"Every album is completely different from each other. I will say there is definitely soul music involved in it."
by Windy City Times
Grammy-nominated singer Ledisi shares a little bit of herself in the new album Pieces of Me. Known for jazz vocals that transcend into pop, soul and R&B, this eclectic artist chatted on the phone this week about her collaborators, Chicago and coffee.
WCT: (Windy City Times) Good morning, Ledisi. Are you drinking coffee right now?
L: (Ledisi) I am drinking water but coffee would be great.
WCT: I was listening to your song, "Coffee."
L: Ohhh. [Laughs] I like it early in the morning, strong! Do you like that song?
WCT: I do.
WCT: You are from New Orleans, correct?
L: Yes, I am. I am from New Orleans but raised in Oakland, California.
WCT: Where did you live now?
L: I am all over the place but hang out in Oakland still and DC.
WCT: Your name is from Yoruba?
L: It means "to come to, to bring forth" so my mom told me.
WCT: You have an interesting history. You performed in The Wiz?
L: When I was in high school, yes.
WCT: Would you want to do more musicals?
L: Oh, yeah. I did Carolina Change on Broadway. I was an understudy there. I was also in a production of The Color Purple up until it went on Broadway. They wrote opening number for me to do. I was part of the three ladies onstage singing. I ended up singing with Verve and putting out Lost and Found instead. So, yeah I love Broadway and theatre. I have been doing it forever.
WCT: So you were with Verve. Do you describe yourself as jazz music?
L: I don't describe it. Every album is completely different from each other. I will say there is definitely soul music involved in it. Everyone else calls it this that and the other. I can't be involved in that terrible task of figuring out what the hell I am.
WCT: Who wants to be pigeonholed anyway?
L: I am an R&B singer. That is what I am and what I do. I love soul music.
WCT: The Grammy nominations that you have gotten were for jazz?
L: No, for R&B. Best New Artist, Best Female R&B Vocal and two times Best R&B album.
WCT: Well, you sound is a mix. I love your song "Please Stay."
L: Oh, the Raphael Saadiq song when we worked together on Turn Me Loose.
WCT: How was it working with him?
L: He was incredible. He is from Oakland and the Bay Area so it is kind of like hanging out with your cousin.
WCT: He was just here in concert.
L: He is an incredible live performer. He is a great guy. I love him.
WCT: Those backup singers are good too. I like his crew. You also worked with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
L: Yes, I did on Turn Me Loose. They are like big brothers. They really taught me a lot about song writing and about people, how people respond to music. They know their craft. That was like getting a lesson.
WCT: Do you write most of your songs?
L: I write a lot of my material. I have been co-writing a lot with people like Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly. We wrote the songs together. Turn Me Loose taught me to open up to different ways of songwriting. Now I love writing with other people. John Legend wrote a song for me and thought it would be a good fit me. It came out nicely. It called "I Miss You Now."
WCT: How do you know all of these people? Are they just calling you up and bringing you songs?
L: [Laughs] I can't believe it happened and know who I am. I didn't even know Claude knew who I was. He said, "Please, everyone knows who you are. I would love to work with you. I thought I would have to come in there and explain my whole spiel." He didn't. I ended up working with Salaam Remi on Turn Me Loose but worked with him on this record. That was a lot of fun. People know me; I just didn't think they did. I would just call and see what they would say. When they would say they would love to work with me I would be screaming with excitement.
I have known John for a long time before he was John Legend, he was John Stephens to me. To work with him later after we saw each other at the White House together, we reconnected. He had a song and wanted me to hear it. I told him that I would love to have any of his leftovers. He said, "Oh, please."He sent me the song and I loved it immediately. We put it on the album and my label, management, everbody loved it. It came out great. I couldn't believe he wrote that kind of song because I am used to him writing a different way but he is a great songwriter and can write anything.
WCT: He is a busy guy and always touring. He is coming here with Sade.
L: Yeah, I know. He told me he is going on tour with her. I want to see that show.
WCT: You also have a Christmas album.
L: I do. It came out in 2008—back to back after Lost and Found came out. I wanted to make something that reminded me of my childhood with all of the eclectic music that was around the house. I wanted to make a classic album with originals. One of the songs The First Lady loved, song called "Thank You." She listens to that one a lot. I am very proud of that Christmas album and only had two weeks to record it. It came out really good.
WCT: Every time of the year people pull those album out so they have a long shelf life.
L: Yes. It sold a lot more after it came out. I am glad people are finding it. Thanks for bringing that up.
WCT: Anything else you want to say about the new album?
L: I am excited about it. I hope people hear themselves in it and feel uplifted when they hear it. I hope they find something on there that they love. I love the whole thing and I am giving myself, little pieces of myself.
WCT: Hence the title Pieces of Me. Are you excited about coming to Chicago?
L: I am always excited about Chicago. It is one of my favorite places, except when it's cold.
WCT: You don't have to worry about that this time.
L: I know! the summertime is beautiful there. I love it. Are you going to be at my show?
L: It always sells out and it will be an acoustic set so it will be fun.
Ledisi lands at the Harold Washington Cultural Center, 4701 S. King on June 17. Call 773-373-1900 for information about the mini performance, interview and CD signing. Click on her website for more www.ledisi.com.