Jazz Monthly: I love the photography on the album as well.
Leila: Thank you.
Jazz Monthly: Wow, it’s a great package. It’s just wonderful music, the liner notes, everything has something to say, something to reach the audience with, and I think that’s a beautiful thing. And the DVD, oh, what can I say about the DVD? The live in concert DVD is just a beautiful arrangement of music. And I like Fernando. He is a cool cat.
Leila: Oh my goodness. Fernando. He’s phenomenal, he really is. He’s a dear, dear friend of mine. He’s just an unbelievable choreographer and he embodies in his dancing and in his choreography what I strive to do musically, which is he sort of tunes into something else and it’s almost otherworldly because he becomes a completely different person on stage. I’ll tell you, though, we’ve bumped heads. I think what’s funny is creative people can sometimes really clash.
Jazz Monthly: Oh yeah.
Leila: And we joke about it. He’s like “You’re like the sister I never had and love to hate” or something like that. (Both laugh.) But that’s what makes it fiery and it makes it really great. It’s like a yin yang, it’s opposites, and there’s gotta be a balance.
Jazz Monthly: Yes indeed. But in the show you guys are all just fantastic and I think the whole world needs to see the show because the live performance is just something to behold and be a part of because there are so many things happening. The backup singers are incredible and the dancers are just phenomenal, and then with you out front and there’s Bobbi over there groovin’ and…
Leila: It really is great. It’s such a blessing, it really is. We don’t do many performances by the regular standard meaning because there are bands that play almost every weekend and in a way I envy that because it’s such an incredible feeling, but because we’re so elaborate, we have so many elements that piece this show together, a lot of people come together putting their energies into it to make it happen, so it’s not always conducive to an every weekend sort of thing. There are schedules and there’s other creative projects people are working on, so we try to look at all of our opportunities and pick the ones that we feel would be the most rewarding for the people on stage and that we feel we can make an impact.
Jazz Monthly: Right. Well, that’s great.
Leila: Yeah, thank you.
Jazz Monthly: Something else I noticed, especially looking at the DVD…. with some singers sometimes they want to really let you know that they can reach just the highest range with their voice and that becomes their signature.
Jazz Monthly: But with you I noticed that you know where you can go and where you can really strike a chord, but you don’t always go there. It’s such a phenomenal voice but yet a disciplined, controlled one in that the expression is always apropos to what you’re singing about. I think that’s a beautiful thing to be able to do that.
Leila: Oh, thank you. You know, it’s amazing. That means so much to me now because I actually struggled with insecurities about that growing up and singing. When you first turn on the radio and you start emulating and adoring some favorite singers and you haven’t developed your own sense of identity, oftentimes you can try to become something you’re not or imitate, and I learned quickly where my strengths were. I’m an alto voice, which is the lower of the range…and I’m not sure if you’re aware of the vocal differences between alto, tenor and soprano.
Jazz Monthly: Yes.
Leila: So in the female voice range, the alto is the lower, and I for some reason had gotten it in my head as a younger child that I didn’t want to be an alto, I wanted to be a soprano and I want to hit those high notes. I will just belt and strain and push and I would get throat infections and you name it, and finally, I don’t even know how it happened, I know that it started with a vocal instructor telling me “But Leila, your voice is a lower voice, it’s a richer voice, that’s your bread and butter, that’s what you should embrace, don’t try to be something you’re not.” And he made me love where I was at and embrace what I had and work with that, and what was amazing is that once I relaxed and embraced what I had and I just attempted to polish what I had and work with what I had, interestingly enough, the higher notes came.
It was almost like when I chased it and pursued it and beat it to the ground, it wasn’t gonna be there. When I let it go and I sort of went “You know what? I embrace what I have and I’m gonna work with what I have,” then maybe because I didn’t constrict, maybe there was less emotional stress or strain, somehow I built a higher range that way. Now, I never became a soprano, but what’s interesting is I stopped wanting to be, so I’m happy where I’m at and I think that it became, thankfully so, more about what I wanted to say with the song and with the words than it did about vocal gymnastics. But having said that, I have to say I really, really still admire and love…many of my favorite singers definitely have amazing ranges and if it can be done with authenticity, that’s the best.
