Leela James speaks the truth. Never mind hype or spectacle. The acclaimed recording artist appreciates the eternal qualities of an undeniable star — raw talent, musical substance and an authentic voice that’s timeless. All of which are embodied on Leela James’ sixth studio album Did It For Love.
For Leela, it’s always been about the soul. So much so that she was nicknamed Baby Etta as a little girl growing up in Los Angeles. Along with Chaka Khan and Al Green, she counts Etta James among her vocal heroes and paid homage in 2012 by recording her album Loving You More…In the Spirit of Etta James. Leela’s influences run the gamut of vocalists from soul to funk, and jazz, and her interpretation of music touches on synesthetic. “It’s the feel of the colours in an artist’s voicing and their power. Some artists make the hairs rise on my arm when they hit a certain note. Anybody can hold a tune, but make me feel it. Now that’s a sanger. ”
James has that kind of a voice — that of a sanger. Her power is obvious when she takes on the soul classics, and what truly resonates is her ability to harness it in the context of her own writing style. “I freestyle in the moment,” she says. “I vibe with the music and whatever comes out, that’s what it’s going to be. I tend to fool around with melodies I’m hearing, and then I go back and fill in lyrics. If the music is making me feel good, that’s all I need.” Soultracks describes Leela as “a one-of-kind” contemporary artist. Soulgigs agrees.