With her delightful mix of Gospel jazz and soulful ballads, singer-songwriter Leslie Nettleford has released her critically acclaimed album "A Place Called Home." Featuring 9 of her own compositions and a hymn, 'A Place Called Home" is filled with soul-stirring tunes such as "Healer of the Soul," "Count It All Joy" and "Mama Said." We are honored to be able to catch up with her for this Hallels' exclusive interview:
Hallels: For our readers who may not be familiar with you, who is Leslie Nettleford?
I'm just somebody who loves Jesus and is not ashamed to tell the world about Him. No matter the role I am fulfilling at the moment, whether it's Leslie the wife, mother, daughter, composer, singer, teacher, attorney, or church volunteer, my goal is to make sure that I am living my life for Him.
Hallels: Prior to your decision to sing for the Lord, you even had a law degree. Tell us how did you hear God's calling to become a recording artist?
I've been writing songs and poetry since I was a little girl. In college, my composing abilities flourished. Surrounded by musical talent, I could sit with a pianist friend and finish a song in minutes. I could hang with my a capella group and work out parts -- our harmony was tight! But somewhere after law school and career, husband and kids, church offices and other responsibilities, I began to sing less, to write even less and to put away what I now considered a childish dream. But finally God spoke, and He said, "It's time." God put the unlikeliest people and situations in my path to encourage me to share the gift He had given me. So, I'm no longer hiding behind a law degree or my innate shyness (no seriously, I really am shy) but I'm sharing my personal joy I've found in writing music -- especially music about God's grace -- with everyone.
Hallels: Your new CD "A Place Called Home" has a jazz Gospel sound, how did you become interested in jazz Gospel? Who would you say are some of the artists who have influenced you in your sound?
I've been blessed to have met and worked with some really excellent musicians over the years: Robert Soverall, John Stoddart, Nathan Anderson, David Griffiths, Elfred Deynes and Marcus Johnson to name a few. Of them all, John Stoddart has had the most influence on my music style. He produced the entire album -- his ear for the gospel jazz sound is uncanny and his piano playing is so beautiful it immediately brings you into a worship experience. Of course, I also love me some Anita Baker! She has a soulful jazz style that sounds effortless and is simply amazing.
Hallels: Many of the songs on the album such as "Mama Said" and "Count It All Joy" are autobiographical, can you tell us more about how these songs came about?
For many years, it was just me and my mom against the world. She was then, and still is now, a strong example of determination, courage and faith. No matter what we faced, she persevered. So, "Mama Said" relays her simple message to me about having faith and trusting that God will find a way. I wrote "Count It All Joy" when my grandmother passed away. This was my first truly personal experience with death and I had a really hard time coping with it. I read James 1 and Romans 5 and I was inspired to write this song - it really helped.
Hallels: Out of all the songs on your new CD, if you have to choose two that best represent who you are, which would they be?
That's really hard to say - they all are a part of me and reflect something that I've been through at some point in my life. But if I had to pick...I think that "Do You Believe" represents my inner struggles - trying to understand why there is so much pain and suffering in this world and how that affects my belief in God. "Choices" represents my whirlwind life - there is so much pressure that comes with having so many roles and responsibilities (recording an album while being a full-time attorney is not easy!) There are so many decisions to be made -- you really have to hear God's voice so you can figure out what to do. Plus, it's got this salsa rhythm vibe going that is truly the soundtrack to my life!
Hallels: For our readers who would like to find out more about you or purchase your new album, where can they go?
I post updates on www.lesliesmusic.com and www.facebook.com/lesliesmusic and if you sign up on my website or "like" my Facebook page, you will automatically get updates about what's happening with me musically. I usually encourage people to get a CD for themselves and get some for their friends that they know are going through a struggle or simply need encouragement. Your friend may not want to come to church and sit through a sermon with you, but they are likely to pop a CD into their car stereo and listen to some gospel jazz on their way home. And somewhere, between the voices and the instruments, my prayer is that they will hear God's message for them in their lives. You can find "A Place Called Home" on CD and MP3 at cdbaby.com, Amazon and iTunes. Enjoy!