Lalah Hathaway: Where It All Begins

BI Speaks to the Songstress About Music, Technology, and What Her Future Holds

Art & Music, Featured

I  challenge anybody to show me a singer today that can touch the voice of Lalah Hathaway.

Anybody that knows Chris and I know that we love us some Lalah. A voice like no other, Lalah’s longevity in the music business is to be applauded with a career that has lasted over 20 years. Much of that success is due to the art she creates; with Lalah, you get real music. No Autotunes or machines, but a well-trained and controlled vocal instrument which is what separates her from other “singers”. The rest is the woman herself: infectious personality, a keen sense of humor, and natural beauty keep her with a solid fan base who wait with baited breath until the next album drops. Real fans can tell you – each album showcases growth and a renewed spirit of an artist that continues to give 100% of herself to her craft. When it hit the Internet that her new album, Where It All Begins, was set to drop in October I knew I wanted to speak to her about it, and where she sees her career going after surviving two decades in the music business, a bragging right that only select artists can claim:

Lalah, how are you today?

Lalah: I am doing great. Glad to be here.

Awesome. I’m so happy to have you on the line today, so I’m going to get right into our conversation. This is your sixth studio album, entitled, Where It All Begins. What inspired the title of this project?

Lalah: It’s inspired by a song that I wrote, which is the second song on the album and its called, “Where It All Begins.” But really I actually feel lke I’m at the beginning of making records, and at the beginning of what my potential might be in terms of being a musician and being an artist and being sort of a 360-degree package in terms of music. So I called it that because after 20 years of making records I feel like something is just about to happen that has never happened before.

I’m going to move on to a question that relates to that. You just mentioned your career spans over 20 years. With the changing climate in the music business, what keeps you motivated to continue putting our new material?

Lalah: Music is actually my motivator, it actually is my passion. I grew up as a musician and as a student of music and art and so regardless of what’s happening in the business, regardless of the actual business of music, I’m always going to be a musician. Another thing that keeps me going, and when I talk to kids and go to schools, and kids ask – you know the number one question they ask is, “How do you inform people like us trying to get in the music business? What’s your advice for us?” and it is always to understand what your passion is. If your passion is the business of music, that’s something else. My passion is actually music and so that keeps me going and keeps me inspired.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

Lalah: I don’t. (laughs) I don’t really have any space. It doesn’t affect me at all because I feel so blessed by what I do and so blessed to be able to do it that I do have an absolute understanding that what you do is not for everybody. So if somebody doesn’t like it or criticizes it or doesn’t get it, that’s their own experience and it has absolutely nothing to do with me or what I do. I don’t really take that stuff to heart at all.

Let’s talk about the process of this album. What was your creative process going into this album and how did it differ from the creation of your last album, Self Portrait?

Lalah: The process for me this time was a little different in that I knew I was going to be putting the record together by myself. Generally, there is someone at the label that’s kind of hands-on or helping you do that or making suggestions. I knew that I didn’t want any kind of extemporaneous suggestions about what I wanted to do. I just wanted to be creative and be allowed to be creative which I was, and that was a great process for me. I also opened it up to my social networking and people on Twitter, people on Facebook sent me songs and tracks and I got a lot of great stuff that way. Ended up using one of the things that we got as one of the bonus songs, but I was really impressed by a lot of the stuff that I got and I was really honored that a lot of people even cared to send stuff in. My process is basically the same since I was 15 or 16 years old and that is listen to music, take it in, find something I like and try to reinterpret it, put a more modern edge to it now.

That kind of leads me into my next question. I follow you on Twitter. I’m also a member of the coveted Pink Room, wearing my “Pank Room” tee right now as we speak…

Lalah: It’s so great when I meet people from the site, you know, because that is really my home base. I built that site in 1998, and Lord, if I had known Twitter was coming I really would have tried to do better and be at the front of that trend. But I appreciate you interviewing me today.

I appreciate you being willing and able and I’m going to gush once I’m done with all my questions, just wait! But I want to know, how do you feel about social networking for marketing, promotions, and connecting with fans, both new and old?

