Leela James

Leela James

Leela James live at Stockholm Jazz Festival.
Background information
Birth name Leela James
Born (1983-05-22) May 22, 1983
Los Angeles, California, United States
Origin Los Angeles, CA
Genres Soul, R&B, blues
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Years active 2003–present
Labels Warner Bros., Shanachie, Stax, BMG Rights Management, J&T Records
Associated acts Pete Rock, Raphael Saadiq, Wyclef Jean, Kanye West, Raheem DeVaughn
Website www.leelajames.com

Leela James (born May 22, 1983 in Los Angeles, California)[1][2] is an American R&B and soul singer-songwriter.

James cites singers James Brown, Roberta Flack, Toni Braxton, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Gladys Knight, Mavis Staples, and Stevie Wonder as her influences. Her deep, rich, gritty vocals have drawn comparisons to Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Toni Braxton, and Tina Turner.[1]

Music career

In 2004, James toured as an opening act for The Black Eyed Peas and Macy Gray. That same year, she was featured on hip hop producer, DJ, and emcee Pete Rock's album Soul Survivor II, providing vocals to the track "No Tears". In 2005, she lent her voice to the posthumously released Ray Charles album Genius & Friends, duetting with the singer on the song "Compared to What".

James' debut album, A Change Is Gonna Come, was released on June 21, 2005. The album was conceived as a throwback to an earlier era of American soul music, building upon the legacy of 1960s and 1970s soul singers while incorporating elements of contemporary R&B, funk, and gospel.

In the lyrics to the album's lead single, "Music", James laments the current state of contemporary popular music. She condemns the glorification of materialism and misogyny that has often been attributed to the lyrical content of contemporary R&B and hip hop songs while pleading for the return of the artistry, dedication, and sincerity displayed by musicians of earlier decades.

James co-wrote most of the tracks on her debut album, two exceptions being her covers of the pop rock band No Doubt's 1996 hit "Don't Speak" and the classic title song by Sam Cooke, for which the album is named. Notable collaborators on the album include Raphael Saadiq, Kanye West and Wyclef Jean.

Leela guested on Robert Randolph and the Family Band's 2006 album Colorblind, lending her vocals to "Stronger".

After parting ways with Warner Bros., James signed with the independent label Shanachie Records and released her second studio album on March 24, 2009, an all-cover set entitled Let's Do It Again (the title being a homage to the 1975 soundtrack album of the same name by The Staple Singers).

In June 2009, she appeared on the Moby album Wait for Me, performing the vocal on "Walk with Me".

James' third album My Soul - her debut release for the Stax label - was released on May 24, 2010, and debuted on the US Hip Hop/R&B chart at #7. Speaking in May 2010 to UK soul writer Pete Lewis of Blues & Soul, she stated: "With this album I wanted to make sure that I showed all sides of me - in terms of variety in the music and in my vocal range - while at the same time making it clear that every song deeply came from my soul. Plus I also wanted to incorporate a little more hip hop this time, and infuse it with my traditional R&B - because I felt that. By making my beats edgier and harder-hitting, I'd show there was more to me than just doing ballads and things of that sort."[3]

On July 8, 2014, Leela James released her fifth studio album, Fall For You. The album's first two singles, "Say That" feat. Anthony Hamilton and "Fall For You" both reached Top 15 on the Billboard Urban AC charts, with "Fall For You" reaching #12. Ms. James supported her album with tours nationwide, including performances at Essence Music Festival, Arizona Jazz Fest, San Diego Jazz Fest, Capitol Jazz Fest, and more.

Television appearances

In Summer 2010, she appeared on the BET television series My Black is Beautiful as a co-host alongside of Tasha Smith, Kim Coles, and Alesha Renee.

In 2014 and 2015, she starred on seasons 2 and 3 of the TV One reality show R&B Divas: Los Angeles.



Year Album Chart positions
2005 A Change Is Gonna Come 148 42 97 26 43 52
2009 Let's Do It Again 84 11
2010 My Soul 37 7
2012 Loving You More... In The Spirit Of Etta James 44
2014 Fall For You[4][5] 69 12


Year Single Chart positions Album
Adult R&B
2005 "Music" 121 33 A Change Is Gonna Come
"Don't Speak"
2006 "Good Time" 54 1 33
"My Joy" 109 27
2007 "When You Love Somebody"
2008 "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" Let's Do It Again
"Baby, I'm Scared of You"
2010 "Tell Me You Love Me" 94 18 My Soul
"So Cold"
2012 "Something's Got a Hold on Me" Loving You More... In The Spirit Of Etta James
"I'm Loving You More Every Day"
2013 "Say That" (featuring Anthony Hamilton) 15 Fall for You
2014 "Fall for You" 12
2015 "Set Me Free" 7

1 Position refers to the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
2008 Soul Train Music Award[6] Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist "Music" Nominated
NAACP Image Award Outstanding New Artist Leela James Nominated


  1. 1 2 Nero, Mark Edward. "Profile: Leela James". About.com. Retrieved 2008-09-06.
  2. Burrell, Jalylah. "New York Leela James@S.O.B.'s – Events". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2008-09-06.
  3. Leela James interview by Pete Lewis, 'Blues & Soul' June 2010
  4. "Leela James - About". Leela James Official website. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  5. "Leela James - Fall For You". iTunes. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  6. "R. Kelly earns leading three Soul Train music award nominations". USA Today. February 2, 2006. Retrieved 2006-02-03.
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