Known for her voice that’s like no other, singer Lalah Hathaway just released her new album Lalah Hathaway Live—and as always, the soulful songstress does not disappoint. With singles like “Let Go” and “Forever, For Always, For Love” and covers of various songs, the Chicago native is a force to be reckoned with. Here, SBH chats with Lalah about her new music and more…
What inspired you to do a remake of “Angel” and “Little Ghetto Boy”?
“Angel” was kind of a no brainer because I performed [the song] at the BET Honors for Anita Baker and its one of those songs that I grew up loving and singing as a kid. I knew at some point I wanted to record it, and this was just the perfect [opportunity] so it worked out great. “Little Ghetto Boy” is one of my father’s [Donny Hathaway] songs, which I love to sing as well and it speaks to the climate right now. It’s one of those songs that will never die no matter when you sing it—the lyrics could have been written this morning. I really like to revise classic music and give it a new spin and give it to people that might not have heard it.
What has the reception been like to the musical covers?
It’s been great. I don’t think there will ever be a time that I’ll sing either of those songs and I don’t have the whole audience participating in some way.
What can fans expect from Lalah Hathaway Live?
They can expect the band to be killer, the vocalists to really be trying to put it down for you. Our intent was to really provide a live experience on record which is so hard to do but we really wanted people to feel like they were sitting right there in the room with us
Do you have any favorite songs from the album?
I never have favorites and it’s one of those things where [my songs] are all my little babies that I send off to school.
How did it feel to record your live album in the same place your father recorded his?
It was really surreal—it was complete full circle moment. So many things were going through my mind, and I kept trying to stay in the moment but I had a lot a lot of feelings and emotions that I can’t really explain. I was so proud my mom was able to be there with me, and my nieces were able to be there and see it. I grew up listening to Donny Hathaway and just wondering what the atmosphere was like in the room and trying to create that same sort of electricity.
Did you feel any pressure growing up being Donny Hathaway’s daughter?
I didn’t. I’ve been a musician all my life. Both my parents are musicians and some of their parents are musicians so I never felt any pressure to do what I do. I’ve always been a natural in terms of art and music and so it was a very natural trajectory for me. It never occurred to me that it was not something that I wouldn’t do.
Who were some of your musical influences growing up?
I grew up in Chicago and the radio was such a beautiful, colorful landscape of so many different things so I listened to a lot of different types of music. I listened to rock, pop, soul, gospel and blues. I listened to Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, Anita Baker and Stevie Wonder and Peabo Bryson. There were so many bands and so many people that brought music from their parts of the country. I grew up with a lot of music and I’m really grateful for the time I grew up in.
What do you love about being on stage and performing?
I love the immediacy of the whole situation. I love the fact that I put [music] out there and the audience reacts, they become a part of the music in that case. They are absolutely a part of the whole performance—everything in the room has to do with the performance, everything is a part of the performance.
We have to ask—how did you learn to sing a chord?
I have no idea! It’s something I’ve been doing since I was twelve or thirteen years old and I found that it was interesting and weird. As I grew up, I [realized] no one knew how to do it, and I’m just learning how to use it and how to make it sound interesting. It’s really an evolution and I’m still learning it.
Let’s talk about your gorgeous locs! How do you keep your locs healthy?
I have friends who look out for me and help me keep [my locs] together. The great thing about locs is I don’t have to do much. It’s the best garden I’ve ever had.
Photos: Ali LeRoi.