Grammy nominee Maysa Leak is a soulful jazz chanteuse doing music on her own terms.
This former lead singer for the UK acid jazz band Incognito and background vocalist for Stevie Wonder has released 12 solo albums. Her latest offering, “A Very Maysa Christmas,” is her first holiday record.
“It was important to me, especially during these times, to do this CD,” she explained, as we had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory in Live Casino in Baltimore, Maryland. “On this CD I did a song called ‘Pray For Peace’ that my girlfriend Wanda suggested I do. It’s an old Edwin Hawkins song. We definitely need peace now! We’ve always needed it, but we definitely need it now. Seems like an onslaught of craziness going on, more now than I’ve recognized in my entire life.”
The 48-year-old vocalist is currently sharing her message of peace and other holiday gems on the Dave Koz & Friends Christmas Tour. Maysa has joined jazz saxophonist Dave Koz and music greats Jonathan Butler and Christopher Cross on the outing that will play 23 cities over 26 days.
A robust touring schedule like that one would be grueling for most live singers, but Maysa is used to putting in hard work.
“Earlier this year I had gallbladder surgery and went back on stage 10 days later,” she confessed. “My work ethic is one of the best ever!”
Her tenacity and perseverance also shows in her concerts. She recently performed a concert at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA and sang for three and a half hours. See, Maysa knows that most artists aren’t making money from CD sales anymore and only turn a profit from concert shows.
“We have no other way to make money but live now—the live experience. So if you don’t give people a great experience, then guess what, you’re not going to make any money. People aren’t going to keep coming out supporting you, buying your records, and buying your t-shirts if you keep doing that and showing up and showing out and acting like a fool,” she offered.
The Baltimore-based entertainer isn’t just a stickler for bringing her all to the stage, but she’s conscientious of how she treats her fans throughout the entire experience.
“You can’t get anywhere being two and three hours late to your shows and then talk s—t to the people when you get on stage and then only do a couple songs and leave. What the hell is that? People pay $50 and $60 to hear you sing and all you’re giving them is that? Yeah, I may go to an extreme and give you three and a half hours onstage, but people are happy as hell when they leave my show,” she expressed, before adding: “That’s the whole point, people should be happy!”
Maysa also has a three-disc live album called “Live: At The Birchmere” that fans only can purchase at her concert shows.
The ‘Inside My Dream’ singer has worked with the who’s who of the business, but still hopes of collaborating with one iconic producer. “My dream is Quincy Jones. I just want to sing in front of him to see if he likes my voice or not,” she beamed.
While she’s shared the stage with her musical hero Chaka Khan before, she had desires to working with her again. “I’d like to work with her more. I’d actually like for her to produce my vocals and hear what she could do with that,” she said.
Maysa’s 2013 CD, “Blue Velvet Soul,” garnered her first Grammy nomination for Best Traditional R&B Performance for her song ‘Quiet Fire.’ She plans to release a new album next year; one that she says will have a lot more funk.
This self-managed vocalist is ready to find a team that can take her career to another level—”I still pray for a manager. I’ve had people help me over the years, but I’ve never had a solid year-by-year manager.”—but will continue to maintain things herself in the meantime.
“It’s hard and it’s not easy, but the fact that I’m still in the game is my prize,” she concluded.