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26 March 2013

Reflection: A Contemplative Interview with Lalah Hathaway

   Lalah Hathaway recently took a moment to reflect on her musical journey of more than 20 years with “Dyes Got the Answers 2 Ur ?s.”
 The classically trained singer and pianist, is a graduate of the renowned Berklee College of Music and daughter of the late Donny Hathaway. Her father was an acclaimed singer/ musician best known for songs like “This Christmas,” and “Someday We'll All Be Free,” as well as hit collaborations with singer/musician Roberta Flack including  “Where is the Love?” and “The Closer I Get to You." Her mother, Eulaulah Hathaway, is also an accomplished musician in own right.
 Hathway has released six albums during her career: Lalah Hathaway in 1990 --which included the hits “Heaven Knows” and “Baby Don't Cry”-- A Moment; The Song Lives On, a jazz duet album with Joe Sample; Outrun The SkySelf Portrait and Where it All Begins, the latter being released in 2011.
  She scored her first #1 R&B hit in 2004 with a cover of the Luther Vandross song “Forever, For Always, For Love,” from his 1982 album of the same name. The song was featured on Forever, For Always, For Luther, a tribute album to the late singer, as well as Outrun The Sky. She has proved herself a versatile artist, recording jazz, R&B, soul and gospel music.
She also does production work for other artists and has collaborated vocally with Esperanza Spalding, Pete Escovedo, Meshell Ndegeocello and Marcus Miller, among many others.
  She recently completed an album and currently has concert dates lined up around the country. Fans can next see her at 7 p.m. March 30 at Club Nokia in Los Angeles.
   Not long ago, K Nicola Dyes conducted an informal interview with Hathaway where the singer mused about life, the music industry and her love for Prince:

  Growing up is a painful but necessary thing.

  My father's music means everything to me. It means a lot of things to a lot of people. It's my birthright, my legacy, my everything.

  Songwriting is really hard. (It is) something that I am working to get better at. It's definitely an art, a craft. I'm definitely working to be a better songwriter.

  The music business is an interesting planet all on its own. Unfortunately, it doesn't always have anything to do with music. It's evolving though... (but), it's like a weird Chia Pet.

  When I collaborate, I really like to work with the best people possible. It really ups my game and makes me a better musician. That's one of the best parts of being in this industry...

  My favorite Prince song..."favorite" is a hard (word) for me, period. I can name a few songs I really like: "Diamonds and Pearls;" "Hot Thing;" "Mountains;" “Pink Cashmere;” “The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker;” “Musicology;” “Soft and Wet” and “Dirty Mind. “There's not much Prince (music) I don't love. That's why I hate "favorites," because, you have to pick and (the list) is never complete.

  I wish I could have a TV show, that would be nice.

  My mother is the bees knees. She's awesome. Everybody knows her: she's famous. She travels around with me (and) she keeps me sane, while driving me crazy at the same time. My mother is everything to me.

  My musical influences... Alright, I'll go slow: Prince; Joni Mitchell; Stevie Wonder; Marcus Miller; Anita Baker; Luther Vandross; Chet Baker; Patti LaBelle; The Donnas; The Motels; Michael Jackson; Jermaine Jackson; Janet Jackson; Dolly Parton; Willie Nelson; Ravi Shankar; my father, of course... I grew up listening to a lot music.

 Onstage with Prince. Courtesy of Lalah Hathaway

  Lalah Hathaway on opening for Prince during the “Welcome 2 America" Tour: (Previously), he had been to a couple of my shows. One day, I was in the studio and his manager called me. She said, “Prince is going to call you in an hour.” I sat in the studio paralyzed for the next hour. Somebody else called, though, and they wanted me to open up a (concert) date for him. It really fulfilled the most far-out dream that I ever had...  I've opened up for him three times. He is one of my absolute idols-- having grown up in the 1970s and 1980s-- and he is absolutely one of my top five artists of all time.  (When you start touring), you get the dose of reality that the clubs are smaller than you imagined. But, to go on that stage opening for Prince and sing in front of 17,000 people, it really did give me boost and a surge of energy. He's also one of the most musical cats on the planet, so playing with him, you just learn so much. We sang a whole bunch of (songs), like “Sometimes it Snows in April” and “Diamonds and Pearls.” It was almost like a haze; It's almost like it didn't happen.  If he ever asked me, I would be honored to open up for him again.

