This American R&B and soul singer-songwriter cites legendary singers James Brown, Roberta Flack, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Gladys Knight, Mavis Staples, and Stevie Wonder as her influences. Her deep, rich, gritty vocals have drawn comparisons to Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, and Tina Turner.
- James has been an opening act for the Black Eyed Peas and Macy Gray and she lent her voice to the posthumously released Ray Charles album Genius & Friends, duetting with the singer on the song “Compared to What.”
- She writes most of her own track but covered No Doubt’s 1996 hit, “Don’t Speak,” on her debut album, which featured collaborators like Raphael Saadiq of the 1990s R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné!, Kanye West, and former Fugees member Wyclef Jean.
- In June 2009, she appeared on Moby’s new album “Wait for Me”, performing the vocal on “Walk with Me.”
Sound Observations From Leela James
By David Moye
Good singing is basically like sung speech.
That’s what a singing teacher once told me and it’s the type of simple, yet thoughtful statement that I drop into conversations with musicians in order to sound like I know what I’m talking about.
Leela James understands this. Although this 27-year-old vocal virtuoso can do all the singing pyrotechnics you’d hear on Star Search, it’s more important to convey the story of the song, whether it’s an original or a cover of a classic.
“When I’m considering recording a song, I go by what I’m feeling,” she said during a recent phone interview. “If I like it, I do the song.”
James has the genre-defying love of music that is the sign of a true artist.
Take her cover of the No Doubt song “Don’t Speak.” Whereas lesser musical minds might have heard the original and considered it a teeny bopper ballad, James saw the real tragedy of the song and brought it to new heights.
That’s song interpretation, friends. And Leela James is a true singer.
Of course, Anthology fans know that, and they will be able to enjoy her excellence at song interpretation once again on July 21.
“When I decide to do a song, the melody is important, but I really pay attention to the lyrics,” she said. “I can’t help but be inspired by them.”
Now that’s when James is doing songs written by others. When she’s doing her own songs, such as the ones off her new CD, “My Soul,” such as the first single, “Tell Me You Love Me,” she takes a different approach.
“I like to start with the melody first, then put in dummy lyrics, like ‘La la la la,’” she laughed. “Honestly, there is no real method. I like to compose directly into the microphone when I’m in the studio and then eventually fill in the melodies with the lyrics.
“Really, when I get an idea, I just play around with it and take it wherever it goes. I come up with the dummy lyrics in the studio and soundchecks.”
James doesn’t want to tell the whole story about what Anthology fans can expect at her show, but she does offer this tease: “I love music. It’s something that comes in all kinds of colors. We’ll have a real good time.”
WHAT: Leela James
WHEN: Wednesday, July 21st, 2010, 7:30pm
TICKETS: $10 – $44 BUY TICKETS