On August 28th, Ledisi will release her tenth album, Wild Card. The date holds special meaning for two reasons: it’s the day that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the memorable “I Have a Dream” speech and the date that our forever-president, President Barack Obama, accepted his nomination for the presidency. But if you ask Ledisi, this wasn’t done on purpose by any means.
“Absolutely not. That was not the plan. I wanted it sooner and I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it this year,” Ledisi shared. “I don’t force anything. I let things naturally happen. You can have all your plans you want but God will have the last say. And here it is, in all of this chaos on, on that particular day. I’m honored, to take on this task of the unknown, as usual, and put out great music. That’s all I can do But the date is powerful. I’m like, thank you, Lord. Okay, that’s what we’re doing now? Well, let’s go.”
I had the privilege to connect with the “Anything For You” singer to discuss the new album and how she’s adjusting to her new role as a stepmother after tying the knot with her husband, Ron Young, a few years back. Check out some highlights from our chat below:
MadameNoire: Tell me about your new album, Wild Card, and what separates this project from your other work.
Ledisi: Well for me, I think in a time where we had so much music going on that didn’t go kind of nostalgic, I think this project is more nostalgic, and representative of soul music, my version of it anyways. It has all of the things that I love about music. Soul music in the nineties and also in the seventies and you know I just miss bridges and live musicians. No slight to anyone. I love when creative can be who the who they are. But for me, I just missed the certain sound that I felt needed balance in our version of soul music at this time. So I had already been there three years ago. I knew what the imagery was gonna look like. I knew what the title was and I knew my approach to musicianship and things like that. I had all that three years ago, so while everyone was busy, I was waiting in limbo to see what’s gonna happen next. But I knew the sound I wanted.
MadameNoire: Your single “Anything For You” is very powerful. What was the inspiration behind it?
Ledisi: Well, I’m always going to love Prince who is one of my huge influences and mentors. So, for me, it’s like I’m gonna have that energy of that version of soul. You know what I mean. People will relate it to D’Angelo, but he’s also influenced by Prince as well. So it’s like that energy, I always wanted on a soul music record. I had this track that was written by Rex Rideout and J.Mo for about three months before I started writing on it. And what inspired me was a conversation at Rex’s house with his family. He had just lost his father and they were talking about all the things they loved about him and before he passed away, he was saying “I hope I did my best.” And this was right before COVID. You know what I mean? We’re talking about this and all, all of this energy of it was like, “Oh, yeah, this is perfect.” This feeling of, “I hope I left it all my love behind. I hope I made you proud” kind of feeling. I ran home in my little room and just started writing. I finally had the inspiration to write it because that’s powerful to say, “I hope I loved you enough before I leave.”
MadameNoire: It seems that colorism and other external influences played a role in your life and how you used to see yourself. You learned to love yourself in adulthood. What was the turning point for you?
Ledisi: I think when I, around the time that I made The Truth album was when I just said, “I don’t care what other people think of me anymore.” I can’t focus on that and only focus inward because I know who I am and it’s the world that can change your mind because for me my mother, she always would express her love for her children in a way to say how beautiful we are. And that was everyday. “Look at your pretty legs. Look at your pretty hair.” You know, she reinforced it. She let us know what we’re beautiful and we’re queens so we carry ourselves a certain way. She never let us feel any different.
I can’t let the world dictate who I am anymore. I just can’t do it. I don’t do music for that. I don’t live my life for that. I just wanna make people feel better and feel good and I think that’s why I chose the style of music I do because I want people to feel that. But I have to feel good about me first or you won’t get that same energy from me and I think when I started writing books, you have to deal with yourself. When you become an author, you really have to analyze what you’re talking about before you expressed that to other people. And that was the biggest point was when I have to sit down and write a book. That’s why I wrote Don’t Ever Lose Your Walk and Better Than Alright. I want people to see the journey and not tell people what to do but tell them what I did, you know to get through it.
MadameNoire: You’re now a stepmom! What has that transition been like for you?
Ledisi: I consider myself a bonus, mom. My husband has children that are not mine and I love them and they’re great. They’re just, like, the best thing for me. It’s grounded me and I will protect them just like their moms would. They’re wonderful. They’re beautiful and I’m just happy that I get to experience that in my lifetime cause you know, it’s something I’ve always wanted but never had time for, so it just happened to work out for me like that.
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