Jazz Monthly: Well, it is my wonderful pleasure to welcome to JazzMonthly.com for the very first time an incredible singer. She sings with a wonderful combination of passion, bravura, and a powerful romantic vibe. You must hear her great new record. It is called Of Life. Please welcome the incredible and amazing Leila. Leila, how are you, my friend?
Leila: Great. Thank you. So happy to be here.
Jazz Monthly: Yes, and I am so happy to talk with you and to hear this great record Of Life. It really reminds me of life and some of my own life experiences just listening to the lyrics, and without even listening to the lyrics, the great instrumentation here is incredible. I mean, you go from dancing to just kind of relaxing to just if you want to get up and get your salsa on, you can do it. (Both laugh.)
Leila: I had a lot of influences growing up, so it kind of translated into the music that way. And it wasn’t something that I had predetermined, but it was a natural byproduct of where I grew up and the different kinds of music I listened to, so it seems like the logical thing to do to kind of express what you’ve experienced yourself.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, well, you know what? I was amazed by also—and really impressed by the fact that you have 18 songs here.
Jazz Monthly: Wow! And I’m saying “This is a lot of music, a lot of great music.” Sometimes you might say “Well, I’ll throw in a song here and I’ll throw that in.” These all contribute greatly to this album and they’re fantastic songs. I mean, from start to finish it gives you such a journey of wonderful thoughts and the feeling of movement and just a beautiful vibe.
Leila: Thank you, thank you. The thing about being an independent artist, one of the blessings is that you really do get to determine your own fate and kind of go with your own creative flow, and there’s a lot of speculation as to what the right amount of music is to put out on an album and there’s a lot of rules, including how long your songs should be and whatnot, and I think that all of that is valid.
It’s based on marketing and it’s based on people in the industry having the experience, but when you’re independent and you don’t have those limitations and you can kind of define for yourself, it’s so much more liberating, so I never determined a certain amount of songs to put on the CD. I just sort of went with the flow and it felt done when it felt done, so to speak, so it ended up being that amount and I think some of them are shorter, obviously, than others and I have some that are quite long, and it’s kind of a hodgepodge, but it works because it really feels authentic and genuine.
Jazz Monthly: Yes, it does. And your voice and your creative style, I think, is so genuine.
Leila: Thank you.
Jazz Monthly: Yes, because when I listened to these songs, from the very beginning you automatically sort of get into it because Leila’s singing about something that we’re familiar with, that’s common, and that we feel and not just hear.
Leila: Thank you.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, it’s just gorgeous. For example, I love “Circle.” (Both laugh.)
Leila: A lot of people tend to like that one. They’re like children (songs). You’re proud of all of them and they’re your babies, so I vacillate between which ones are my favorites, but that one seems to be one of my favorites too.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, and I just love your phrasing in that song. And, of course, now, “The Groove Song” I love, and it’s not just a groove song….Because it has a great deal of meaning. “If You’re Gonna Leave.”
Jazz Monthly: I mean, if you can’t like that song and get into it, there’s something wrong, I’m sorry. (Both laugh.)
Leila: Well, I’m glad you’re very enthusiastic and you get the vibe and the message. With my music, a lot of times they may be things that I’ve experienced myself, but a lot of times it’s what I’ve observed in my friends and my family. You can get inspired by so many different things—something you hear on the news, something you see—so not everything that I’ve written about are things that I’ve personally experienced, but I’ve witnessed it and maybe seen it through the eyes of a friend or someone who was struggling with an issue.
And with “If You’re Gonna Leave,” that song in particular is about people who feel like they are stuck and feel like they’re in a pattern they can’t get out of and how oftentimes they feel hopeless but, really, the power is within to make a difference and to make a change in your life. So it’s more of a—I don’t want to call it a pep talk song, but it kind of is. It’s about encouraging people to look within and that they can hold their head up high and make a change in their life.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, because so many times—and here again it’s all perspective, I think, for the most part—you hear songs about despair, but it’s great to hear songs about despair and the solution. (Both laugh.)
Leila: Yeah, that’s a funny way of putting it. You’re right. I mean, you know, I don’t believe that everything has a solution that you can neatly tie up in a bow, but I don’t think that in society we’re often given the tools or the solutions, or if you put on the evening news, it’s evident right there. It’s everything that goes wrong and not enough of what’s going right, and at the end of the day, people have struggles but I do believe that they have within them the ability to get out. I know that I’ve experienced that myself.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, so have I. But I think sometimes the focus is so much on the problem and not the solution that our energy has been used up on the problem.
Leila: Absolutely. Yeah, yeah, I definitely agree with you.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, because I think that sometimes if we channel some of that energy or all of it toward the solution, then the problem really is not really the problem.
Leila: I believe that. That’s a whole other discussion.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, I know.
Leila: But I really believe that. I think it’s just about looking at what’s happening in your life and recognizing the areas that might need improvement or what is not making you happy, but how much time do you want to dwell on it. And I understand there are people struggling with things that are so huge and seem insurmountable, but I do believe sooner or later there is a solution and oftentimes we’re not encouraged to look there. There’s all kinds of reasons to keep dwelling in it and people that come into your life that kind of keep you down, and it would be so empowering to be able to say “Okay, I recognize what’s happening. It’s something I want to change, but I really believe that within me is the ability to overcome it.”
Jazz Monthly: Yes, so true. What came first, the dancing or the singing? You’re a wonderful dancer.
Leila: Thank you! The singing definitely. That’s kind of like what came first? The chicken or the egg?
Jazz Monthly: Yeah. (Both laugh.)
Leila: The singing definitely. The singing, in fact, came before anything. I started singing when I was four years old and I have a lot of little cassettes of me singing and it was sort of my first love, followed closely, then, by the writing. I began singing songs that were written by others and then discovered that I would be writing poetry or I would be writing stories, creative stories, and I was always kind of writing, and it sort of clicked, you know, why not take this creativity and these stories I’m writing and attempt to write a song. I mean, really, a song is a three-minute story or a four-minute story. So the singing came first and then the songwriting came after, and it wasn’t until years later that I delved into the dancing.
Jazz Monthly: Nice…
Leila: The dancing was just a love of the music and it’s just another way of expressing yourself, and it came because I was doing shows and once I kind of got over my stage fright and really connected with the audience, there was a need inside of me to move and to express myself a different way, and so I began taking some lessons just to become a little more comfortable on stage and more fluid, and lo and behold, it took on a life of its own. (Both laugh.) Almost to the point where I questioned if I was getting off track. I struggled with not wanting to get off track and be taken as a dancer. I really wanted the music to be the first thing people noticed or the songwriting, and I really struggled with that and held myself back from the dancing, but some friends and people that are close to me said “Why not embrace it all? I mean, who says you have to choose? Maybe it’s just another vehicle for your expression.”