Thursday, June 10, 2010



Wednesday, June 9, 2010


A Quick Interview with "The Man Behind The Camera Derek Blanks"

This was my first time shooting with Mr. Blanks and his crew and I have to say I was a nervous wreck (laughing). I have had the worst experiences with photographers and honestly, I am not a fan of being photographed. Some photographers can be very intense and focused, which is understandable because photographers are artists and they are passionate about their craft. They generally don't like input. I know because I am loving my new fascination with becoming a great photographer myself. I remember telling Mr. Blanks how silly I am like Lucille Ball, but that I would love for people to see a sexy side of me as well. My Red Locs were inspired by Lucille Ball and I love making people laugh. Not only did he capture my inner and my outer spirit, he made time for me and blessed me with a rare interview. He doesn't like to say much, but his work speaks volumes.

Ledisi:Where are you originally from?

Blanks:Jackson, Mississippi

Ledisi:Why photography? What or who inspired that?

Blanks:My primary background is in Painting and Illustration. I originally used photography as a medium for reference when working with portraits (painting and illustration).  I made the transition into photography because it provided instant gratification, where as in painting, the turnaround, for me, was 30-40 hrs. 

Ledisi:What was your first shoot like?

Blanks:Pretty cool. I got to meet dead people lol. No, my first memorable shoot took place in a cemetery while in art school. 

Ledisi:Has this profession been everything you hoped it would be?

Blanks:It has exceeded my expectations. I am truly blessed and thankful for being afforded each opportunity that has come my way, good and bad, as I try to make every situation a learning experience.

Ledisi:What or who do you live for?

Blanks:I live for God, my family and myself. 

Ledisi:Favorite song?Why?

Blanks:That’s a tough one... I’ll go with “On the Ocean” by K’Jon

Ledisi:Favorite shoot?Why?

Blanks:My very first Jennifer Hudson photo shoot because the energy was great, she (Jennifer) was my first breakthrough artist and because the shoot also produced timeless images. 

Ledisi:Who do you listen to the most?

Blanks::Honestly, I’m really well rounded and listen to lots of great things and people. It kind of depends on my mood or the setting.

LEDISI ON SUNDAY BEST see it on BET June 13, 2010

photo by BunnyBoots Photography 2010
make-up by Ronald Landers

"Backstage with my Stylist Justin "Mr. Polished" Ellis. Thanks Justin for making me comfortable and elegant."

Part 2 Europe: The Journey Overseas

photo by BunnyBoots Photography 2010 " Thanks Mandy "

Day 5
Finally!I woke up from almost a day and a half of jet lag and managed somehow to walk to sound check. As I made my way to the Paradiso, I remembered walking down this same street 6 years ago, imagining myself living there. I reminisced about how excited the people were, anticipating the mysteries of what the night would bring. The cool wind from the water gave a soft chill as I looked around at the Dutch and the tourists. So much freedom in Amsterdam, I remember thinking to myself. This could not be the same place where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis in the attic, could it? Where she stayed was just a few miles away from my hotel. It's so beautiful here. Every time I come back I think of all my memories, my friend Harry helping me to find my father and my friend Kees taking me out for curried chicken. So much history this place holds for me and so many beautiful memories.

This was the first time I walked into the Paradiso and the staff knew me immediately. They were surprised to see me come in by myself. The party had already begun with Mos Def and his DJ who made the big stage rumble. A crowd filled the big room which was a across from our stage which was in the smaller room. After catching Mos Def for a bit, I went to sound check and told my sound engineer I was going to head back to the hotel. I felt really sick and all I wanted to do was to lay down.

