Thursday, January 7, 2010
FEATURES: Ledisi Up Close and Personal
PRIME: You have really blown up since we last talked. Your songs are all over the radio and you got videos now. How has the adjustment been from grinding independently to now getting all this attention?
LEDISI: I’m still surprised when people come to a show. I’m still shocked sometimes. I don’t listen to the radio a lot, but I hear people say great things. It’s cool. But also it’s a lot of pressure now. You work hard for people to look at you and appreciate your work. But when they do, its pressure to do it again, and pressure for them to look and appreciate what I do next. I worry if they will always be there later. But it’s part of the business I chose.
PRIME: People want to hear you sing your songs, but do you ever get tired of doing your same songs, or do you get tired of hearing your songs?
LEDISI: No, I remember when I only had one CD, and those songs saved me, and kept me out there. Performing those songs got me ready for where I am now. People want to hear those same songs, they like them. As for performing, I love the people’s response to it. The response I get in DC is different from the response I get in LA or NY or even when I go overseas. So I really enjoy performing them. Not only that, those songs are my personal stories. Sometimes, there’s someone who needs to hear that, it may save a life. I don’t take this lightly. It’s a lot of pressure, but that’s how I see my job. I take this seriously. People come up to me after a show and tell me how a certain songs helped them through a situation or how a song inspired them. So I enjoy doing these songs, but I do each show a little differently.
PRIME: Do you see music and performing as your life or as a job?
LEDISI: Music is not my whole life. It’s part of me, but it’s not everything. It’s a big part of my life and I can’t imagine my life without music, but there’s more to me than music. I like kicking it with my friends, studying nurse stuff. I like to chill out. I’m reading a lot more now too. That’s how I balance it all.
PRIME: If you weren’t singing, what would you be doing?
LEDISI: Teaching, probably teaching music. I’ve always wanted to sing. I used to watch my mom sing and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
PRIME: So after years of grinding you were finally nominated for a Grammy and BET awards, tell me about that experience.
LEDISI: I went to the awards. It was fun seeing all the people. I still get star struck sometimes. I don’t like doing red carpets, they are hard for me. But I know people need to see me, and know me. It’s a business. It’s the time of the internet, it’s a visual world.
PRIME: I know that Quincy Jones announced to a industry crowd that you were his goddaughter. What’s been the single biggest compliment that you have gotten, and from whom?
LEDISI: That was big. It was huge, that’s Quincy Jones, and to call me as his goddaughter! I mean that was huge and it really felt good. But also to be friends with people I admire, like Chaka and for her to say she likes what I’m doing. I’m just happy that I was able to make a CD, but to know these people and watch them and learn from them and even share a stage with them is incredible. To me, I love it, this is just extra.
PRIME: I know you’re from New Orleans and now you live in California, does it feel like home?
LEDISI: Well right now home is everywhere, NY, LA, DC, Philly. I’ve been on the go for the last three months. I made some great friends along the way too. It’s hard to find loyalty. When people meet me they are surprised to see I’m so regular…
PRIME: A lot of celebs are really Hollywood and stand offish. Sometimes it’s not even them but the people that are with them that have the attitudes and are difficult…
LEDISI: You have to be careful who you call friends. It’s like legs on a spider, it’s all connected. You have to know who is on your team and who you have representing you. I don’t want no drama.
PRIME: Since you have a certain amount of success, do you feel obligated to help everyone else?
LEDISI: It’s too much work carrying everyone. I do what I can. I help when I can. Some people say I do too much for people. But In terms of artist, oh sure I help whenever I can.
PRIME: If you were going to do a duet with anyone who would you have on the top of your list?
LEDISI: I get this question a lot. It’s such a hard thing to decide, but I think I’d choose Prince, Frankie Beverly, Marvin Gaye, Aretha, Chaka, it’s so many.
PRIME: We know you as a soul singer, but tell me, do you like Hip Hop or any other genres?
LEDISI: Oh yea, I love A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, I love Dr Dre’s production. I like what Q- Tip is doing, and of course The Roots too. People are surprised, but yea, I love Hip Hop. I used to walk around with my little G.E. radio. I used to break dance, pop lock, and all that. Actually the new album will show some of that side of my personality. “Lost and Found” was just an introduction to let you know I’m here. It took a long time to get here, but there’s more to me than just R&B. I listen to a lot of stuff, Afrikan, Indonesian music too. I’m not just R&B, I have multiple layers like a onion. I also like Buddy Guy, Queen Africa, Betty Levette, Miles Davis too.
PRIME: Are most of your songs about you or stories of other people?
LEDISI: Well about 95% are about me. People think they are about me anyway. Now on ”Best Friend” I flipped it and that’s a mix of stories. But most of the songs are about me. I’m happy about how people feel about CD. It took a long time to do it, about three years. That’s what I was living at that time.
PRIME: Now let’s get little more personal for a second. We see your nice wholesome image, but tell me do you cuss…?
LEDISI: Doesn’t everyone.
PRIME: OK, but do you drink or smoke? You seem so innocent..
LEDISI: I don’t do any of that. I’m not a drinker. There is one drink I do, it’s a wine, called Beautiful. You can only get it in the spring, that’s all I will I drink. I get tipsy off of Nyquil.
PRIME: I saw Jaguar Wright perform with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other hand..
LEDISI: Yea and I’m sure she killed it, she can really sing. But no, I don’t do any of that.
PRIME: Who do you like that’s hot now?
LEDISI: I like Musiq, he’s consistent. Beyonce, too. People are surprised that I like her, but I like people with melody and story. Both of them tell stories.
PRIME: How do you feel about the state of the music business right now?
LEDISI: We’re all on high alert because of the economy, I’m focused and I try to make quality music. I love my label and I have no issue with Verve. I’m happy. They’re a few things that have been cut back. But I’m used to that, I was grinding for years. And this is the age of technology and media, and the internet, all those are very important. People text and email and Twitter and do Facebook. I do it because I have to, but I don’t like all of it. I miss personal contact and talking to people. I do shows and people say they saw me on Youtube, or someone adds it to Youtube. Sometimes I meet people at shows, then they add me on Facebook. It’s just how things are now. I see how it affects people.
PRIME: When is the last time you cried?
LEDISI: I cry all the time. It can be about anything. I heard a song the other day it made me cry because it reminded of a friend I lost. He would have loved that song.
PRIME: Tell us about the new album.
LEDISI: It’s almost done but there’s no name for it yet. We’re still trying to decide which songs are going to make it. It should be out by the summer. This is hard because I want people to get it. This one is very different from the other stuff. It’s a lot of energy. It’s some uptempos on there and just some stuff that you may not expect. Even the lyrics are different. I deal with topics that people don’t want to talk about. This time it’s more stories I’ve heard than about me.