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Ledisi: Once Lost, Now Found

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It got to the point where R&B/jazz singer Ledisi was close to giving up on her musical dreams. But then, after years as an independent artist, she finally scored a record deal. Shortly after that came the buzz and acclaim for her 2007 album Lost & Found. Then she earned two Grammy nominations in 2008 for Best New Artist and Best R&B Album. Now she's on a high profile tour, landing interviews on national television, and even appearing in films like George Clooney's Leatherheads. What led to her sudden rise to success? While some would say it was simply a matter of listeners discovering her impressive vocalizing, Ledisi attributes it to waiting on God's timing. The soulful singer took time to chat with Christian Music Today from the road to discuss her impressive journey so far and the faith that sustained her when she thought about quitting.

Tell us about your journey from starting as an independent artist to your record deal with Verve.

Ledisi: I was performing around [the Bay area] at pretty much everywhere there is to sing--nightclubs, theatres, churches. I was writing with other artists in the area, like my good friend Sundra Manning, who asked, “Why don't you finally do a record yourself?" So I got money together, paid for studio time, and decided to make the Soulsinger record [in 2000]. Before I put it out, I went to a few labels and got some really nice rejection letters. It was before the whole Jill Scott/neo-soul movement, so we decided to put it out ourselves, and the buzz started get bigger. It was big already in the Bay Area, but then the record started to get word of mouth attention.

Then we did Feeling Orange but Sometimes Blue in 2003, which was a mix of jazz and R&B. As an independent, every dime you make gets put back into making music again. So I wasn't making any money and I was nearly homeless, unsure whether I should continue in the business. It seemed like I was popular enough to be popular, but not enough to get to the next level. Looking back, I think it had to do with some self-esteem [issues] and not getting my spiritual base back in alignment.

Then in 2004, right when I was ready to quit, I got this call from [producer] Rex Rideout about [participating in] the Luther Vandross tribute record Forever, For Always, For Luther. I recorded “My Sensitivity" and I started to be heard because radio stations could finally play me since the song came from a major label. It gave me a lot of popularity, though I still didn't know if I should stay in the business until Verve came along.

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