Jazz Monthly: Yes, and that’s where I think you are and what impressed me is that whatever range, wherever you were on the charts, you were where you were supposed to be emotionally and passionately in the context of what you were singing about, and I think that’s great.
Leila: Oh, thank you. That means a lot.
Jazz Monthly: Oh, you’re welcome. So now you’re working on the new record?
Leila: Yes, it’s great.
Jazz Monthly: Wow, man, that’s exciting because I’m enjoying this one and it’s like you mean there’s more?
Leila: Yeah, you know, oh gosh, it’s so funny. We’re always writing and doing projects with people, collaborating, and the creative process never really stops here. But I really believe that sometimes things come to fruition when they’re really meant to, meaning like just as you can’t rush a gourmet meal, there’s a certain time frame it takes to make a roast and it’s different than toasting a piece of bread.
Jazz Monthly: Right.
Leila: I was recording and I was writing, but nothing really seemed to say “second album” quite yet, and all of a sudden something clicked, oh, I would say maybe five months ago or so, where the writing I was doing and the recording I was doing, it began to tell a story and it began to have some cohesiveness and I went “Okay, well, what I’m doing here is creating my second album,” like it sort of burst itself, and now I’m so excited because I’ve had a lot of introspection and I thought about the world and I thought about what I want to do and I thought about myself on a personal level, so all of that is really coming forward.
I think that while I touched on the unity and the self-empowerment of life, I think that this one will delve into it even more so because I realize there’s really a need for people to reconnect with something inside of them that’s really precious and divine that feels powerful and feel like they can change, and I really want to put out a very positive album that leaves people feeling like they can, and so it’s really exciting and, needless to say, it’s become like my favorite now.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, well, we all write when we feel something to write about. It’s something that we feel that the world should hear. Yeah, I think it’s great, and especially if it moves you personally, I think that is just the motivational key to write and express yourself, yeah, absolutely.
Leila: Ideally, yes, because I’ve tried it the other way too because sometimes it’s really hard to balance inspiration with just sheer will or sheer discipline. There’s the “I should” and then there’s the “I want to just allow.” There’s like a battle between the two when I want to write a song and I’m doing it because I think I should and I haven’t for a while, and the logical, “productive” side of me takes over. There’s nothing bad with that because you need a little bit of that to move you forward, but then what happens is it’s contrived, whereas if I just sort of back away and just accept that you know what? Right now is a bit of a dry spell for me or I’m not finding inspiration, let me go do something, whether it’s take a yoga class or have coffee with a friend or sit in a park or whatever, and oftentimes that’s what you need. It just helps to get you out of your stuck mode and then you come back and it can really be authentic. And an example of it, actually, is a song that I just finished writing two days ago. Bobbi had created the instrumental track for me, oh, I’ve gotta say maybe seven months ago, and I remember loving it when I heard it. I mean, it was fabulous, but nothing would come out. I mean, it just…and I sat there going “What is wrong with me? This is such a great track.” And all of a sudden I just sort of put it aside because I had frustration. Well, at the earlier of this week I sat with it and the song flowed within two hours.
Jazz Monthly: Amazing.
Leila: I said “Now, did this take seven months to kind of like marinate?” But I equate everything to food. When you’re Spanish, that’s what happens. (Both laugh.) You’ll find a lot of my analogies have to do with food, baking, marinating and roasting.
Jazz Monthly: Ooh, that sounds good. Oh, wow, but that’s fantastic. So I can’t wait to hear some more of this new music too.
Leila: Yeah, I’ll be definitely getting you some of the pre-released tracks.
Jazz Monthly: And you will probably be putting some things on your My Space page, of course, and your Facebook and how many sites?