Lalah: Well you know I’m in that Pink Room all the time and for me it’s just a way to really communicate with people. I do like the interaction with people, I do like being able to say, “Have you guys heard this?” or “What’s new that everybody’s listening to?” I really do like the feeling that in some way there’s an aspect of me that is an employee, that I work for the people and serve the people and really try to give them something that’s memorable and that is part of the soundtrack of their lives. I’m a very avid social networker as you know, and I’m also just really into technology and electronics. I’m a gamer so all of that stuff for me kind of culminates together so I’m on there all the time.

That leads me into yet another question because I know you are a self-proclaimed “supreme gadget girl”. What gadget can you not live without?

Lalah: Well, I’m kind of a Mac addict so my iPod I can’t live without. In terms of games right now I’m back on my XBox 360 but I’m sort of a Playstation, XBox 360 person. I have everything, I can’t live without any of it. It’s really sad. I love my iPad and at the beginning of the iPad I figured I don’t really need that. And I really did need it and I’m glad I got one. I have everything: MP3 players, studio gear and keyboards, computers, and tablets, and cellphones. I’m just one of those people.

I was one of the fortunate people who was able to catch you at Yoshi’s Oakland this past New Year’s and I had a moment to talk with your mother. I noticed how much of a great support she is to you. How does she factor into your career and business?

Lalah: Well she travels with me. Growing up in this business, my mom really strived to keep the household as normal as possible and I think she did a great job of that. My mother is just one of those people – everybody loves her, everybody knows her on the road. She does the merchant, and she’s at all the shows almost and she’s just a part of my life that I’m not willing to go without. When I travel on the road with the band, the feeling that we travel with is very family. Most of the guys have been playing for me a long time – people may leave, but they come right back and the feeling we keep on the road is on of family so my mom just fits right in there.

How important is it for you to maintain a sense of identity as an artist?

Lalah: One hundred percent. To maintain your sense of identity period. It’s not something I have to maintain, I just am who I am. People say, “how do you remain who you are an on your path?’ But, like where else would you go? And who else would you be? I don’t have a concept of jumping off my path onto someone else’s path. So my identity and my voice is distinctive and I understand that. I understand that the front of the line for being me is me. So I don’t even have to worry about what’s happening in other places because I’m the best at what I do. There’s nobody else who does what I do.

Many people, myself included, consider you an icon of beauty. What is one beauty product or practice that is  part of your regular, daily regimen?

Lalah: Beauty practice…well,  I’m sort of not a girly girl so much. I’m kind of casual so as little work as I have to do. If I go to the makeup counter or I go to get a facial or any of those things I want to find out, “Do you guys have a one-step process that I can brush on my face and make it pretty?” So my rituals are really simple. I wash my face with a baby wipe and right now I’m using Vitamin E oil on my face cause I just like it. But I change up and it’s never really anything intense. I just try to keep it clean and casual.

Last year, I fell in love with Lah and Rah (Lalah’s self-produced webidosic series, starring herself and friend, Rahsaan Patterson) on YouTube. I just wanted more. So I’m curious – what is the future of Lah and Rah? Will there be more webisodes? Are you actually thinking of doing a reality series? What can we expect?

Lalah: I don’t know. We’re kind of pushing on with it. We were just talking about that yesterday. There will absolutely be more webisodes…I don’t know what ‘s in the future of Lah and Rah. We are writing right now and making music and that’s our first priority, but I’m certain there will be more wacky adventures. He’s just about as casual as I am so you never can say. Never can tell.

And when is the next time Los Angelenos can expect to see you perform live?

Lalah: I have the dates up in the Pink Room and we are in the process of building out the tour right now for the record so most of October I’m gonna be on the road and as soon as the LA date comes up, it will be posted under “Dates” in the Pink Room or on my Facebook.

I’ll be sure to put that information out there. You are so wonderful to meet in person, so down to Earth and I applaud you, respect you, and love you. Looking forward to this album and many, many more.

Lalah: Thank you, thank you so much. Good luck with all you do.

Lalah’s new album, Where It All Begins, drops Tuesday, October 18th and her new single, If You Want To is available on iTunes right now. Turn it up!




One Comment on "Lalah Hathaway: Where It All Begins"

  1. Joe Oct 10, 2011 · 8:52 am

    This was an amazing interview!

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