Self Portrait – Lalah Hathaway Shares About Her Life & New Album
Self Portrait – Lalah Hathaway Shares About Her Life & New Album
We recently caught up with contemporary R&B and jazz singer, Lalah Hathaway post her 2010 Grammy Nominations for ‘Best Female R&B Singer’.
Hillary: Hi Lalah! Thanks for joining Plus Model Magazine today! Let’s get started with a quick question on the Grammys. Tell us about your experience?
Lalah: It was an exciting, interesting day and the day was long. My phone and camera got stolen out of the quick change room and Beyonce won the Grammy I was nominated for. She’s good, can’t really be mad when Beyonce wins. If your gonna have your stuff stolen it should be on Grammy day. That was my first nomination after almost 20 years singing and I always said I wouldn’t go if I wasn’t nominated.
Hillary: Indeed, very exciting and apparently hectic! When you were notified that you were nominated after 20 years of singing, how did it feel?
Lalah: I was numb, it washes over you, it was such an exciting feeling that you’re sleepy. When you lose; it goes by so fast that you can’t even really lament what just happened. Literally Jimmy Jam is up there reading the nominations and the dude comes over and says “the winner is Beyonce, …the nominees for ‘Best Rap Album’ are…” you don’t even have time to be sad. It was surreal, I’m so thankful because I absolutely value the experience.
Hillary: Cool…So, let’s switch gears a bit. How did you and fellow Grammy Nominee, Eric Roberson come to do the duet together on “Dealing”?
Lalah: I’ve known Eric for a while. He’s Indie like me, and we were doing ‘My Black is Beautiful’ tour and he said “I got a record I want you to sing on…” It came together so organically, it really sweetened the pot for the song to be so good. I think he’s one of the greatest writers in our generation. He knows how to, like Rashaan Patterson, be clever and thoughtful and smart. Meaning he knows how to write songs for kids today and songs that my mom could listen to and say “that’s a good song.”
Hillary: Along those lines, given how solid your career has been, does it ever get frustrating being an independent artist?
Lalah: There’s are billions of people out there that don’t know I exist; Thank goodness for satellite radio!
Hillary: Let’s talk about being part of R&B Royalty and still being “undercover. ” Do you ever feel snubbed considering your the child of one of the best R&B singers?
Lalah: Everything in due time. Sometimes the time I’ve been performing feels like a long time; but what I do is so deeply satisfying. The Grammys, videos and the fans are all bonuses.
Hillary: You’ve said before that you didn’t realize your father’s (the late Donny Hathaway) influence until you were about 25 years old. Why?
Lalah: I understood the reach of my father’s music in my 20s. I always understood his music instinctively, because I was his child but I didn’t realize that everyone else did too. There were many moments, like I was at a recording session for a song on the film “Panther,” and we recorded a song called “Freedom” for the soundtrack and it was like every black girl that was popular at that time was there: En Vogue, MJB (Mary J. Blige), N’Dea Davenport (former lead singer for the Brand New Heavies), TLC, everyone! There were like a hundred of us in this choir singing this song for this movie. I was outside talking with Mary J, and she turned to me and said, “your father, in his sound you can hear so much joy and pain, ” and a light went off in my head. I never understood how that felt to other people, because I’m his child but when she said that it was like “oooo… ” because everyone always walks up to me and says “I know someone that sounds just like your father… ” and they never do. What’s missing is that pain, that experience. It’s hard to mimic pain to me. If you’re doing an impression of Donny or Mary J. Blige, it’s easy to sing the joyful part, not easy to sing the pain…you can’t do it.
Hillary: Have you done any covers of his songs?
Lalah: “Flying Easy,” “For All We Know,” I’ve covered those in a way — I do a lot of tributes, I do a lot of the stuff on stage. “Flying Easy” is on Pete Escovedo’s record. “For All We Know” is on Joe Sample’s album. They’ve been a few.
Hillary: Nice! What’s your favorite international market?
