Ryan Leslie is an open book. The 31-year-old singer/producer/instrumentalist’s online video diaries give fans a candid view of his life, from the studio to the stage. With his new album, “Transition,” Leslie shows his willingness to be forthcoming on the subject of love, too. “Failed relationships make for great songs.” Leslie leans back thoughtfully between outfit changes during an ESSENCE.com photo shoot, “They allow for songs that really make you dig deep and reflect.”
Accompanied by a soon-to-be-released docu-film, “Transition” was born from a recent summer romance with a woman who was leaving a relationship when she met Leslie, who was recovering from a failed love affair of his own. The record captures the magic and reality of circumstance in new relationships in a way that all lovers can relate to.
ESSENCE.COM: Take us through the album in relation to your summer romance.
RYAN LESLIE: The songs are based on real events, real stories, real interactions [and] real moments. I was almost rushing to the studio to capture these moments in musical form.
ESSENCE.COM: Is this a progression of the Ryan Leslie sound?
LESLIE: All of these songs were influenced by her musical tastes. She had some musical tastes that were outside of the music that I listened to… a lot more acoustic guitar stuff.
ESSENCE.COM: Tell us about the documentary that will accompany the “Transition” album.
LESLIE: [The film] is really about two things: one is the narrative, which gives you the context for the inspiration behind the songs, and two, the actual process of bringing those musical visions into reality.
ESSENCE.COM: Does it reveal your love interest’s identity?
LESLIE: It reveals her perspective very clearly.
ESSENCE.COM: It’s obvious that you are very open with your life.
LESLIE: It’s about giving context to the music. That context helps to give people a lens into what I was going through when I was writing the music. And for that reason, I feel like I can have a more personal relationship with my audience so that folks who listen to the music can feel like they are friends.
ESSENCE.COM: How have you been changed by this relationship?
LESLIE: There are some decisions that I will approach differently in the future, [and] there are some signs that I may analyze differently in the future. However, I am a strong advocate of just living life and accepting your interactions with people for the magic of the unknown, as opposed to being jaded and evaluating people based on your past experiences.
Check out ESSENCE.com’s exclusive photo shoot with Ryan Leslie, “The Music Man.”