In our current time when families around the world are dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, singer and actress Ledisi is embracing the need to express love for each other with a new song titled Anything For You.
The song is the first single from her upcoming album and will be released on April 3rd. Ledisi will also be appearing on television this year portraying R&B legend Patti Labelle in an episode of BET’s American Soul. Ledisi talked with The Knockturnal recently about her new song, album, portraying Ms. Labelle, and more.
The Knockturnal: So my first question to you is can you discuss the process of developing and writing this song Anything For You and why coming out with song now is a perfect time for the song’s release?
Ledisi: I wrote the song, I had the idea for a minute, meaning the music part of it, but I didn’t know what to write on it for like a month. And then I started to have a conversation with my producer,[and] longtime collaborator Rex Rideout and his family. And we were talking about [our] loved ones and people that have passed. And I was watching him and his kids and they were all talking about their grandfather. He passed away and all the love they had when they were expressing their love for him and the funny things he would do and I loved the way they looked at Rex now as a father talking about his father, and then I was thinking about my parents and my mother and things like that. Then I had an idea [about] how far love goes even when you’re gone, love still stays and remains. And the hope is that you’ve done your best. And during, after, and in the beginning, I thought about life and love and all that. And I came up with the idea and Rick said, “well, this is perfect.” So I had all the lyrics and the melody and I laid the track, laid the vocal for it, a dummy of it at home in my office and sent it to him. And then we went into the studio and recorded it. And I think right now it’s perfect for this time since we’re forced to look inward and not go outward, we have to be in our homes and deal with whatever we have internally with the process of life and getting close to our loved ones and closer and inward in ourselves. So I think it’s a perfect time to express love always. And music is, as Nina [Simone] said: “Artists should represent the times.” I think it’s a perfect time for this song. Just remembering that I love you always, I love you and you’ll get through this and we’re going to get through this.
The Knockturnal: With your new album coming out can you tell us a little bit about the direction that you’re planning on going with the album.
Ledisi: It’s very authentic, organic. It’s not overly sung or overly produced songwriting, just how old school R&B used to be a mixture of what’s modern as well as just tiny pieces of that because I never do anything one way. I just wanted it stripped down and raw with musicianship and bridges and good old fashioned singing. So I’m excited about it. It’s just me being organic Ledisi, the person you would see at a show or just singing a song like how we used to. It’s simple, nothing overly done. And I think we need that right now.
The Knockturnal: Can you talk a little bit about your cover version of Ella Fitzgerald’s Honeysuckle Rose and what that song means to you.
Ledisi: I love expressing other parts of myself with different genres of music that I enjoy, and one of them is jazz. And to be able to tribute one of the queens of jazz, the great Ella Fitzgerald, was an honor. I wasn’t even there at the concert, but I was able to do it and make it work. And it’s just Greg Fields, working with him on it. It was fun and then studying Ella’s version was fun. And then I was thinking, how do I tribute her and be myself at the same time? So yes, I think I did pretty good. I felt good about it. It was an honor to be a part of that project. Anything for The Apollo of course and Ella Fitzgerald. It was great. Gregg Field is a longtime friend of mine, and he is the producer on that album. And he was able to let me be a part of the Count Basie Orchestra who I’ve worked with before. But he really guided me on why I should sing this song and it’s one of the hardest songs because of the changes on it, it’s no joke. So I said, I don’t know if I can do this. He said, “You got it. You can do it.” So I’m glad I was able to express myself freely about it.
The Knockturnal: So you also have a new acting project coming up, where you will be portraying Patti LaBelle. So talk a little bit about that and portraying her on an episode of American Soul that’s coming on in the new season.
Ledisi: Well, I’m a huge Patti Labelle fan, and I absolutely adore her. So when I was asked to be a part, we’ve always made jokes, Patti and I, about how you look like you’re one of mine. So it was an honor to be able to portray her on American Soul. And when I was asked to do it, I was just thrilled to be a part of that show and then to do Labelle and to get to wear the outfits. Come on who doesn’t want to wear the outfits? So that was fun and to work with Babyface was really cool to sing the songs. And I loved it. I love acting. I love displaying again all my different sides that people don’t know that I have. So this year has been and last year has been a way for me to express my acting skills, my songwriting more and being independent. It’s just been great. But I love working with the cast and the costumes and being in an era where music was so free, especially for R&B music. Wonderful experience.
The Knockturnal: Is there anything else you have coming up that’s working on that you want us to know about?
Ledisi: Well, I wrote a book and I revamped it and it’s called Don’t Ever Lose Your Walk: How to Embrace Your Journey that I’m really excited about because I have my own book publishing company as well. I’m an author and to be able to come and express the writing side of being a writer has been fun. And I hope that people will get that book and enjoy it. And embrace every journey, every part of this journey: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the great. So that’s what I’ve been learning. As I’ve learned, I just want to share my little nuggets with the world. So I think that’s a great book for people to read when they can’t control anything, you just have to go with the flow. So I think that helps and I’m glad. I’m really proud of that book.
The Knockturnal: Being an African-American woman and being an African-American woman publisher can you talk about the experience of being a book publisher as an African-American woman. We don’t usually see that many African-American publishers here in the world.
Ledisi: Well, I’m still new to it and learning about it, but I do know I needed a comfortable space for me to be able to be a free writer and feel like my books are going to get their shine and using my platform to elevate other writers that want to feel comfortable writing. I’m just starting, so I’m using myself as a tool to do that. I saw others do it in a way that doesn’t really care for the writers enough. I wanted to build a platform where people can feel comfortable, that someone’s going to take care of them and make sure that their books are seen and heard. But with everything that’s gone on, I had to just count on the online presence of it and not really out there in the stores and stuff yet. So once this is over, I can see more of what I can do. But I didn’t know that people love this voice of me being a writer and then to have my own publishing company. People are excited about it. I didn’t know there was even an avenue for it, and I was inspired by Iyanla Vanzant, who pushed me to do it myself. And I said, “Wow, okay, let me see how this goes.” So I’m still testing the waters, but I love the freedom of being able to have my own platform, to have a say. And I hope that I can do well on my own. So far, so good and we’ll see in the years to come. But also, I can’t wait to help someone else. And because there’s a lot of passion for it for me, I love writers and I love storytelling and I’m praying that I can give a better platform for others and being black, telling our story, telling stories that you normally wouldn’t hear and not giving up on the writer. We need words. We need stories. That’s where all the movies come from. So, yes, there are people that we still haven’t heard from, but I can’t wait to put out there. But first I have to use myself first to make it successful and then bring in more.