Interview by: Melody Charles
In the soul music universe, Lalah Hathaway is among the brightest stars in the galaxy. The oldest daughter of musically-gifted parents, vocalist Eulalah and the late producer, lyricist and singer Donny Hathaway, Lalah spent years honing her skill set, scholastically and organically, before releasing her well-received self-titled debut in 1990. Although her sound was still evolving, purists immediately recognized, and anticipated, her growth and potential both as Donny’s daughter and as a unique stand-alone artist.
In the last several years, Lalah’s warm contralto, already familiar in traditional soul and jazz, has garnered larger recognition in the mainstream, winning her first Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance in 2013 with her Snarky Puppy duet, “Something.” Three other awards quickly followed for each year, including her most recent win earlier this year for Best Album for her last album, Lalah Hathaway Live.
With her enviable resume and level of accomplishments (including her Pharrell Williams-produced single, “Surrender,” for the Hidden Figures movie soundtrack), many artists would have been content to coast for a hot minute, but luckily for us Ms. Hathaway isn’t done. An album of completely new music, Honestly, will drop later this year and its first single, “I Can’t Wait,” is a sunny, synth-anchored groove that fans are already celebrating.
Now performing with Mary J. Blige and her Strength of a Woman tour, the “First Daughter of Soul” spent a few moments with Knowshi sharing details about Honestly, her Grammys and if there’s a theme or message in the music:
KNOWSHI: Since the last time we connected with you Lalah, there have been three more Grammys you’ve won, so congratulations!
LALAH HATHAWAY (LH) – “Thank you! Thank you so much. It’s amazing isn’t it? Don’t even make any sense (chuckles), it’s crazy!”
KNOWSHI: You’ve been dope forever though, what took them all so long?
LH- “I have no idea, awards are not really even anything that I [often] think about. Earlier in my career, I had moments where I thought, ‘Wow, I wish this would happen for me,’ but I wouldn’t trade my journey or my life for anything. I don’t really question it, because the accolades…..I’m not doing music for that.”
KNOWSHI: No doubt. We’re glad you are available to chat with us today Lalah, esp. now with new music to share. What’s the story on Honestly, what sound are you aiming for, if any?
LALAH HATHAWAY- “People have always associated me with a live sound, which is a beautiful thing. This new record harkens back to the 90s for me, like the “Heaven Knows,” “Baby Don’t Cry,” the (producer) Chuckie Booker and Keith Crouch records. The music is a lot more rhythmic.”
KNOWSHI: What’s the response you’ve heard for the new song, “I Can’t Wait”?
“Fans are telling me that it’s both a new style for me and a return to ‘the old sound,’ there have been interesting reactions from folks. If you know anything about me, you know I’m going to stretch [stylistically] and grow and do as many types [of music] as I can, it’s just another one going down the ‘list.’”
KNOWSHI: Where It All Begins, your last studio project, had a host of big-name producers involved, including Mike City, JR Hutson and Dre & Vidal. Any well-known collaborators we need to listen for on Honestly?
LH- “No, just myself working with another producer, Tiffany Gouche (Lloyd, Jill Scott). We did the whole record, all original music we co-wrote. We’re really excited for you all to hear it.”
KNOWSHI: What’s the release date?
LH- “There isn’t one right now, just sometime in the fall. We get the date out there shortly.”
KNOWSHI: Is there a theme to Honestly, or a goal you had in mind while recording the music?
LH- “I don’t think so. I just saw [the album] as a moment where I wanted to create my art and to give you guys, the fans, something to enjoy. Hopefully, whatever you hear will ‘speak’ to you and you’ll have your own ‘space’ for it, you know?”
KNOWSHI: When it comes to singing, whether it’s your father’s classics or your own, what do you wish for listeners to take away from your work?
LH- “There isn’t one—-what I do is put the sound there, and I just hope they are encouraged or it makes them feel. For us, it’s the art that tells the story [we create] and when people hear it, see it or experience it….. what I do, as an artist, is work to provide that moment for them.”