Maysa Leak bears all the scars of an incredibly gifted vocalist who has found herself plying her considerable craft in an era where it no longer seems to be respected. She admits, “I was born ten years too late”. Indeed, had she been around in the ’70’s or ’80’s perhaps today she would be regarded in the same legendary ilk as the likes of Chaka Khan and Patti LaBelle. It’s kind of like being a Cordon Bleu chef, trained in finest culinary institutes in Paris, only to be told you can only apply for jobs in McDonalds!
Thankfully Maysa Leak hasn’t allowed her frustration to cloud her art, for in her latest and third album for Schanchie, “Metamorphosis”, the former Stevie Wonder backing singer and Incognito front person has turned in her masterpiece. From the smooth, fluid, “Simpatico”, the easy going, “Never Really Ever” the Brazillian flute laced “Higher Love” and uplifting “Happy Feelings”, Leak has hit her stride meshing smooth soul with light, breezy jazz elements and some stellar penmanship. It’s seen the Maryland native enjoy her first contemporary jazz #1 and Top 20 R&B album within the first few weeks of its release.
Jeff Lorez: Firstly congratulations on a great album. You really hit it out of the park. What inspired the songs?
Maysa Leak: It’s an album full of inspirations of my life, emotionally how I grow older. Trying to take things with a grain of salt instead of being so stressed out about everything all the time. I went through a really bad break up earlier this year. At first I was so uninspired then all the music came out of me.
JL: What’s the cause of all this stress?
ML: Money, raising my son by myself with just my mom’s help but without a dad. Then other stresses would be being in the industry wanting to be more recognized for my work. I feel like I’ve been slept on a lot. Then just other relationship stuff.
JL: How did you finally manage to get o grips with it and get it in check?
ML: I saw my doctor and my blood pressure was going up higher and he wanted to put me on medication I realized that I didn’t want my life to carry on the way it had been. I still want to be in the music industry and obviously raising my son is important. Now I realize I have to be calm and take each day as it calms. Some things I can fix and others I can’t.
My job is my life basically. When I’m not at work I’m with my family. For a year and a half I was in a relationship that was very dear to my heart and it ended very suddenly. I spent the best part of last year dealing with that. I’m a very romantic person and love is very important to me so when that’s not going well naturally I’m very sad like anybody else.
JL: Why did it end, if you don’t mind me asking?
ML: You’re asking the wrong person. I’m still trying to figure it out. Loss of communication I guess. He made it clear he loved me and I’m not sure why it went sour. It devastated me. I’m not a diva. I’m a very easy going person. All I expect in a relationship is that I’m treated well and I can trust the person.
JL: What’s the most personal song on the album for you?
ML: “Take Me Away”. Recently I went to Hobos Beach to do another concert with Jason Miles. When I went there I had to drive myself this time. Last year he (her ex-boyfriend) drove me and we had such a beautiful weekend. After we broke up I was thinking about that weekend and I wrote that song.
JL: And (Incognito band member) Bluey inspired “Let’s Figure It Out (song for Bluey)”. How did that come about?
ML: I love Bluey and all the great music he’s given me. I sang all the parts to my producers. It morphed into a hot dance track, like an Incognito track. Bluey’s heard it. He told me I did a great job on it. He’s like a big brother to me. I’ve learned so much from watching him produce. I was on the last record and I’m sure I’ll be on the (Incognito) 30th Anniversary record. Bluey’s superior at string arrangements and things like that. He should do a movie score. I would love to do some dramatic type music with him.
JL: A lot of people don’t realize the financial pressures that can come with being in this business because artists tend to only make money when they have a hit song or are on the road. What is the Maysa Leak strategy for breaking free of the rat race and being financially independent?
ML: I would continue singing. I think I have it. I think I have the means but the connection hasn’t been made yet. I need to be put into the machine. But for instance, today I’m number 1 on the contemporary jazz charts in America. I’ve never been number 1 at any time in my life. I’m # 13 on the R&B charts. Whether it goes down next week, I’m so amazingly thrilled that it made it to #1. That shows me that I have a chance with my art. I would love to do a one woman show on Sarah Vaughn. If they do a movie on Phyllis Hyman I would love to audition to play her. I know my music can do this for me.
About the Writer
Jeff Lorez has enjoyed a long and varied career in the music business. As a journalist he has written for a slew of publications and web sites including, Blues & Soul, Billboard, Yahoo.com and the Daily Telegraph and as a music publisher he has been involved in recent chart topping hits by Alexis Jordan and Cher Lloyd.