UPDATED: When you hear sweet lyrics like “I will love you past forever,” it conjures up images of romantic weddings or elegant anniversary parties.
This is the case with Ledisi’s new single, “Anything for You.” But the 12-Grammy nominee is quick to avoid categorizing a song as this or that. “I don’t like labels. I like music,” she says from her cozy home with hubby Ron T. Young on the West Coast. “I love that this song can be whatever it is to anyone.”
The song’s theme was inspired by a conversation she had with long-time collaborator Rex Rideout, his wife and their children. They were hanging in Rex’s kitchen talking about his father, their beloved “ancestor.” Something clicked as Ledisi, whose name means to bring forth in Yoruba, soaked in the family stories. “We were talking about this one powerful love that extended through all of these people. Then I started to think about my mom, dad and husband and all that love. And how love transcends physical space. It never ends, it goes on and on.”
“Anything,” and the rest of the smooth grooves on Ledisi’s forthcoming album, goes against the grain. While others chase the latest musical trend, Ledisi continues to mix traditional and contemporary R&B. “The album is me saying I’m going to be organic in a time when we don’t do bridges or use a lot of musicianship. The album is pretty raw,” Ledisi shares. “You’ll hear musicianship and bridges. It’s me singing, but not having to over sing. I decided to be the oddball, the wildcard and do something completely different.”
In the video for “Anything,” Ledisi keeps it cute in the studio with an intimate solo performance and yes, her curly frohawk is in its full glory.
It’s not like your sanger’s favorite sanger would suddenly take a regular smegular approach to the business of crafting her art. Ledisi’s been in the game since 2000 and is super clear about her lane: “very familiar and classic music.”
Right now, her artistry is led by unforgettable storytelling and the desire to be her authentic self. “I want to sing a good song and talk about it. Storytelling—like how the great Bill Withers did it. Just sing a song and tell the story. Nothing extra, no flashiness,” she says unapologetically.
Love transcends physical space. It never ends, it goes on and on.Ledisi
And the New Orleans-born talent is sprinkling her authenticity on other mediums, too. She’s a book publisher and author of Don’t Ever Lose Your Walk: How to Embrace Your Journey. Then, there’s the upcoming episode of BET’s American Soul, where she portrays her dear friend Patti LaBelle. While Ledisi is careful not to reveal any spoilers, she does say that through the magic of hair, makeup and wardrobe she brilliantly transformed into the “If You Only Knew” singer. The glam squad nailed it on every level. When Ledisi showed Ms. Patti a picture of her from the set, she said, “Wow. When did I take this?”
Young is encouraging his wife to use all of her gifts, which is why Ledisi’s podcast exists. He co-produces Listen Back: Creative Conversations with Ledisi (available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts) with the Mrs., as she talks to fellow creatives—like Stephanie Mills, Lisa Fischer and ESSENCE alum-turned-singer Gordon Chambers—about their life and their art. Between making dinner and geeking out of movies in the quarantine, The Youngs are busy working on seasons two and three of Listen Back.
Even when Ledisi shapes castles in different sandboxes, the mission behind connecting with her loyal fanbase remains the same. The “Anything” singer says, “It’s not about how I look. Do you feel what I’m presenting to you? That is always the goal. Always.”