Nearly three years after releasing Fall For You, Leela James returns with her sixth album, Did It For Love. The concept of the album, which explores all the different sides of love, was developed organically.
“I don’t really try to think of concepts when I make music, I just go with the natural flow of the evolution of the making of the album,” James tells Rated R&B over a phone conversation “As I’m recording, sometimes it’ll take a life of its own. When I’m writing the songs, they’re usually based off direct and indirect experiences. It kind of tells its own story.”
In our interview with Leela James, the singers dives deeper into the journey of creating her album while pregnant, using music as a form of therapy and more.
RATED R&B: Your new single “Don’t Want You Back” is hit no. 1 on urban AC radio. Congrats on that! What’s the story behind that song?
I’ll just say sometimes you get to a point where you have to be really direct and blunt about the way you feel. It’s almost as if a person is not getting the hint or the message — no matter how many times you might not return their phone calls or text messages or whatever — at a certain point you just have to say “don’t call me. Leave me alone. I don’t wanna be bothered. I don’t want you back.” You have to be blunt.
RATED R&B: The album seems to explore different aspects of love…
Yes! It definitely does that because that’s what love is. Love is good sometimes. Love is bad sometimes. A lot of times, the things we do we do it for love.
RATED R&B: You have a song with Dave Hollister on the album. How did that collaboration happen?
Dave Hollister is an amazing, talented artist. We’ve known each other for years. He’s like a brother to me. So we finally just had the opportunity to do something together and it was something we had talked about before and it was really easy. It wasn’t hard.
RATED R&B: How does Did It For Love compare to your previous album Fall For You?
I just say it’s definitely feels grown but it’s definitely more mature. Fall For You is grown. Did It For Love is very grown. It’s definitely more intense.
RATED R&B: One thing I like about the album is, despite you working with multiple producers on the project, it has a cohesive sound.
Thank you. Even though I can work with different producers, it’s still a process for me. We create the music on spot. It’s a building process. I’m very particular with who it is I do work with. Again, because I want them to be able to kind of come through with my vision that I might feel and see.
RATED R&B: Did recording this album help you in any way?
I will say all my albums is going to be therapeutic because music, to me, is therapeutic. I enjoy making music, writing songs and performing them. It doesn’t matter what I’m necessarily singing about, it’s just the fact that I am able to sing and express myself. That’s a form a therapy.
I recorded a lot of this album while I was pregnant, so that in itself was an interesting time because you’re in touch with all kinds of emotions when you’re pregnant (laughs). You could just be watching Family Feud and start crying.
RATED R&B: Was it difficult for you to sing while pregnant? I heard it’s not so easy!
Right towards the end, it got hard for me because your breath control, breathing techniques, get a little more challenging. You have a human being sitting on your uterus and close to everywhere where you need your diaphragm.
I think there’s a picture where I’m in the studio and I’m literally — I like to stand when I recorded — but I couldn’t even stand anymore. I was sitting down on a stool (laughs). I had to literally get up on the mic and try to gut it out because it was so difficult. Finally, my producer was like, “That’s it for you. You are officially done. You are on maternity leave. We can pick this up after the person gets here.” I went as far as I could up until about eight and a half months.
RATED R&B: Does being a mother influence your music?
Absolutely. I’ve always made emotional, sultry, soulful music. I think motherhood puts you over the top because your emotions are all over the place because it’s a different kind of love when you become a parent and are a mother. Even just going through the process of carrying a child and feeling life in you, those different things stir up all kinds of emotions when you’re working on music. Another standpoint is just the business aspect of things, you look at things differently. Before I had kids I was like, “Oh yeah, I’ll go here. I’ll go there.” Now, when you have kids you have to think about — plan it out. It’s just something that makes sense, not only for you but your family.
RATED R&B: Speaking of traveling, you’re going on tour with Daley this month. What can fans expect?
Fans are going to get a great show. They’re going to get some good music, some good singing and musicianship.
Get Leela James’ new album Did It For Love here or stream it below.