Five questions with Jazz In The Gardens performing artist, Ledisi

With a style that’s comfortably soothing to the ear, neosoul vocalist Ledisi has played tons of gigs in her career, but few match the stature of the ones she’s done in Washington, D.C.

A New Orleans native whose full name is Ledisi Anibade Young, the singer’s most recent performance in D.C. was just last month, when she performed as part of the weather-delayed dedication of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. A versatile artist as comfortable singing jazz and gospel as she is singing R&B, Ledisi performs Friday at the Royal Oak Music Theatre as part of her first-ever headlining tour, all in support of her latest studio effort, “Pieces of Me.”

QUESTION: What was it like to sing at the MLK Jr. dedication?

ANSWER: It was incredible! I was there for the first time it was supposed to go on but we had to cancel due to Hurricane Irene. This time around, Stevie (Wonder) called and said, “I want you to come and be a part of my segment.” The president and first family were there. I got to meet the Queen of Soul — Aretha — and that was awesome. She knew who I was, and we took photos together. I’ve wanted to meet her for a long, long time. James Taylor introduced me onstage and I sang “What a Wonderful World.”

Q: What about the other times you’ve sung in front of President Obama? How nerve-racking is it to perform at such high-profile gigs?

A: I sang at the amazing Motown special (in February) with Smokey (Robinson) and Stevie, then at the first lady’s mentoring program for women (in March), and I also sang at the president’s 50th birthday celebration (in August). I was there with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter; they are so sweet. The odd moments happen afterward, when you’re having a conversation with the president about music. I freak out after the performances! I’m just grateful. The first family loves people and loves music, and they’re really inspiring. I enjoy every time I’m there; it blows me away.

Q: What made you get into music?

A: You know, it was my mom — seeing her perform in an outdoor park with our entire neighborhood there. What I remember is the way they responded to her voice, and it made me think, “That’s what I want to do.” She was a pretty energetic singer onstage. {eople were losing their minds, and they wanted to give her the world. I wondered about how I could do that. I wanted to be like her. It wasn’t a superstar that inspired me; it was her.

Q: What song on “Pieces of Me” is the most personal?

A: The title track is very descriptive of who I am. I always change my mind. I’m extremely shy — especially in crowded rooms — but very loving. I love to no end. It describes being a woman. I wrote it with Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony, and it’s all pieces of me. Every time I sing it live, it has that same feeling as the first time; it’s that personal.

Q: And how did “Stay Together,” the duet with Jaheim, come together?

A: Rex Rideout and I wrote that song. He and I executive-produced the album and wrote a few songs together, including that one. We were thinking that we’ve got to have a manly man’s voice on it, someone who’s both old and new school together, and we thought of Jaheim. One day, Rex called me on the East Coast and said, “Guess who laid down the vocal?”

He did his vocal first and I did mine later; we never performed at the same time. It’s great to have him on there; it’s a nice mixture. He really loved the song, and I purposely stayed out of the way to create space. A lot of people don’t know how to do that, how to create space and let the other person breathe. We had a fun time.



About Jazz In The Gardens

Jazz in the Gardens has easily become the City of Miami Gardens’ premiere entertainment event. Having 11 years of history under its belt, Jazz in the Gardens celebrates diversity, culture and art through various genres of music. Event-goers find themselves entrenched in the rich beats and musical stylings that vibrate from the stage. The event not only brings world-renowned talent to Miami Gardens, but it gives local artists the opportunity to be seen, heard and possibly discovered. Jazz in the Gardens (JITG) music festival has been deemed as the undeniable “travel destination for the spring.” JITG occurs annually in March and serves as the inaugural event of the highly anticipated music festival season. The JITG experience is complemented by scenic beaches, plentiful shopping, incredible golf courses, 5-star restaurants, and many other inviting attractions which make South Florida a “must visit” destination. The City of Miami Gardens and its partners are committed to producing an extraordinary experience for our supporters and sponsors.
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