Sunday Best winner Le'Andria dishes on the release of her new album and where she finds her strength.
Le'Andria Johnson turned heads in the Gospel industry when she won Sunday Best in 2010. Since then she's put out two well-received albums, and this coming Tuesday she'll release her third project, Le'Andria Johnson: The Experience. ESSENCE.com caught up with the Grammy-winning vocalist to chat about her new album, being a mother for the fourth time, and find out where she gets her strength from.
ESSENCE.com: How does Le'Andria Johnson: The Experience differ from your previous two albums?
LE'ANDRIA JOHNSON: It's different because we had a chance to do some live songs and I had to chance to express my feelings for my mentor, the late Rev. James Moore. It was always a dream to do a live music because that's where I come from. It was wonderful and it was intimate. Also, the two new singles from the album fit me – they are called "My Story Continues" and "Complicated."
ESSENCE.com: "Complicated" is full of passion and strength. Where did the inspiration come from?
JOHNSON: My brother wrote that song and I never asked him what he thought. It's my reality. It's just the truth and it's self explanatory. I've gone through so much with people who say they love me – people who say they're there for me. You get pregnant out of wedlock and the whole world turns against you. That's how it felt. But you've got to keep moving. I hope the song reaches the world, not just the gospel industry. Love is complicated. You have to keep moving.
ESSENCE.com: How many months pregnant were you when you recorded this album?
JOHNSON: I was about 34 or 35 weeks along. This thing came fast.
ESSENCE.com: The song "My Story Continues" is very inspirational and revealing. Share with us, what is the next part of your story?
JOHNSON: The next part of my story would be seeing how this album reaches the masses, how many people respond to it, and how I'm doing after the baby. I'm an open book and I'm willing for you to see the good and the bad. The bad is as important as the good so people will know we're not here to be perfect. We're here to worship God.
ESSENCE.com: The sound of the album straddles the fence between gospel and R&B. Is there a genre you prefer more than the other?
JOHNSON: I will aways be a gospel singer. That's where I come from. Those are my roots. When the music comes out it may not be gospel, it may be with a R&B tune. I may do a country ballad or a jazz ballad or blues ballad. The way the music comes out of me will be the way I present it to the world. As Frankie Beverly said on the BET Awards: "Don't be afraid to give people you. Don't be afraid to do your own music or write your own songs or be you." That's exactly what I'm doing and that comes from one of the greats.
ESSENCE.com: You recently welcomed your fourth child [Johnson gave birth to a baby boy on Wednesday, Spetember 12] and you're twice divorced. Like you, all of us have had ups and downs in our lives. Where do you get your strength and courage?
JOHNSON: My strength and courage come from people who say I can't make it. I'm realizing that now.
ESSENCE.com: Why now, as opposed to several years ago?
JOHNSON: It wasn't as rough then. I was just an average singer. I was battling drinking and that was all people talked about in the gospel industry. Different things like having men problems or falling in love with the wrong guy… maybe that wasn't juicy enough for the gospel industry. But the moment I got pregnant out of wedlock, that was the juicy part and that carried. It's still carrying on. To here different ones say, "She needs to be sat down until she gets this together..." I disagree with all the pastors and bishops that sit their members down for whatever type of behavior they have. Listen, for one, I'm a member of your church, I pay tithing into your church. I sew seed into your ministry. If you're going to silence me, then I feel like you need be silenced as well. If not, you're letting me know you're perfect. I refuse. I'm not the first woman in this industry to be pregnant out of wedlock, I'm not hiding it or condoning. But this is reality. I'm not going to stop because you think I should stop. I don't serve you, I serve God. I'm letting you know that God still blesses and he uses who ever he wants. When people get out of that pointing stage or that judging stage they'll be alright.
ESSENCE.com: With four kids and a busy career. How do you balance everything?
JOHNSON: With the right people. My mother, my father and brother are here. The baby's father is a great support as well. It's having the right ones around you and the ones that understand your story, not just your story, but your reality. I have a lot of help. It's what I have to do. I have kids here that a looking up to me and they're expecting mommy to do this or mommy do that and I'm teaching now that you have to work for it. But I'm working harder so they don't have to work as hard. Just teaching them the power of responsibility.
ESSENCE.com: Are you planning to get back on the road soon?
JOHNSON: I'm definitely focusing to get back on the road to tell my story, tell these women that you should live and not die. The men as well. If we fall again, we fall, but we get back up. I don't mind being that example. I don't mind being that person. But she's still here. You have to encourage one another. It's definitely ministry first.