Leela James’ powerhouse voice will command the undivided attention of anyone who listens to her sing. Her talent is simply undeniable.
The Los Angeles native made her introduction to the world in 2005 with her debut album “A Change Is Gonna Come,” released via Warner Brothers Records.
Since then, James has consistently put out music that touches the soul. Despite having great music, James has yet to reach her potential. People who’ve listened to her music may label her as an underrated singer.
“I get why they say it,” says James on how she feels when being called underrated. “I think when you have artists such as myself that have been around for a long time and they’re seemingly not on the commercial level of success as people would imagine or think they should be, I get why things are said.”
Although James understands why people may call her underrated, she doesn’t let that define her. “I know what I offer and success to me is a little different in terms of what others may deem as success,” says James. “It’s all good. What’s for me is going to be for me.”
The confident singer just released her fifth studio album “Fall For You” on July 8. “I hadn’t been in the studio in a minute so I think it was just a lot of pinned-up melodies and lyrics that were just able to come out once I got in [the studio],” states James on her inspiration behind her album.
James says she had more creative freedom than ever before with this album. “I was very hands-on creative-wise,” James says on how the album compares to her earlier works. “I wrote every single track on the album. That in itself is huge for me because you get all of my thoughts and all of my melodies. No one was in the studio telling me ‘You can’t do that’ or ‘No, I don’t think you should do that.’ Since I was able to do me, that freedom and vulnerability came out in some of the records.”
James’ creative input also allowed her to be more transparent. “I think sides of me that weren’t always exposed in the past,” she adds. “With this album, it was just so dope to for once to do me.”
If James had to pick one song that’s the most personal to her, she would pick the title track. The 31-year-old singer claims the song “Fall For You” is a straightforward and vulnerable record.
“It’s very stripped down because you’re just hearing my voice and a piano,” explains James. “It conveys the rawness and sincerity in my voice and in the lyrics. I think it’s definitely one of the stronger records on the album.”
“Fall For You,” the album, features guest appearances from soul singer Anthony Hamilton and rising artist/producer Joe Ryan — who was featured as Rated R&B’s Rated Next Artist. “We had worked on the record ‘So Good’ and a couple of other tracks on the album,” James says on working with Ryan.
“We just had a really great vibe in the studio. We were coming towards what we felt was the end of the album and just wanted to kind of do another track where I featured a male voice. We were fooling around with some ideas and basically, that’s how the sound of ‘Save Me’ came about. It really was something that was very organic.”
Aside from music, James co-stars in season two of TVOne’s hit reality show “R&B Divas: LA” with Lil’ Mo, Chante Moore, Chrisette Michele, Michel’le and Claudette Ortiz.
In a time when most reality shows are over dramatic, James naturally had some reservations about joining the show. However, she and her team looked at the bright side. “[We] felt like it would be a great opportunity for me to get more exposure and it’s an excellent platform,” says James.
Hopefully, “R&B Divas: LA” will introduce Leela James to fans who enjoy quality music and will support her just from her talent alone.
Make sure you cop her new album “Fall For You” in stores now!