Sound Check with Leah LaBelle

What Leah LaBelle already has under her belt: Washington State Pre-teen Miss America Pageant winner; first runner up in the National Pageant, top 12 contestant from season three of “American Idol,” backup singer for Keri Hilson, Jordin Sparks, Robin Thicke, Eric Benet, and The Jonas Brothers, and collaborator with Pharrell Williams (N.E.R.D) and Jermaine Dupri.

For someone just entering the music arena, this is already pretty breathtaking. But then you hear the voice and it’s clear that you can’t help but smile – Think Alicia Keys meets early-day P!nk, infused with Jessica Simpson, and a dash of Jennifer Hudson for seriousness. When you listen to her music, you’ll be sure to place those voices right amongst her striking voice. It would also be safe to say that although she may sound like a myriad of the singers mentioned above, her remarkable voice also resonates a unique beauty that will surely be left in your memory for some time.

Where can you find her? All over YouTube! She has been recording songs for viewers to listen to since early 2008. You can watch all of her early music recordings on YouTube under her channel name: MissLaBelle1. I would highly recommend listening to her without all of the editing that comes from studio productions just to prove that her voice is definitely one to be reckoned with. My suggestions are, “Chris Brown I Need This by Leah LaBelle,” or her rendition of Beyoncé’s “Sweet Dreams.” LOOK THEM UP! If you appreciate a good voice, then you’re bound to fall in love with her.

Now down to the personal details of this gorgeous and crafty vocalist. She was born in Toronto to two Bulgarian parents who were both involved in the music scene back home in their native countries where they had their own large following. After Toronto, the family moved to Pennsylvania where they worked any kind of job to keep the family fed. As she said in one interview, speaking about her mother, “She was literally picking up cigarette butts by hand off the concrete. It was hard for them to go from being famous to nobody knowing or caring who they were.”

In a sense, it was her mother that brought the singer out of Leah. Her biggest inspiration for becoming a singer came when her mother took her to see “Sister Act 2.” Lauryn Hill’s performance, before she became a member of the Fugees, left Leah in awe. And with that, a star was in the making. Read on for our one-on-one interview:

In my opinion, you have a voice that reminds me of such artists as Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson with the innocence of Jessica Simpson. Who would you say your main influences are when you sing?
Wow! What an amazing combination, thank you! My main influence growing up was Lauryn Hill. She is still my favorite and is such a creative inspiration for me. I also listened to a lot of Whitney, Mariah, Stevie Wonder, Brandy, Kim Burrell, and The Beatles.

First off, I just need to ask, does your actual bedroom resemble the bedroom that is in the new music video for your lead song “Sexify”?
Oh, no, but I sure wish it did. How awesome would it be to have that much space to dance around?! But, perhaps one day – one day soon!

Now that your music video is out there, what would you say were both the most fun parts and the most frustrating parts of the making of it?
The video was a blast to make. There was absolutely no bad energy on set or anywhere around me that day. I don’t do well with bad energy, so if I feel it around somewhere, I shut myself from it fast. Everyone was awesome; my mom and my best friend were there to support, which was really special. I can’t really say anything frustrated me about it…I guess it would have been AMAZING if I could have walked away with all of those Louboutins in the closet scene. (Laughs.)

What are you most looking forward to doing this summer before the fall season comes?
Well, I’m getting prepared to start hitting the road soon, so my focus is on that. I also just moved into a new place so I’m excited to get settled. If I have a day off here or there, I want to sit by the pool and sip on something nice.

So, I have to ask, have you been to any Pride festivities yet this summer? I’m assuming they’re everywhere since we’ve been ‘endorsed,’ so-to-say, by Obama in the media.
I didn’t get a chance to go this year. I wanted to hit up the LA pride on my own to hang out, but I was out of town. I was also supposed to do something at New York pride but the plans ended up falling through, which was a bummer. I keep hearing about them though. My good friend, JoJo, performed at several of the Prides and she told me the energy is amazing. I am going to make sure I’m involved with them next year, I want in on all the fun. (Laughs.) P.S. How fantastic of President Obama to step up and endorse the community! It was long overdue.

What was the one thing that you would say you took away from American Idol that has helped you in your life as well as your career?
Idol was a wonderful learning experience for me at such a young age. It taught me to be prepared at all times and focus on my craft.

Who do you think is the most relevant person in the music industry–still singing–today?
Beyoncé. She has mastered this industry, creatively and business-wise, and knows exactly what to do. She is incredibly smart and talented.

Of all the people in Hollywood, who do you have a “teen-girl” crush on? (And don’t be embarrassed!)
(Laughter.) Ryan Gosling, for sure!

What would you say to someone who feels that they want to pursue a career in music, but really doesn’t know where to get started?
This industry is not an easy as one thinks; everyone’s story and path is so different. I would say, please make sure that this is something you truly love and have deep passion for. That’s the thing that will keep you fighting through all the “NO’s.” Don’t lose your love for the music, keep your mind focused, stay honest, don’t give up, and network! You can never network enough. Use your relationships and keep positive relationships. Respect yourself and treat others kindly; it will get you far.
What is the nick-name that the closest people in your life refer to you as?
(Laughs.) There are a few. LeeLee, Belly, LaBelle, Bell, L.

And, lastly, I have to ask, because I like to stay on top of things, can you tell us what your next song release may be?
I want to share so badly! But, I can’t because there are a couple of records in the running. What do you think should be the next single?

I’ll leave that up to the readers after they’ve had a chance to explore you a little – So readers, what do you think? Leave your comments for “LeeLee” on our website, below this interview…

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