"Where It All Begins"
CD Release 10/18/11
Interview and Concert Review By: Cheryl Armour
Photos By Derek Blanks
“First Daughter of Soul,” Lalah Hathaway, has released her fifth album entitled “Where It All Begins” on October 18th. She is currently on tour in support of the album. Lalah and her band performed two sold out shows at Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, GA on Saturday night.
Lalah is the daughter of the late legendary soul singer, Donny Hathaway. She sat down with Smooth Jazz Magazine backstage before the show and discussed her father, her music and the highlight (so far) of her career.
SJM: Let’s start off talking about the new album, “Where It All Begins.” You’re currently on tour in support of the album which was just released on Oct. 18th. Give us a little background on how this album came together. I heard you put a call out on Facebook and Twitter for songwriters to contribute to the album. What kind of response did you get?
Lalah: I got a really great response. We ended up with one of the songs by a young woman named Ingrid Wood from Ohio. The rest of the album I wrote or co-wrote or got songs from other people. I really wanted to open the process up and just get open in a way. So that was the first part of that.
SJM: Who were some of your favorite people to work with on this album?
Lalah: All of them, really. There’s only been one guy that I’ve worked with that I’ll never work with again. I won’t say his name... but I worked with JR Hutson, Andre and Vidal Harris, Mike City, Bobby Sparks, Errol Cooney, Jonathan Richmond... a lot of people, many of whom have worked with Alicia Keys, Michael Jackson and Marsha Ambrosius. They’re really busy, “A list” guys who get paid a lot of money to do what they do, so I was really excited to be able to ask them to contribute to this album. They really helped me pull this project together, and I was really honored that they signed on.
SJM: How long did it take to bring the album together?
Lalah: About 6 or 8 months, something like that.
SJM: That’s not too bad. All in all a pretty painless process?
Lalah: The music is always the most painless part of it. It’s all the rest of it that is the actual work of it because I really love what I do, so I don’t think of it as work.
SJM: I’ve heard you say before that you were just born to do this.
SJM: It’s nice to feel like you’re living your calling. Do you feel a real sense of fulfillment?
Lalah: Yes, I do have that.
SJM: Back to social media. How has social media affected your ability to interact with fans? And have you used it to further your career?
Lalah: I built a website in 1998 so I have always been really into social media, talking to the fans every day on the website and on the message boards. And what I had was kind of facebook-y, twitter-y long before that happened. Social media for me is a very intuitive place to be. I’m on there every day talking to fans anyway. I ask them what they want to hear. It’s just part of my sort of tech background and so for me it was a natural step.
SJM: It’s kind of like you were waiting for it. You were already there waiting for the world to catch up?
SJM: So Facebook or Twitter? Do you prefer to update your status or are you a Tweeter?
Lalah: Well, I do both. I do update my status. Facebook does get on my nerves because they just keep changing it. And when I get used to it, they change it again! Twitter I like because it’s the “quick and dirty.” My website I love the best because I’m doing sort of both. I’m updating statuses and I’m making threads for people to comment on. I write on there or post a picture or a song and just get feedback. So, I like it all!
SJM: What over the course of your career can you point out as some major accomplishments or highlights that stand out in your mind as outstanding moments?
Lalah: The one that stands out the most right now is that I opened for Prince three times last year. And that was monumental and fabulous, exciting and surreal and sometimes I wonder “Did that actually happen?” It did actually happen! And it reignited my dreams in terms of being on stage in a big dress in front of 20,000 people because sometimes you put that away. But it was exciting! That’s my standout that crowds out all the other standouts right now. I also was involved on a song which won a Grammy last year for Best Gospel Song. It was a song I recorded with Kirk Whalum called "It's What I Do." So that was cool too.
SJM: Who would you most like to sing with in the future?
SJM: Anyone. Living or dead. Just your dream collab.
Lalah: Well, yeah, that would be with my dad... if he were living. There are a lot of people that I like. No one that I’m dying to sing with necessarily. But there are a lot of people that I’d love to work with definitely like The Neptunes, Stevie Wonder, Sting and Peter Gabriel.
SJM: Speaking of your dad, I know a lot of people for a long time have wanted you to record one or some of your dad’s songs...
Lalah: And I have in the past, but this is actually the first thing I’ve done for my own solo record.
SJM: What made you decide to put one on your album this time?
Lalah: I literally just decided to put one on my album this time. I think I just meet things at the time in which I’m meant to meet them.
SJM: It just felt right at this moment?
