Former American Idol contestant Leah Labelle gets all glammed-up in some cute colorful outfits for Pynk Magazine. Labelle was first introduced to a mainstream music audience during season three of American Idol. She was eventually cut from the show but that didn’t stop her from going after her dreams. She continued to send out virals as well as uploaded her music to YouTube, where she was discovered by music producer Pharrell Williams. He introduced her to Jermaine Dupri and the two are currently co-producing her upcoming project. Labelle also sang Teena Marie’s “Square Biz” at this year’s Soul Train Awards. She is featured in the new issue of Pynk Magazine. Inside, she talked about her biggest musical influence growing up, how she was discovered and why she chose a career in music. Below are some highlights:
On What Made Her Want to Sing R&B
My mom listened to a lot of jazz growing up, but once I got into the gospel part—being around the other girls in the choir, I think I became more aware of R&B and that’s where my heart was drawn. My heart didn’t beat as fast with other music, but when I heard R&B, it was something about it that made me feel a lot different. I live in my feelings. So, I was happy to be able to connect in that way.
On Her Biggest Musical Influence
Lauryn Hill was my biggest influence. After I saw the movie [Sister Act II] and she came out with the Fugees and then ‘The Score’ [Fugee’s album]—I was still too young to have the album, but I snuck. My mom found it and took it and I still went and found another one somewhere but she was everything to me. When ‘The Miseducation [of Lauryn Hill]’ came out, I was highly inspired by everything she represented at the time when she was at her peak. Her lyrics, her melodies, her stories, her voice, her tone, her runs, everything about her—I studied her. I thought I was her at one point. She was really my inspiration in forming my sound.
On Linking Up With Pharrell & Jermain Dupri
I moved to LA five years ago, and I was just recording and doing what I had to do, trying to build my relationships and network, find people to give me studio time. I started singing background for people and going on tour and in the midst of all that I wanted a change. So, I started making You Tube videos and met a friend who was in the industry at the time and said, ‘I started making these You Tube videos, you should, too.’ So I started making them for fun just to build my fan base and it caught Pharrell’s attention and he said he’d been watching for three years and eventually he said it’s the right time to reach out to her. He called JD and asked what did he think of this girl and JD was like, ‘oh yea, she’s awesome, she’s awesome.’ They connected and reached out to me and that’s how that happened