Leah Kamiya’s exciting emergence onto the pop scene this year with her maxi-single release of “Because The Night” is living proof that while great musical talents can cast their true passion aside for a time, outrunningtheir destiny is quite another matter.
Raised on an inspiring dose of Pat Benatar, Natalie Merchant, Madonna and Shakira, the Japan born, New Jersey bred singer and performer discovered her calling early—at age 13 to be exact, when she set foot in a Tokyo studio to record tracks for TDK Electronics, where her grandfather was VP at the time. She spent many of her childhood and teenage summers in her home country, where her grandparents exposed her to the dazzling R&B/jazz stylings of Wada Akiko, known affectionately as “Akko” and renowned internationally as “the Aretha Franklin of Japan.” Another key musical influence that sets the multi-cultural Leah apart from her contemporaries was the popular 80s and 90s boy band Shibugakitai that lived in the same building as her grandparents. She also cites Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson and Etta James as having a strong impact on her own emerging style.
While developing her powerful chops as a singer and taking years of private instruction, Leah began setting her sights on becoming a multiple-threat performer, training in multiple styles of dance—ballet, tap, modern jazz and hip-hop. Life threw her a few crazy curveballs that pushed her career pursuits aside for several years, but there’s something magical about the rekindling of a dream deferred, and it’s hard to imagine her interpretations of the Bruce Springsteen/Patti Smith classic rocker “Because The Night, Janis Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart” and Oleta Adams’ inspirational “Get Here” having the emotional impact they do without the wisdom she gained from the trials that have shaped her over the past few years.
The three track maxi-single—whose eclectic vibe makes it the perfect crossover project covering adult contemporary, mainstream pop, R&B, rock, even jazz—is intended as a “teaser” for fans to enjoy while Leah looks forward n the near future to her full-fledged album debut. When a debut artist chooses to break ground on their career with covers of songs the world knows and loves, there has to be a special twist that takes the originals to a whole new creative level. With the help of her producer, Hammond B-3 master, composer and recording artist Joe Kurasz—Leah re-imagines “Because The Night”—which she first heard via Natalie Merchant/10,000 Maniacs’s memorable 1993 version—as a softer, lilting acoustic
singer-songwriter piece. She has performed this song and “Piece of My Heart” in their well known rock versions numerous times in live performances, but here gives the Joplin classic a simmering jazz/blues treatment. Her infectious spin on the Brenda Russell composed “Get Here” is smokier and edgier, more groove oriented than the torchy original. Leah decided to record it because Oleta Adams is one of the first jazz singers she gravitated to while growing up and the song has always been one of her favorites.
Since she started focusing on her singing career a few years ago, Leah’s life seems like a nonstop whirlwind of interesting gigs. Complementing regular performances at The Black Thorn, a hot spot in her hometown of Kenilworth, New Jersey, and venues like Champs (a college town bar in Middlesex County); the singer books many private parties and events throughout Jersey and New York through a popular entertainment company.
Website: Leah Kamiya