During the Soul Train Awards this year, Leah LaBelle hit the stage to sing Teena Marie’s “Square Biz”, and Twitter immediately lit up with messages from people who were impressed by her singing and wanted to know exactly who she was. To catch you up to speed, Leah Labelle is a soulful artist who had a brief stint on the third season of American Idol, however, she was given her big break after Pharrell Williams found her on Youtube. He brought her to the attention of Jermaine Dupri and the two powerhouse producers are now co-producing her debut album. This month, she’s featured in the new issue of PYNK Magazine. Inside, she dishes on her biggest musical influence growing up, how she was discovered on Youtube and why she decided to sing R&B. Peep a few excerpts and her full spread below:
On What Made Her Want To Sing R&B
“My mom listened to a lot of jazz growing up, but once I got into the gospel part—being around the other girls in the choir, I think I became more aware of R&B and that’s where my heart was drawn. My heart didn’t beat as fast with other music, but when I heard R&B, it was something about it that made me feel a lot different. I live in my feelings. So, I was happy to be able to connect in that way.”
On Her Biggest Musical Influence
“Lauryn Hill was my biggest influence. After I saw the movie [Sister Act II] and she came out with the Fugees and then ‘The Score’ [Fugee’s album]—I was still too young to have the album, but I snuck. My mom found it and took it and I still went and found another one somewhere but she was everything to me. When ‘The Miseducation [of Lauryn Hill]’ came out, I was highly inspired by everything she represented at the time when she was at her peak. Her lyrics, her melodies, her stories, her voice, her tone, her runs, everything about her—I studied her. I thought I was her at one point. She was really my inspiration in forming my sound.”
ARTST TLK Episode 2 With David Salle & KAWS
Pharrell Williams interviews internationally renowned artists David Salle, known best for helping define postmodern sensibility, and street artist-turned-sculptor and limited edition toy & clothing designer, KAWS. A new take on the talk show format hosted by award winning producer, artist, designer, and businessman Pharrell Williams. Each episode will feature two special guests at different career stages to discuss their work, motivations, inspirations, and philosophies.
By Charley Lanyon. Joyce’s Central boutique was even more crowded than usual. The throng of high-fashion hang-abouts, some browsing, some buying, gave the impression that a secret sale was on. But many were carrying large coffee-table books, there was some semblance of a line forming and then black-suited bodyguards arrived. An expectant hush fell over the crowd as the lift indicator blinked red: Pharrell Williams had arrived. The rapper, producer and fashion designer had come to sign copies of his new coffee-table book, Pharrell: Places and Spaces I’ve Been, featuring conversations between Pharrell and some of the luminaries who have inspired him, including US rapper Jay-Z, Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami and German music producer Hans Zimmer.
On Tuesday night, more than 50 people stood in line for the chance of an autograph. Pharrell, who was named the world’s best-dressed man by Esquire magazine in 2005, was looking good if a bit sleepy behind designer sunglasses with a knit cap on his head. His drowsiness was understandable; he had arrived just the day before and was jet-lagged. Asked which of his favourite Hong Kong hot spots he was looking forward to frequenting, Pharrell answered slowly: “I think the experience has just been grand across the board. I’m in a state of delirium right now. It’s a mixture of jet lag and not really knowing what is real and what’s not, but it’s amazing. I’m very thankful.” From the looks on the faces of his many Hong Kong fans, that was exactly how they were feeling as well.
Eight years after ‘Idol,’ Leah LaBelle to debut solo album A few years ago, after a hiatus from music, Leah LaBelle realized that music was indeed what she was supposed to do. “Fans were writing on my MySpace asking if I was still singing,” LaBelle said. “I started making YouTube videos for them to let them know that I still was.” Now, LaBelle, 26, is working on her debut album with star producers Pharrell Williams and Jermaine Dupri. No stranger to rough times — LaBelle’s parents fled communist Bulgaria for Canada right before she was born (she was raised in Seattle) — LaBelle knows that the music business is one that is difficult to break into.
“I did [‘American Idol’] because I was in Seattle,” LaBelle said. “I was young and just wanted to see what happened.” At the age of 17, LaBelle made it to the top 12 on Season 3 of “American Idol” in 2004, the same season that launched Chicago native Jennifer Hudson’s career. LaBelle, though, wasn’t destined for immediate stardom. She said it just wasn’t her time to break through at that young age. “I still had to finish high school,” LaBelle said. “It was a matter of getting out there and pursuing the right people. It’s a grind this music industry. For me, it was just timing.” Even though a post-“Idol” breakthrough wasn’t in the cards, it didn’t take long for people to start taking notice of LaBelle’s voice and look.
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