We caught up with the amazing Ledisi for an interview recently coming off of the heels of her impact new single “Anything for You”. Ledisi has truly developed into one of the greats we have right now for the R&B/Soul genre and we appreciate every opportunity we get to celebrate her. The new single just adds another building block to her impressive legacy.
During our conversation, we discussed the creation of her new single, moving forward with her own record label, how she was able to shoot a music video during social distancing, what to expect on her upcoming album, the mixed response to her previous single “High”, and the release of her new book. Check out what she had to say below!
Ledisi: I love the song. It was sitting in my computer for a while. Jairus Moizee came up with the energy of it, I worked with Rex Rideout on it. He’s my long-time collaborator, we’re going to always have our collaboration. They were working on it and I loved it, I wanted that energy, and I sat on it for a while, and around August I was sitting with Rex’s family. They were talking about his father who had just passed away, and all of the love he had poured into them. The whole conversation just blew me away because I had been sitting on this tune and didn’t know what to write on it. I started thinking about my mom and family and how far I’ve come to have the love I have around me. I went home to my office and started writing to it. I sent it to Rex and he was like “Well damn! This is so good, this is the one!” The lyrics and energy are like sitting on the porch and singing a song that feels like I’m grateful to be alive. The plan was always to release it during this time, but I didn’t know it would be so needed right now. To remind us to love our loved ones and as humans we are resilient and need to continue to lift each other up. When the song came out, people went crazy. It has familiarity, it has class, it has southern, it has soul. Everything all in one. They thought maybe I should cancel it. But no, music should never be cancelled, this is when we need it the most! *Laughs* I just put it out there and if people like it great, if they don’t, I can’t please everybody. I don’t do music to please everyone, I do it to make people feel better. Whoever catches on, great. I just can’t focus on those little things. My thing is, am I making quality work. It came out, and here we are man! Here we are.
I love what I’ve been doing, and I did it for me. But now I want to do what’s missing. It’s the simple things with bridges and musicianship in R&B. I’m a musician, so let’s all get in a room and make it possible. I just came back to that. That’s how I began, so it’s coming full circle. What a way to start. I just hope it does well, if it goes to a chart I’ll be happy! I can’t believe I’m on a chart after three years. My quarantine has been here! *Laughs* For me to come back and on my own label, I’m blown away just to complete a dream that my parents wanted and be successful. They never owned their own music. I’m in partnership owning myself. Not just my live shows, but also my music. I feel accomplished already. Anything else is extra!
YouKnowIGotSoul: You were able to shoot a video for the song even with social distancing and it’s pretty special!
Ledisi: It is the most simple video I’ve ever done! We had a tough time doing it. But we knew we needed to have a video with it. So my husband Ron T Young, an amazing director, I worked with him forever. The vision he had for it, he couldn’t do. Everyone is adjusting to the whole situation. We found a studio that was so old school, Rex remembered it, and I had been there before. The owner was willing to come out of his house and open it up for us. He cleaned it up and everything. We had a limit, only three people in there, with masks. Every room it was just me and Ron together with 1 camera and 4 lights. We used three rooms and everyone stayed away. *Laughs* I had to style myself, I had a friend quickly do my makeup and then he was gone. Only certain people can be in the area. We did social distancing and had masks on, it was really, really cool. We made it work.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Tell us about the album you’re working on.