  Why do people want to know about everything? Humans have this interesting need for information. I want people to know everything that they can know (about me) by listening to my music.

  "Forever, For Always, For Love" was my first #1 single. It's such a staple in my (musical) vocabulary. I am really thankful to (Vandross) for that song.

  My first album came out in 1990. It's a good album. It's funny looking back on it now, I sound like such a baby. I'm very proud of that record. I think it holds up well...

  The Billboard I on them right now? (Laughing). The Billboard Charts are interesting. The charts are a thermometer... but, in another way they are obsolete. If I'm on them ...yay! If I'm not on them this week, then, I'm cool off the Billboard Charts...

  Ten years is a decade... That's a broad (question). Ten Years. Let me say this about 10 years: I'm trying to detach myself from the concept of time. The only time is now. I'm sort of working toward that. I hope I'm happy, healthy and I have $18 million in the bank...

  I strive to be as honest as possible, even when it's dry and uninteresting. I strive to be a good musician. I really strive to be the greatest...

  I'm inspired by so many things. Inspiration can come from traffic, kids, dogs or a really great car. I'm pretty open in terms of my senses. I'm inspired a lot.

  At Berklee College of Music I had the best time ever. I learned a lot, not only from my instructors, but, also about the world from my classmates.

  I want to work with The Neptunes-- which, I always say -- Timbaland and I'd also like to work with Snoop (Lion, formerly known as Snoop Dogg). I'd love to work with Justin Timberlake and John Mayer. 
  I have had a really great time as a musician and I have worked so many great people. But, there are so many left to work with. This year I was featured on three Grammy-winning records...

  Lalah Hathaway on Pete Escovedo: I worked with him on a cover of one of my father's songs, “Flying Easy,” in 1996. I am good friends with Sheila E. and she hooked us up. I actually just saw “Pops” the other night. It's always good to see Pops...

  A Moment is my second record, aptly named, because, it was out for, like, a moment. It's kind of a collector's piece. If you find it on Amazon, buy it... It's another one of my children I sent into the world...

  Given a chance, that's a hard one. It's kind of drilling down what you would do if you were given chance. I don't know what I would do, given a chance. I know that I get so many chances to do things all the time, but, I'm always blocked by fear and resistance. Given a chance, I would not be blocked by fear and resistance.

  Prince's music can probably sustain you for a lifetime.

  My current tour... well, I'm not on tour right now, I just finished a record. But, (touring) is my most favorite thing to do.

Courtesy of Lalah Hathaway

  Where it all begins is really with my parents. It's just a reminder to me of where I started. I'm always going to be a musician first.

  I have evolved in a lot of ways that I really can't put into words (and) all of that informs my art. My instrument has gotten better. There are a lot of things I've learned. I hope I have evolved into "2013 Super Bionic Lalah.”

  Time will tell, it will absolutely tell. I am staring to feel that the concept of time is just an illusion...

Upcoming Lalah Hathaway Shows:
March 30, Club Nokia, Los Angeles 
April 6, Meymandi Concert Hall, Raleigh, NC
April 7, Berks Jazz Festival, Reading, Pa.
April 13, Arizona Jazz Festival, Litchfield Park, Ariz.
April 14, Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Arts, Philadelphia
April 19, Seabreeze Jazz Festival, Panama City Beach, Fla.
May 9-12, Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, Seattle
June 8, Capital Jazz Festival, Columbia, Md.

Follow Lalah Hathaway on Facebook and Twitter.
Click here to visit Lalah Hathway's official Web site.

Stay beautiful, Kristi


Photos by Derek Blanks except where indicated.