[Exclusive] Lalah Hathaway Talks New Album ‘Lalah Hathaway Live’, Growing Up With Musical Parents, More
Lalah Hathaway’s dream album is almost here.
“I’m just the crazy music lady,” she describes herself as she talks about her passion for music. Well, this crazed music lady has done it again, and on October 30th, 2015, the world is gonna get a treat when Lalah Hathaway Live is released. Recorded at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, where many other great artists including her father (Donny) have recorded their “live” albums, Hathaway says she has dreamed of creating this album for a long time.
She wowed us when she first hit the music scene in 1990 with her self-titled debut album and has remained consistent for 25 years. Daughter of one of the greatest singing voices of all time, the legendary Donny Hathaway, and coming from a long line of great musicians, she continues the legacy with over two decades of flawless and brilliant material.
Her mission with this project is to “give the listener the “live” experience.” Performing two shows in Atlanta, GA on the same day Live is released, Lalah describes the experience, “It’s gonna be one big ole party.”
Singersroom: Good afternoon Lalah Hathaway, how are you and where are you?
LH: I’m fine, and I’m in LA right now.
Singersroom: They say the fruit don’t fall far from the tree, your father, Donny Hathaway was a musical genius. Is that where you get it from?
LH: Well you know, what’s crazy is I have two parents that are musicians and a lot of people generally give my dad like 100% of the credit for my DNA, which is hilarious, but my parents are actually both musicians…I’ve come from a long line of
Singersroom: Talk to us about that. What was it like coming up in your home? Did you always have it in you?
LH: It was, we were always in pursuit of that, it was nothing that I ever made a decision like “hey maybe I’ll do music.” It’s something I have been doing my entire life since I was really small. I was always exposed to music, always taking music classes or piano classes, or my mother was taking voice lessons. It was always that type of household, so for me growing up, it didn’t really feel like it was anything special because it was the way that we lived.
Singersroom: It was a part of life.
LH: Right, I thought everybody’s parents did music. And there was a time during my childhood where a lot of kids were into music, a lot of kids took piano lessons, a lot of kids took violin lessons and that was kind of normal during that time; kids were more exposed to music.
Singersroom: You’re originally from Chicago.
Singersroom: How long were you in Chicago?
LH: Until I went to college. Yeah, and I went to Berklee College of Music and then came to LA after that.
Singersroom: You mentioned you come from a long line of musicians and of course your father being Donny Hathaway, as the daughter of a legend did you ever wanna disassociate yourself with that?
LH: NO…I mean imagine disassociating yourself from your parents… you know what I mean? My parents happen to be my parents, and I happen to be the daughter of my parents and I feel like I chose them very well (laughs). You know there is never a moment when I’m trying to move out of. You know, if you’re a singer, and you’re associated with the greatest singer of all time, why would you be mad at that (laughs)? You know?
Singersroom: I read that you actually penned your first song in the tenth grade.
LH: Something like that, I think it was a little before that, but that’s the one everybody’s talking about in that bio, but I was writing songs I think my whole life. The composition teacher at my high school which was the Chicago Academy of Performing Arts, and he actually taught me how to write music and that’s when I really learned how to actually put it on paper, all the notes, all the changes, with the lyrics. And so that was my sort of my formal training about how to write songs. That started happening in high school.
Singersroom: Starting out and actually getting into the recording and the music industry, what was that like for you?
LH: Umm, I was in college, did a demo, I’m pretty sure it was on a cassette. Somebody took it to Virgin Records and a guy named Jeff Foreman signed me. I was probably 18 or 19 years old I was in college at the time, so I used to go from Boston to LA, and in my travels I met all these wonderful people I still know today like Gary Taylor and Angela Winbush and got these songs that put that first record together, so that kinda basically began starting to happen while I was in college.
Singersroom: How do you stay so consistent?
LH: I just really love music and for me it’s so much more than a job, it’s really like my calling and my passion and my legacy and the thing that I love most and the place that I’m the most free and connected to God and the universe, I’m just like the crazy music lady…(laughs). And for people that are doing it, just find your passion, if it’s not music that’s cool; some people just wanna be famous, and that’s ok too, but don’t expect it to stay green forever.
