years, it seems as if now Leela's ready. The album, set to drop on Warner, June 21st features production from the likes of Kanye West, Raphael Saadiq, Wyclef Jean, Chucky Thomspon and James Poyser to name a few.

MVRemix: What's your first memory of soul [music]?

Leela James: Probably my Dad's record collection. Leela James Interview

MVRemix: Any records in particular there?

Leela James: Yeah, Al Green.

MVRemix: Was your singing voice something that came naturally or were you taught?

Leela James: It was a natural thing. Everybody pretty much sang [around me], I didn't really think anything of my singing voice until I got older and other people pointed it out to me. I was always singing anyway.

MVRemix: In your biography, you're quoted as saying "I can't sing about things I can't relate to, I have to feel the song." Older R&B singers criticize younger artists for their lack of experience in love and life - do you have any feelings towards those comments?

Leela James: Right. No, I think they're right on the nail. I totally agree with them. I think we've gotten away from being true to ourselves and thus can't be true to what we're doing, in terms of making this music. If you're not genuine and sincere with it. Then it's like you're fooling the people. True soul, soul music and making soul music comes from the soul. Its got to be real. That's what I'm saying. I can't sing about things I can't relate to, if it ain't real to me. I can't really do much with it.

MVRemix: Tell me about "A Change Is Gonna Come"

Leela James: That's the title of the album, and it came about based on the fact that it personified everything that had gone on prior to getting a record deal. Just the journey of trying to get discovered and after being discovered, getting a record deal - all the ups and downs and trials I went through over the last four years just making a record. There were times and moments where it was easy to feel discouraged, and we had to stand on some kind of theme of knowing that no matter how low things can get, things can get better and a change is gonna come. [chuckles]

MVRemix: How did you end up getting such an A-list of producers and co-writers on your debut?

Leela James: Well, thanks to my management, myself and the executive producer on the record. We kind of all drew off our personal relationships and connections and was able to bring cats to the table. Fortunately, it's a blessing that all of the producers were so open and supportive with me, considering I was an "unknown." They were very eager so to speak, it was a blessing.

MVRemix: Why did you choose to cover "Don't Speak"? What do you think of Gwen Stefani's latest release?

Leela James: I'm a huge No Doubt fan. I like Gwen Stefani, I think she's just a character, she's great. I always loved the song. At the end of the day it's all about music, good music, and I thought that was a good song. When it came out a few years ago, I used to fool around singing it. Then, when we were in the studio playing around, I kind of did it my way, so to speak. We ended up using it and putting it on the album.

MVRemix: Now if R&B/Soul were a religion, who would you deem its "God" and what would be some of its teachings?

Leela James: [ponders] I think there would be a few gods. But clearly, the Godfather of soul; James Brown. He'd be one. There are some others, but yeah, he'd be one of them.

MVRemix: What about some sort of ideas/principles?

Leela James: Once again, what you said in bringing to the attention - I think sincerity and honesty, integrity in the music. Really having it because you can't really sing soul, it's not something that's contrived. Some people can have thousands of thousands of millions of marketing dollars behind them and fool all the people. You can fool all the people sometimes, but you can't fool all the people all the time. I think they should support that we keep it real and be true. Stop fakin' the funk! Hehe.

MVRemix: Sparking off of that, do you think artists are credible if they only strive off of technology? Their voice isn't accurate on the record, it's very altered through equipment...

Leela James: I understand, but at the end of the day this music business is about business too. A lot of record companies are interested in selling records and doing what they have to do to do that. Sometimes it entails for certain artists to make certain styles of music using certain equipment. At the same time I think there should be made room for balance. You can have some seasoned songs, and you can also have some soul.

MVRemix: With regards to your live show, who influenced you to do what you do in your performances?

Leela James: I can't really say anything or anyone in particular. I'm really just a product. I feel like where I've come from, my environment... I was raised around blues and gospel and soul, funk and stuff. That's what I know, that's what I see, so that's probably if anything, my general inspiration.

MVRemix: Do you have any opinion on what's going on with the Michael Jackson trial?

Leela James: No. [chuckles]

MVRemix: Aside from the album, are you working on anything else?

Leela James: I done some stuff with Pete Rock on the record "Soul Survivor 2." I did a record on there called "No Tears," and hopefully I can do some stuff with Common. Right now I'm mainly touring and shows and getting ready to get this album out. Hopefully the people go out and pick it up.

MVRemix: Do you have any non-musical aspirations? Writing in a different form...

Leela James: I'm definitely interested, you've probably heard this before, but I am interested in doing some acting, some television. On the flip-side, I'm very much into interior decorating and real estate. Those are my other side hobbies. So, if you ever need anything to be decorated in your house, call me [playfully chuckles]. And, I'm a regular cook, a Martha Stewart if you will. So if you need your house decorated or a meal cooked, please call me.

MVRemix: In your opinion, is it the differences in relationships that make them work or the similarities?

Leela James: I think it's a combination.

MVRemix: Can you predict your next year for me?

Leela James: No, I absolutely cannot. I can't see into the future. I did all the old... whatever the future holds, it's good.

MVRemix: Do you have any last words to your fans or potential fans?

Leela James: Yes, I love you all. Thank you all early for the support. Continue to support, pray and pick up the album. Hey, let it do what it do baby.

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