No one ever said losing didn’t mean you weren’t already a winner. A year before making it to the final four on season two of Fox’s The Four in August 2018, Leah Jenea had already released an incredible project titled Life W.T.R. She just needed the right platform to showcase her exclusive vocals to the masses.
Now that she’s gotten the world’s undivided attention, the New Jersey native has been continuing her path to stardom. Her recent glories included joining Marsha Ambrosius on special dates for her Nyla Tour, and the release of Leah Meets Nina, an impressive original tribute to the legendary singer Nina Simone.
Sampling some of Simone’s biggest hits, Jenea used the six-track project as a way to express her honest truths about the world through her lens.
We caught up with Jenea while on the road with Marsha Ambrosius. She chatted about her connection with Nina Simone on her new EP, her mindset as an R&B creative in today’s music climate, her experience on The Four and more.
Congratulations to making as a finalist on season two of Fox’s The Four. What advice has helped carry you to this point in your career from that amazing experience?
The advice I’ve carried from the experience is that professionalism will take you a long way. Even though every circumstance wasn’t the most comfortable or best, I always did my best and continued to be my best self; that was something I was commended for throughout the process.
Leah Meets Nina is the title of your project that features samples from the High Priestess of Soul Nina Simone. Understanding that Simone spoke out against America’s harsh reproach at Black society, what were you fighting for on this record?
Every record on the EP embodies strength and realism. Nina Simone definitely went through hardships to become who she is and songs like “Doin Dishes” that speak about the struggle of trying to succeed and being pushed back by troubles at the same time. I fought to keep her story alive, while also keeping the new age sound and feel.
Throughout the project, you made a point to emphasize determination while also sharing testimonies on how you survived in this cold world. Did you find it hard or easier to revisit the past and minister your truths in each song?
It wasn’t hard to revisit the truth because I was still going through it at the time. It made it easier for me to really be one with the music so that everyone else does too.
Where are you finding ideas for your music these days?
Listening to underground artist and instrumental music for ideas. I’m on tour right now so it’s very easy to listen to a lot of music on these long rides so that I can verse myself in different sounds and cultures.
You have been mentioning self-care a lot on social media. In music and in your personal life, how do you create enduring happiness?
Self-care is really important to me because there have been times where I’ve gotten busy and forgotten to take care of myself and I hated how I felt. I keep those times in mind and try my best to persevere through the hardships using them as inspiration.
You have released two EPs so far. Is a debut album in the near future?
YES. YES. YES.
Recently, there has been a discussion on R&B being in a “great place” at this moment. As an emerging artist, what do you think it is about this time in the genre that is different from previous eras?
I think the biggest difference in the genre is the honesty. We have a lot of music to find inspiration from but our world is so open-minded right now and it makes it easier to speak on different topics and situations that might not have been accepted before.