Leela James Talks Crossing Genres and Her New EP ‘Are You Ready’

Keandra "Ke Ke" Scott Tatum | 5/3/2019, 4:03 a.m.
Soul singer Leela James brought her Cali-rooted charm in the form of great weather to Houston in an exclusive in-person ...

Clincher: Soul singer Leela James brought her Cali-rooted charm in the form of great weather to Houston in an exclusive in-person interview at The Raven Tower.

Who says you can’t switch from R&B to rock and produce a kick-rear (insert what you want) sound? Since the beginning of time, African-Americans have always branched out on an experimental voyage to express joy and pain from negro spirituals to the deep pits from whence soul music was birthed in the 1950s. Former R&B Divas: Los Angeles songstress Leela James alongside The Truth Band takes a fiery stab at a 6-track EP entitled, ‘Are You Ready’. The album comes as a follow up to ‘Did It For Love’ and it vibes, greatly. James’ single “That Woman” delivers an embodiment of what ‘Are You Ready’ is all about; it’s fearless as she belts out an ode to self-respect; she demands it. Baby Etta first performed “That Woman” in DC at the inaugural Black Girls Rock! Festival as she took the stage with names like hip-hop femcee Rapsody, Elle Varner, Jazmine Sullivan and more.

There’s a lot more to the Houston-based powerhouse vocalist since gracing Houston Style Magazine in 2017. From her private married life and being a proud mother of two, her musical journey is ‘consistently evolving’. It was windy, sunny with clear skies as we sat down with Leela to discuss her

Ke’Ke: How has Houston embraced you?

Leela James: Houston has totally embraced me, it has definitely become my new home, my second home. I was born and raised in South Central L.A. and I’ve been here now for several years. I travel back and forth to L.A. still, but, I own property in Houston and I’m raising my family here-I have children. Shout out to Majic 102.1, Hey Terri, ha-ha. It's lots of love here in Houston. I’ve done several shows at the Arena Theatre as well as the House of Blues and they’ve been sold out a few times. I’ve definitely acclimated myself here, so, I feel like I’ve been blessed to have two homes, my birthplace in South Central and then Houston. My family originated out of Texas, so when we did come back, it was like going back to their roots.

Ke’Ke: Since the feature in 2017 with Houston Style Magazine, what do you feel has changed since then?

Leela James: Well, obviously, I’m older, ha-ha (insert: still looking the same). We got a hurricane under our belt, let’s see. For me, my musical journey is constantly evolving, and I think where I am in 2019 verses 2017 is just more of an attitude I’ve always had, “I’mma do me.” I’ve been a little bit reserved, at the same time, as much as I’m not allowing myself to be boxed, I was still treading the waters as safely as possible and now I’m just like, you know it was so much going on. It is what it is, let the chips fall where they may. Gloves off, and that’s what you heard in “That Woman.” I might not have recorded “That Woman” a couple of years ago, but, in light of everything that has been happening, the ‘Me Too’ movement and just the current affairs of society with women, it’s just a lot. You feel fed up, sometimes. I’m a mother and a woman but sometimes you get to that point, enough is enough if you will. It’s like, I got something to say, and it ain’t gonna to be pretty.