PYNK Girl, Leah LaBelle is on her way to the top! This sultry R&B songstress sat down with us to talk music, her ideal man, and her definition of ‘sexy’.
PYNK: What made you decide to pursue a career in music?
LL: I was always singing because my parents were musicians and there was always music around the house. At the age of three, they have a video of me dancing around and singing and loving every moment of it. And that’s how I knew that’s something I‘ve always wanted to do. I didn’t know I wanted to do it as a career until I was about seven and saw “Sister Act II” for the first time in theatres. And I realized there was more to it than just singing around the house. I’m watching Lauryn Hill on the stage and I started figuring out that I wanted to add all the elements to singing that I could—dancing, being on stage, performing, entertaining for crowds.
PYNK: You started off at a young age. Were you involved in talent shows?
LL: Around Seattle I always did talent shows, but when I was 10 I joined a gospel choir—it was kind of like a famous choir. It wasn’t based out of one church, but we’d go to different churches, different states and we went to Germany. I sang a solo song with them, so from the ages of 10 to 16, I did a lot with them and because of that people started to know who was more around Seattle, so I got asked to sing at Sonics games or Seahawk games, Governor breakfasts or openings for certain buildings and new things that were opening up in Seattle. Then I won the talent portion of a pageant and a friend of my mom’s was a musician and had a studio in his basement, so he would write little songs for me and let me practice recording so I’d get the experience of getting in the booth. I was just trying to do everything that I could do.
PYNK: So your parents nurtured that talent in you?
LL: Yea, my parents divorced when I was six but my mom was a complete supporter because she was an artist herself. Both of my parents were famous musicians in Bulgaria so they knew the desire and passion you have to have to follow those dreams. So she was always very encouraging of it, ‘like, if this is what you love to do then follow your heart and don’t look back
PYNK: What made you want to sing R&B, specifically?
LL: My mom listened to a lot of jazz growing up, but once I got into the gospel part—being around the other girls in the choir, I think I became more aware of R&B and that’s where my heart was drawn. My heart didn’t beat as fast with other music, but when I heard R&B, it was something about it that made me feel a lot different. I live in my feelings. So, I was happy to be able to connect in that way.
PYNK: What R&B artist influenced your sound growing up?
LL: Lauryn Hill was my biggest influence. After I saw the movie [Sister Act II] and she came out with the Fugees and then ‘The Score’ [Fugee’s album]—I was still too young to have the album, but I snuck. My mom found it and took it and I still went and found another one somewhere but she was everything to me. When ‘The Miseducation [of Lauryn Hill]’ came out, I was highly inspired by everything she represented at the time when she was at her peak. Her lyrics, her melodies, her stories, her voice, her tone, her runs, everything about her—I studied her. I thought I was her at one point. She was really my inspiration in forming my sound.
PYNK: What was your experience like on American Idol?
LL: American Idol was cool, it was a long time ago and my first big, big thing that I had ever done out of Seattle. I always look at it like a mini boot camp in the music industry that taught me in a very fast time how to deal with no sleeping, how to deal with red carpets, interviews, it’s kind of like media training. It was a great experience, I don’t regret it, I’m happy with the place I got, I think everything happens for a reason and I lived in that moment.
PYNK: How did you become associated with Pharrell and Jermaine Dupri?
LL: I moved to LA five years ago, and I was just recording and doing what I had to do, trying to build my relationships and network, find people to give me studio time. I started singing background for people and going on tour and in the midst of all that I wanted a change. So, I started making You Tube videos and met a friend who was in the industry at the time and said, ‘I started making these You Tube videos, you should, too.’ So I started making them for fun just to build my fan base and it caught Pharrell’s attention and he said he’d been watching for three years and eventually he said it’s the right time to reach out to her. He called JD and asked what did he think of this girl and JD was like, ‘oh yea, she’s awesome, she’s awesome.’ They connected and reached out to me and that’s how that happened.
PYNK: What’s been the best experience of working on your debut album?
LL: It’s been such a whirlwind, I’ve been trying to live in each moment but I’m so blessed and happy to even be experiencing working and learning with such legends and growing and taking a step outside of myself and see what they have to teach me. I feel very honored to be in the presence of such powerful people.
PYNK: Is there a release date for the album?
LL: It’s looking like the top of the year. I don’t have an exact date yet.
PYNK: Can we expect any features on the album?
LL: As of now, there aren’t any that I can speak about but we’re still working on some surprises, you never know.
PYNK: What was the inspiration behind your single, ‘Sexify’? Where did that term come from?
LL: Sexify was the first song that me and Pharrell ever recorded together and we created it based off of cover titles off of Cosmopolitan Magazine. We were talking about the kind of woman that I am: fun-loving, free spirited, I embrace my sexuality, I love my friends, I love my life, and he was like, ‘that’s the cosmopolitan woman of today’. We tore all these cover titles from the magazine and put them on a white board and picked the ones that stood out the most and made them into lyrics.
PYNK: What’s your definition of sexy?
LL: For me sexy is being confident. If you can carry yourself (without being cocky), where you walk around with the confidence that I look beautiful today no matter what I’m wearing or my kindness is beautiful, that to me is sexy. You can be so sexy with no makeup on, your hair in a pony tail and just being like, ‘I’m confident today’.
PYNK: Are you dating anybody?
LL: I am very in love with my music. I’m happy where I am in my career so I’m dating my music, I’m loving it, I’m creating, I’m getting inspiration from it, I fall asleep with it, I wake up with it and that’s where I’m at right now.
PYNK: Give me a description of your ideal man?
LL: Definitely taller than me because I’m like 5’8 and if I put on a six inch heel it’s a little intense. So I still want to be able to look up to you, I feel more secure that way. I like a taller person, nice muscular arms, I like tattoos, I like a kind-hearted person, someone who loves God completely, their mother and their family and who can talk to me about anything but still has that kind of roughness to them.