R&B singer Ledisi today releases “Pieces of Me,” an album featuring 12 tracks that the singer songwriter hopes will gives fans a better glimpse of who she is as an artist and a woman.
Last week, the Grammy nominated Ledisi talked with the AJC about her new project, which features guest artist Jaheim (“Stay Together”) and producers Rex Rideout, Claude Kelly, Chuck Harmony and others.
You did a listening party for the new album here in Atlanta last month. Why is Atlanta an important market for you?
Every time I play Atlanta it’s incredible. People come out, and they laugh with me and sing with me, so it’s appropriate. I’m always there hanging out there on the scene, and my photo shoots are always done in Atlanta.
How would you describe your new album?
It’s really “pieces of me,” which is the title track. It explains what the entire album is to me. People are starting to know that I’m a singer, but they don’t know anything about me and I wanted to display different sides of myself. Hopefully people can see themselves in the music as well.
What about it are most reflective with who you are?
There is a level of confidence that I didn’t have that I have now based on the work I’ve done. I think I took a step back and looked at everything that I’ve done and listened to people who say that my work has inspired them. As an artist, I work so hard at the grind of it that I didn’t take a chance to look back at all the work and look around myself and do things outside of music to see how it’s affected people – how my work hasn’t gone unnoticed, so that inspired me.
Even when I started to work on the project, my favorite producer – Rex Rideout, he and I executive produced the project, He said ‘What is your radio? What is Ledisi’s radio – your lane, not anybody else’s. When people hear you, who do they hear?’ That’s what the focus was. That gave me confidence that wow, I do have my own sound.
So what song says this is who Ledisi is?
I think it’s the title track, but I wrote songs specifically so that I could be general as well that people could relate to. Be good to yourself (“BGTY”) — I was tweeting and Salaam Remi, one of my producers, was following me. When I came in the studio, he said, ‘Let’s think about what you just tweeted.’ So everything is an extension of me.
So you’ve opened for Prince, received kudos from first lady Michelle Obama and was nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy a couple of years ago after being under the radar for several years. So what’s been the most unexpected thing – big or small — about your music career?
There have been so many of those moments and you’ve named half of them. But I have to say the Black Girls Rock [award show performance on BET], the response to that has blown me away. It’s been amazing. What I loved about it was that I was on stage with some wonderful women [Jill Scott, Marsha Ambrosius, Kelly Price], beautiful women who represent the name in Nina Simone’s song [“Four Women”]. It was just beautiful. And we did it together, and it felt good. I think that was a surprising moment that turned my life around.
You have a guest appearance on the album by Jaheim. What was that like and are there any artists out there that you’ve been dying to work with?
I wrote that song specifically for Jaheim and at first he couldn’t do it. Then Rex Rideout called me one night and said he’s recording it and it was three in the morning East Coast time, and I couldn’t believe it I was so happy. He’s the only guest artist on this album, but I hope to work with more people that I admire. I would love to work with Stevie [Wonder] or Prince or Beyonce. Angelique Kidjoe is one of my favorites. I don’t know how that would work but I know it would work. But I’m just happy that people even know who I call when I call [to ask] them to work with me.
You seemed to have been under the radar for a long time, what do you think it was that finally brought you into the spotlight?
It’s all about who you know and having the right people in your circle — and being good to your fans. My fans have really sustained me. And the quality of work — I just kept putting out work. I’ve learned a lot by things not happening right away. I’ve learned patience and faith and really who’s there for you when things aren’t good. Having the right people around has really helped me. I have to have the right team around me. I have a better team this year. And, it call comes back to my work – did she sing or did she sang?
Are you going to start touring the album soon?
Yes, but not until the fall. I’ll do some spot dates in the summer, but not very many because I want to have a nice show ready and prepared for everyone in the fall. This will be my first time stepping out – like on a real tour with just me.