A Conversation With ‘R&B Diva’ Leela James

Soul songstress Leela James has been making huge waves with her music recently. She just wrapped up a tour with Ledisi and Raheem DeVaughn, and with another season of “R&B Divas L.A.” under her belt, it doesn’t seem like she’ll be disappearing from the spotlight anytime soon. Leela took some time from her busy schedule to speak with JET about soul music, touring, and the impact of reality television on her life.

JET: You recently wrapped up a tour with Ledsi and Raheem DeVaughn? What was that experience like?

Leela James: It was excellent and completely wonderful. The nights sold out city to city. We had a blast. It’s one of the most successful tours I’ve been on. We did 24 cities. I love being out on the road and working with the band — raw and uncut. It gave me a chance to connect more with the fans. It gives them a chance to really vibe with the music and interact with me. When they see you perform a song, they get a completely different experience.

JET: Speaking of perception, some people have negative views of reality television. Any positive outcomes from your experience with R&B Divas?

Leela James: There are always pros and cons definitely. For me, the pros have outweighed the [cons]. It’s a great platform for expanding the musical audience, for bringing people into my world, and also sharing my brand. The obvious cons is the foolishness that may come with it as far as drama. I just think in any setting with people striving for the same goal there’s going to be drama. People just need to learn to be able to co-exist and be respectful. I think that can be said for any work environment though. Whether it be on TV or in an office, there’s always the political side of any job.

JET: What drives you to keep pushing in this industry?

Leela James: I love music and I was making music before I went on the show. Anything that comes with that is fine. I think I have a solid fan base who appreciates what I do, so they drive me as well. I feel like with people dropping surprise records and this and that — all of that doesn’t really matter to people who really appreciate and value your music. Fans buy what they want to buy. If people love what you do they’ll support. If you get caught up wit the dollars and cents and the hype of it, then you’ve lost sight of making music because you’re [not] passionate about it.

JET: What are your thoughts on the state of soul music?

Leela James: Soul music has never gone away. Plenty of soul artists are still around making great music. I think it’s a matter of diversifying the radio. It’s unfortunate that for whatever reason, soul music isn’t respected as much as it once was. But people are still out here making it, and I know people still consume it and admire it. I just wish mainstream would respect it again.

JET: So what’s next for you?

Leela James: I’m in the studio and I’ll be headlining my own tour. I feel good about things to come, and I know it’s going to be great.

For tour dates and other information on Leela James visit You can also catch her on “R&B Divas L.A.” every Wednesday on TV One.