Five time Grammy-award winning artist Lalah Hathaway recently spoke with the Sentinel about the upcoming release of her new album honestly, which is set to drop November 3rd, and got quite personal about her life, music and career. Known for her powerful presence and vocal mastery, Hathaway shared some details about what she would tell her father, Donny Hathaway if he were still living, and the freedom that music gives her to create. Hathaway also served as the headliner for this year’s Taste of Soul event.
Los Angeles Sentinel: Tell us about the album artwork for honestly, and why you used a lower-case h in your album title.
Lalah Hathaway: You know, through the history of my records, from when I started controlling the visual, I always used lower case letters for everything, I can’t even explain why that is. The character is actually me, and I think once you see the film for the record, or see the video or really get in to the record, that will all sort of reveal itself to you.
I am a super gamer, I come from that period in time, I’m going to have a little PlayStation later today before I get ready for this show tomorrow. I think it’s just part of my playful nature and part of that manifested on this record and the sounds of the music and the sounds that we used, the tone we approached the record in, we really had a great time creating it. Part of the theory of the record, at least the visual aspect is that you’re seeing through the eyes of a child, all of that as well will reveal itself.
LAS: Musically, what can fans expect for your new album honestly?
LH: Just great music. I love that question; what can we expect, because what if I said, you can expect 8 songs, 3 of them are in E minor, they’re all around 300 beats per minute, doesn’t really make sense, right? You can expect a record that I put together for you to make you feel good, a record that I put together to make you think, a record to transport you into whatever mood you want to be in. I hope that people associate my name with the brand, and I hope that people associate that brand with excellence. So, you can expect an excellent record.
LAS: What is the most gratifying part of touring around the globe?
LH: I really love music; I think everybody knows that. But I really love the experience of creating something every night that’s distinct and unique for the people in that room, in those chairs. It’s very important to me that each single person feels like the experience was created for them. It’s very important for me that people leave the show and feel like they saw and they hear something that they had never heard before.
So, for me, the most gratifying part is singing the songs that I know they love, it’s those moments when they put their hands up and their heads down that you know that you have hit a nerve. It’s those moments when the people in the audience say “sang”. It’s those moments that I’d listen to growing up, even on Donny Hathaway live, where the people were speaking to my Dad at the Troubadour and I used to wonder, ‘well wow, what are they talking about, what are they saying?’ There’s an electricity that cannot be rivaled when you are creating for people live and in real time.
LAS: Of singing, songwriting and producing, which process do you find to be most creative?
LH: I really like all three. It depends on the song and the mood and who I’m working with, what the song is about and where it came from, any number of things affect the levels of creativity. I try not to do too much delineating with my art. Really, it’s art, so for me I don’t have a most, I just really enjoy my entire process.
LAS: Why do you believing performing at a family festival like the Taste of Soul is so important?
LH: I love the Taste of Soul. I’ve been before. I’m from Chicago, but I’ve been in LA since like 92’. I really feel like L.A. is my home, all my friends are natives, and so it mostly for me feels good to play at home. I don’t get to play L.A. a whole lot; I really am interested in being in the neighborhood and being able to communicate with folks and tell these stories, and sing these songs, so I’m just excited to be out there with the people.
LAS: If your father were here today, what would you tell him about your life, music and career?
LH: I have no idea; I don’t know how. I would ask him to listen to the record and hopefully that would tell him everything that he needs to know. The same way that I have his records and have a road map to his life. That’s a good question.
LAS: Do you ever feel like you are fulfilling what his legacy would have been if he were still here?
LH: In a way. I feel sometimes like he was here in a small way so that I could get here, and that I am here in a small way, so that he can stay here.
LAS: There’s so much going on in the world today, what words do you have for this nation and people around the world?
LH: I would tell people to look inward and be optimistic and to be prayerful, to try to keep your head up. I really don’t know what to say to people, this is why I make these records. I don’t know if you’ve seen the video for honestly, it’s really a song about the disillusion of the dream. Most of us already knew that the system was a fraud and that the dream was a fraud, but it presents itself in a such a way at this time in history, that it cannot be denied and it cannot be ignored.
So my job as an artist is to take all those thoughts and feelings and put them on your iPod so that you can digest them. Whatever it is that brings you comfort and joy as a mode of resistance, do it. If it’s music, that’s what I do, that’s my mode of resistance, I refuse for the world to steal my joy. If it’s church, go to church, if it’s working with kids, work with kids, but do something positive in your community that’s going to lift you up.
Hathaway has recently collaborated with distribution company Caroline and started her own imprint with Hathaway Entertainment, through which her latest album honestly is being released. Hathaway says she’s interested in meeting and working with new talent and has made plans to secure an opening act for her upcoming honestly Tour in 2018. Hathaway also says she’s also looking forward to creating project records, where she has the freedom to create music from all genres including country and jazz. Recently, Hathaway was nominated for two Soul Train Awards for Best R&B/Soul Female Artist and the Soul Train Certified Award. For exclusive footage from Hathaway’s performance at the Taste of Soul, visit www.lasentinel.net for more information.