Interview: Up Close With Leela James

Singer Leela James has proven herself to be a force to be reckoned with over the years. The woman has raw talent and is constantly evolving. Her newest album My Soul proves that her music is truly a reflection of who she is. Brownsista sat down with Leela to discuss her new album and what inspires her and a few other things you did not know about the singer.

Brownsista: How did you become involved with music?

Leela James: I fell into it on the serious note. I was always singing. When I got out of high school it just took a life of its own and I developed a real passion for it. I continued to sing while I was in college and doing showcases where I could. I got a band together and performed wherever I could until someone finally discovered me.

Brownsista: Do you have a creative process?

Leela James: Not really. It definitely helps to have peace of mind when you go into the studio but sometimes that is not always the case. I don’t go through any rituals or anything. Whatever comes out comes. Whatever is on you at the time you should just let it come out.

Brownsista: A lot of female R and B singers or Soul singers use their bodies to sell records. You have never gone in that direction. Was that a conscious decision?

Leela James: I always felt comfortable in my skin. In terms of not feeling like I need to be butt naked. A lot of times when you show everything that you have then you leave nothing to the imagination.

Brownsista: Do you think that part of the reason why talented artists like yourself aren’t as popular as some others is because you don’t take it all off and let it roll or pop it? You know what I’m talking about.

Leela James: (laughs) Definitely that plays a role. You don’t fit into the mold of commercialism and what sells. If you not shooting for that format then you are not going to be popular. The best metaphor that I can come up with is that if you are in high school and you are not on the cheerleading squad but you are a regular chick. You may not be as popular. You may be dope but people might not be feeling you.

Brownsista: You have your own personal style. Where did you develop that from?

Leela James: Thank you. It’s just me. Being comfortable with how I look. To be honest it’s not something that I put a lot of effort or energy into. I like something then I will wear. Everything that I wear may not be for everybody. If it is comfortable for me and I like it then that’s what I do.

Brownsista: This particular album has more of a hip-hop infused sound. Is there a reason why you went in that direction?

Leela James: No, it is a part of me. Even when my first album came out Kanye produced a couple of records on that album. That was always a part of me I just didn’t give a lot of that before.

Brownsista: Any songs on the new album that particularly touched you?

Leela James: Yeah, “Tell Me You Love Me” and “The Fact Is”. I showed a vulnerable side on those songs. You don’t have to be 100 percent strong all of the time.

Brownsista: Who inspires you?

Leela: I love old school music. Chaka Kahn, Al Green, Outkast. That’s where the hip-hop comes from.

Brownsista: Tell me something about yourself that your biggest fan wouldn’t know.

Leela James: I like to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with Doritos. (laughs)

Brownsista: Are you squishing the Doritos on the sandwich or do you mean on the side?

Leela James: Yeah I put the Doritos on the sandwich.

Brownsista: Awwwwww!

Leela James: (laughs)

Brownsista: What do you drink with that? Do you drink milk with it?

Leela James: Yeah. (laughs)

Brownsista: The regular Doritos?

Leela James: Yeah the old school one in the red bag.

Brownsista: You are some kind of special.

Leela James: (laughs)

By LJ Knight Of YeahSheSaidIt

La’Juanda “LJ” Knight


  1. aaaaahhh i love her. she is like a breath of fresh air. truly down to earth and honest.

  2. I have her first album. Her voice is unique; dark and smoky and chock full of soul. On the flip; I hate that she got a nose job. She talks about being comfortable in one’s on skin, etc. I agree. Do what you need to do but the change is noticeable when I view her now and I think her regular nose looks better. 🙁

  3. she rocks! this interview made me smile. i loved her first album and i’m glad she’s back…

  4. one of the most underrated singers out there. I saw her perform in New York a few years ago and she tore that stage up. I would love to see the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards return so artists like this could get some recognition.

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