Lalah: Yeah, and I picked a song that I really felt fit with the body of work I was trying to create. I had a live band in the studio and I really felt like we could get something really beautiful. John Stoddard came in and orchestrated it, just made it pop and gave it that old feel. I thought it would work really well and it did.
SJM: Your greatest wish or dream fulfillment past or present?
SJM: A fantasy, just out there, maybe something out of the box... maybe not music related?
Lalah: Well, that’s hard (chuckles).
SJM: It’s all about the music huh?
Lalah: Yeah. Well, I really, really want a platinum record. I think it’s a possibility. A lot of people consider what I do either underground or underrated, neo-soul or whatever kind of thing you want to put on it. But I really feel like a lot of artists really get an opportunity to get in front of millions of people and say, “Hey, do I suck?!” Soul music artists sometimes have a much smaller audience to say, “Hey, do I suck?!” So it’s just really the exposure. I would like the exposure.
SJM: Where do you see your music and career going in the future? Any plans to experiment with some completely new sounds or collaborating with someone that’s totally out of the box for you? I know you’ve always wanted to be the one not to follow the crowd, you want to kind of do your own thing...
Lalah: Absolutely. It’s very necessary for me to carve out my own path, you know. And to lead the way for others to do that. So I’m interested in things outside the box that people would consider outside the box for me. Peter Gabriel’s not outside the box. I grew up listening to him, Dolly Parton, The Oakridge Boys Mel Tillis...
SJM: Is there a box?
Lalah: Not for me! I recognize that there is one...
SJM: People want to put you in one, but you don’t really see it that way?
Lalah: No. I feel like if I have to be put in a box it would probably be a soul music box, but when you try to limit what soul music is or put a word on it, it really limits what it can do and what it is. It really is music that influences every other music and culture in the world or on the planet. So to call it something is generally marketing and so that’s what people are doing. But I consider myself to be a well-rounded musician. If I have to show up and sing with Al Ritchie or Kenny Rogers or Dolly Parton or Stevie Wonder or Al Green or Maroon 5 or Taylor Swift... I’m going to be able to support them and be in that because my mind is set to do that.
SJM: You mentioned leading the way for others. Do you see yourself fitting into the role of mentor and trying to reach out and help other people trying to come up in the industry?
Lalah: I do try to do that for musicians. Not so much for the industry because I need a mentor in the industry. But in terms of being a musician, I do try to do that. I work with NARAS a lot with the GRAMMY in the School program. We do a sound check for them where students come and take in the whole sound check and ask questions. I try to go and talk to kids in schools because I’m an advocate for children having music and arts in school. I’m going back to my college, Berklee College of Music, and I’ll be doing a week long professorship so I’m absolutely an advocate for young people in terms of music and art for sure.
SJM: Any other charitable organizations that you endorse, support or are affiliated with?
Lalah: I was actually an ambassador for Susan G. Koman for the Cure. I’m not an ambassador for them anymore, but I still do that work. I still talk about checking your breasts, men and women, because it’s very important. As long as I have like a tiny, little soap box platform I try to say something positive.
SJM: Is there anything you’d like to share with our readers?
Lalah: I just appreciate their support. If they’re reading about me right now obviously they’re interested. So I appreciate their support and even being interested. If you like the record, buy it. Support musicians and support music, particularly soul music. And tell somebody about it. I’m trying to tell a million people about what I do!
SJM: Hit the share button, right?!
Lalah: Yes, share! I have a facebook app which incentivizes people to listen to the music, share it with their friends and get the chance to win a free, autographed copy of the record. Just trying to get people to be more together.
SJM: I saw tour dates posted on your website through December. Are you planning to tour next year?
Lalah: Absolutely. We’re putting it together now. And I’m on the road... I’m a working musician, so I’m on the road all the time. Which comes in chunks. I’ll probably take a week or so off at the top of the year and then we’ll hit it again.
SJM: So we’ll stay tuned. Check the website for updated tour date information?
Lalah: Thank you so much! Absolutely!
If you get a chance to catch a live show, you will not be disappointed. Lalah has a warm personality, a great sense of humor and of course an amazing voice! The band was stellar with Errol Cooney on guitar, Timothy Bailey on bass, Mike Aaberg on keys and Eric Seats on drums. Lovely background vocals by Toni Scruggs and Jason Morales. Trina Broussard happened to be in the house on this evening so we were treated by an impromptu performance by her as well. Follow Lalah Hathaway on Facebook and Twitter, and visit the official website to be kept informed of upcoming tour dates.
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