Ledisi: I finally figured out after three years where I’m going to be with Listen Back Entertainment. Taking ownership of all of the things I do, being an author, starting my own publishing company, and creating platforms. So when we started this album, I already had what I wanted to do in mind. I had the title. This is the first time with an album I was excited about recording. Most of the time it feels like going back to work! *Laughs* It felt like what am I going to do and how am I going to do it, I had to try something really cool. I always had fun doing it, but it felt like work. These three years I would just get up and go record if I felt like it and then I’d go back to doing something different. I didn’t feel rushed or on a timetable or I had to make a song right away. When I felt like I wanted to work, I got up and worked. Even how I sang on every song, I didn’t have to prove anything, I just sang the song and gave the story telling. I had time to listen and make stories up as a playwright. So it made my singing and songwriting a little more comfortable and relaxed, that’s what I mean by fun. I never had that!! *Laughs* Usually you get three months to turn an album in by a certain time. I’m the CEO, I could turn it in when I’m ready and put it out when I’m ready! I could put out several records if I want to! I’ve never had that. It was really, really cool to make an album when you feel like it, not feel forced and on a deadline. I did give myself deadlines nonetheless, but I knew in the back of my mind I could do whatever I want. This album I got to work with musicians, back to the basics, and I got to play with background vocals and harmonies more. I’ve always produced my projects, but this time I really produced my project. I had a lot of control over how I wanted it to be produced. Then I worked with other female songwriters. I worked with Robert Glasper of course, he’s on there. We wrote songs together in the studio collaboratively. It felt really good to have control over what I wanted to do and take full credit as a producer. Before I wouldn’t do it, I’d just stay out of the way. I’ve never been so clear on a project I’ve done other than my very beginning. This project has all R&B/Soul in every stage. Whether it’s old school, modern, or 90’s, Neo-Soul stuff. It goes all the way around of what the eclectic energy of what Ledisi is. Not one particular Soul/R&B, it’s all of them that have influenced me.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Really looking forward to hearing the progression in your music on this album. Your last album “Let Love Rule” we felt like was really a step forward for you. Even with your single “High”, we didn’t get the song at first, because it wasn’t typical Ledisi, but it grew on us and we now love it!
Ledisi: Nobody did! I promise you, the argument that went on with that song, that’s when I knew it was a good tune! It was that they didn’t get it, everyone said it. Patti LaBelle didn’t like it, but then when she heard the lyrics, she said it made sense. I’ve said we have to let each era have their own version of R&B/Soul. We can’t keep fighting against that energy. They are doing what they do now, and either you can play along, and do what they do if you want, or you don’t have to. I think there is a whole generation we have to keep pulling over into where we started. With “High”, I have never had the response I’ve had with people of the millennial generation. They love that song. That is what I like to do. Then it made them love all of the other songs. It made them study me more and hear my other stuff. I can’t ignore this generation now, we keep ignoring them but we have to bring them over. That’s why I like Tank, he just tries new stuff that is relevant. We need to grab this generation of R&B soul lovers and move them over. Then they will go back to what we love. We can’t ignore them. We keep getting mad, but just leave them alone and do what they like. I didn’t like Millie Jackson but that was my momma’s thing! But now I understand it and I love it! *Laughs* I love Summer Walker and Jhene Aiko. Let them have their moments and make sure embrace them and show them our stuff. I’ve seen more posts recently about “High” than when it first came out! People are finally getting that song. It’s crazy how my music over time gets discovered. When it comes out I’m a little bit ahead of myself. Lalah Hathaway did the same energy as well on her album! To me it’s just Prince over a trap beat if you want to break it down!
YouKnowIGotSoul: Tell us about your book “Don’t Ever Lose Your Walk: How to Embrace Your Journey”.
Ledisi: The book is called “Don’t Ever Lose Your Walk: How to Embrace Your Journey”. What’s crazy about it is what I’ve been showing by example is how awesome human beings are that we adjust to our environment. We make it work without our restraints. And here we are restrained! *Laughs* We are figuring it out even though there’s limitations on what we can do. There is still limitless amounts of creativity and imagination. Just how we adjust to things is immaculate. We did it when we had other catastrophes like 9/11 and Katrina. We adjusted and bonded together. With this book, it’s how I’ve had to adjust to everything that’s gone on around me. I’m not telling people what to do, I’m saying here is an example and here’s what I did. Especially with my mom getting her out of depression. Now she’s graduated from college at age 65 Magna Cum Laude. Finishing and completing her dreams after fighting cancer. It took me to help her get her back together because I wasn’t together, and I learned from it and I shared it from her. I talk about meeting people along your journey that aren’t good for you and how you can be vulnerable. My favorite chapter is “When the Circus Comes Around”. It’s about being on your journey and being exhausted, and you want things to happen right away. When you move too fast, the circus comes. Being protective of those moments and remembering who you are and the greatness of yourself. Just a reminder. Along the book you write in it and journal along with me. Just like my first book “Better than Alright”. I love it and we’re doing exactly what I hoped people would get, is to how to adjust.