Lalah: Japan is a huge market, they’re in a recession right now. A lot of musicians, particularly R&B do well there. All over the world people feel like they understand black music, except America. There’s a reverence for it because it’s not on every corner.
Hillary: Let’s talk about your newest release, “Self Portrait.” Tell me a bit about it? Are you doing any videos to support it?
Lalah: For “Self Portrait,” no, no new videos from that album. There’s a different level of commerce with a singer like John Legend because he’s on a major label. Even on a label, I consider myself an indie artist. Indie labels have to decide at which point to stop the bleeding [financially]. I think it’s a great record and not because it’s mine. If you live your life on Grammy nods, you’ll be out of luck, what has to sustain you is that music is something you HAVE to do. I’ll still play live and I hope that people say “I’ll buy her catalogue,” or however people come to the music, hopefully they’ll continue.
Hillary: What about new shows? Your fans are waiting to see you live!
Lalah: I’m going to Atlanta for a performance at Morehouse. I’ll also be in DC on March 28th and Annapolis, MD on April 18th.
Hillary: What about fashion and style… Who are your favorite plus size designers
Lalah: Love Michael Kors, Calvin Klien and my Grammy shoes were Stuart Weissman. Most times I’m in between sizes; I’m the perfect size 13. They don’t really make that size anymore, I did a cover shoot for a magazine called Figure, and I said “well, I’m a size 11” and they were like “that’s plus sized.” I don’t know why it’s plus, the average size of a women is 14, but there are no never any size 14’s in the stores. If all the 14’s are out, who’s buying this? No one’s buying this, it’s a very “sizest” country.
Lalah: I’d like to make my own clothes, I’m a junior chick in a jumbo body! (laughter) I see clothes “like, those are cute, but they don’t make it in my size.” The thing I like in a 14, the construction looks different; looks like they stapled two size 7’s together!
Najia McKenzie is my stylist, and stops me from saying “this is horrible, I’m going to ‘Hot Dog On A Stick!'” (laughter) What she picks, it fits and it looks great, those are some of the designers. She’s just talented; that’s why she gets paid to do that. A lot of people make clothes for plus size — they only add more fabric, so it doesn’t fit right. If I’m wearing a size 14 pant and i have to cut 6-inches off? (shakes head) There are a lot of girls that are curvy, but not big enough for Ashley Stewart or Lane Bryant. Sadly, there aren’t a lot of cute clothes. But I love clothes, great clothes!
Hillary: Along those lines, does size influence your songs?
Lalah: No, only that it influences my human perspective. Like, people ask “how do your locks affect your music?” And it doesn’t. If I go into Forever 21, and can’t fit anything and I feel bad, then it affects my music but I’m so the opposite of what that is.
Hillary: So what do you do to assuage your fashion-related shopping angst?
Lalah: My retail therapy is spent in Best Buy, I’m into clocks and phones and gadgets. They gave me a new phone in the Grammy’s bag. I’m a iPhone devotee, I’m a Mac person. I’ve tried all the phones! But it’s amazing what they give you on the Grammy gifting suite. Some people got a bag with $30,000 worth of stuff, most of which is on eBay by now probably! (laughter
Hillary: In closing, what’s coming up for you? Where can we hear you?
Lalah: I’m on a George Benson record, that Bill Withers wrote called “Just a Telephone Call Away”, I’m on a new Kirk Whalum record that comes out in March, “The Gospel According To Jazz Vol. 3. ” That’s a live concert DVD. I’m getting ready to start my own record, and my own label. Just want to step it up a notch. I don’t know what my label would be yet, but I want to create my own entitity. I don’t want to be a cog in anyone else’s wheel right now. In one fell swoop, I can tell about 40-50,000 people between Twitter, MySpace and other outlets about any new music I have. You don’t need that label so much now. It’s a different world in terms of how the people view art, trying to be in front of those movements, into computers and gadgets. I’m a digital girl!
Hillary: Thanks Lalah! We’re lookin’ forward to great things from you in the very near future!