Singersroom: You say you’re like the crazy music lady… are you always singing? What do you mean by that?
LH: No (laughs). I am always engaged in sound. I am always definitely engaged in
the sound that’s going on around me and music for sure!!
Singersroom: It seems like you flawlessly go from octave to octave, register to register, it’s like you could have “The Alphabet” to “London Bridges Falling Down” in front of you and make a masterpiece.
LH: I’m glad that people feel that way. I mean, I get told that a lot like “Oh it seems so effortless,” and it definitely requires effort and one point … the whole point to what I do is to make people feel kinda dreamy, like you are being taken care of.
Singersroom: You successfully do that.
Singersroom: So my question is, is there ever sheet of music put in front of you and you are like whoa … this is tough?
LH: Oh yeah, all the time, but there’s nothing hard, it’s all hard and it’s all easy. Music is art and it’s really what you bring to it each time.
Singersroom: You’ve worked with so many different artists and producers. Has any of them ever tried to change your direction or style?
LH: Not really. I really try and work with great people, so iron really sharpens iron… and I think that in all of the arenas that I work in, I can go and work with Nancy Wilson, then I can work with Kendrick Lamar, I can work with Kirk Franklin, I can work with Kirk Whalum, I can work with Chaka [Khan]. I can work with all of those people and just remain myself.
Singersroom: You’ve sung a lot of cover songs……
Singersroom: Have you ever felt nervous about covering a song that seems
LH: No, no, you know what? The whole approach is… and you know I definitely think about it I wanna make sure that it’s great and I definitely have tackled some like real classics, so there’s a little bit of “ok, you betta”, you know, if you don’t have anything new to say then you probably shouldn’t say anything…. It’s always a fun challenge for me to choose something that I really love and that has made an indelible mark on me and then try to make a new standard of it that will stand next to it, and I find that really fun to do I really like to pay homage to the things that came before me.
Singersroom: One of my all-time favorites is your collaboration with Joe Sample
LH: Thank you.
Singersroom: What was that experience like?
LH: That experience really was one of the greatest I’ve ever had. I would tour withJoe off and on from the early 90’s, and we were in Japan one year co-headlining at The Blue Note and he said we should make a Christmas record, or we should make a some kind of record when we get home and when we got home I went to his house, and he played me all this really beautiful music, some of which had been recorded previously by Randy Crawford. And I heard these gorgeous songs and some of them I hadn’t even heard the lyrics yet. We chose a couple of standards that we thought would work and… we talked about “Fever” and we went in the studio and all of those vocals that you hear probably are first and second takes. Just a real natural vibe and he was really fun to play with as well.
Singersroom: The list is long of people you’ve worked with, but some of you ever get together and just jam out?
LH: Yeah, absolutely, we keep it fresh that way, you know, hang out. It’s definitely part of the social realm of this job and being able to get with your friends when it’s not a work situation and have fun. That’s always fun.
Singersroom: Okay, so Lalah Hathaway “Live”….
LH: Yes…. Yes…
Singersroom: This has been long awaited and highly requested…..
Singersroom: What’s so special about this recording?
LH: Well, it’s live music, it’s recorded in the Troubadour which is also where my father recorded his live album. It’s the record I have really wanted to do my entire life, so it has been really quite a sublime experience creating it.
Singersroom: Do you have a favorite track on the album?
LH: I don’t. I don’t have favorites, I never have. I just kind of see my whole career of one long continuous book of songs and there are some that strike me in different moments differently than others, but never a favorite. I’m a very esoteric person, so I never feel the need to compartmentalize like people do, so to me they’re all my favorite tunes.
Singersroom: ‘Lalah Hathaway Live’, recorded in front of a live audience. Was this recording different than your live performances on tour?
LH: There’s really no difference. I feel like the live arena for me is such a sublime time to be on stage and to be communicating those songs. and to be able to get the immediate feedback from the people is so important. In the studio, you have the opportunity to make it perfect, and live, all those imperfections really make it perfect. It’s so it’s much of the same and that the whole point of a live album to really give the listener the feel of the live experience.
Singersroom: We really appreciate your time sharing with us and keep pouring out your gift to the world, we love you and stay focused and blessed, Lalah.
LH: Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.