Back in my room, my phone rang and it was Sandra St. Victor. We talked for almost an hour and it felt good to catch up with my friend. I wish more singers would uplift one another and not be so competitive.I guess that's the nature of the music business. She encouraged me to keep doing my thing and encouraged her to finish another CD. Time passed quickly and before I knew it - it was show time. I was ready to go and that small room was packed! People hugged the stage and as I walked on, the sound of their cheers almost brought me to tears. It was a magical night. This time around I did not have the chance to hang out with my friends but they really came out and I felt their love and happiness in seeing how I had grown as an artist. I just hope they know I love them and appreciated their presence. Amsterdam as usual showed us love. After the show, I went straight back to my hotel and went to bed. Earlier, as I soared on stage, so were the Ashes in Iceland and they loomed around us. We were oblivious to what was to come...

Day 6
The next day was the train ride to Germany. I loved the big Cathedral outside the train station, it clearly let us know we were now in Germany. No time to check out the sites, we were off to sound check. I had a chance to walk around near the club and visit a little grocery store across the street. The smell of the herbs and fresh fruit in the store reminded me to embrace the little things. Found some tea and my brief tour brought me back to the reason why I was there...

After changing into my stage gear, I walked up to the club and there were photographers and fans waiting outside the back entrance. I signed autographs and took pictures of course, but honestly I was shocked that they were there! People knew me here? When I hit the stage I realized, yes, they do, they know you. They sang and danced and I had to tell them not to shoot video or take photos. That annoyed them I'm sure (laughing), but the music kept everyone happy. The best part of the first show in Germany was watching the band members solo on “Alright.” It was amazing! The crowd ate it up.

Later that night...almost 1 am, we were all hungry and we walked to Burger King, which was supposed to be around the corner but ended up being far, far away. We laughed and joked about the walk and kept encouraging our bass player to keep going. On the way something really cool happened, we saw big huge posters of my face and the show advertised on a fence along with other artists. I had never seen my show advertisements posted all over the place before. It brought me to tears and we were all excited to see posters everywhere. I remember walking past posters of major artists in New York City thinking one day that was going to be my CD poster plastered everywhere. Wow....I thought, I'm getting closer to that dream.

As we arrived in Berlin, everyone was tired but excited to see what the city had to offer. I had been there before with my best friend Dexter (RIP) so it held many memories for me. This show was going to be a challenge for me because Dexter constantly begged me to come to Berlin and perform. "They need to see you! They will love you!" he kept saying. I had finally made it to Berlin and he was not there physically to enjoy it with me. All day I felt weird because I could not call my mom and tell her how painful this was for me. But of course, I sucked it up and got on that stage and did that show for Dexter. I sang everything like he would have wanted me too. People came and they loved what we gave. I even made it through without crying.

That night some of the band members and I went out and walked along The Berlin Wall. We took photos and talked about the trip and looked forward to heading home. But.....The next day will be a day I will never forget. Well... That next week I will never forget.

Day 7-Day 12
Two band members left early and the rest of us took separate flights. My tour manager had a different flight as well. My manager also left early. By the time we arrived at the airport in London, our flights had been canceled. No one had answers and the Ash from the volcano in Iceland hovered over most of Europe. The Polish President died in a plane crash and his funeral was that week. This was the first televised election in Britain and the worse traffic jam in the sky since 9 /11.

No one was going anywhere. Three people out of my unit had made it home safely. The rest of us were stuck in Europe for 4 more days. I had to take care of all 6 of us. Made the best of the stay by making new friends, writing songs and eating fish and chips by the London Bridge. I was finally able to see Abbey Road Studios where my favorite group the Beatles, recorded their hits. Some of us whined about being there and all of us longed to be home. I learned a lot about patience and about myself as a person during this time. I also learned a lot about people and how they behave when they are in distress. The most important thing I learned is to wait on God.

My background singer/friend Kamaria sent this to me after the Ash cleared up a little,"up on the mountain my Lord spoke out of his mouth came fire and smoke"

I love Europe and as always created a lot of great memories. Can't wait to go back. I'll return once the dust settles...”


I learned so much about Tom Joyner while on his cruise. Not only does he love music, but he loves giving back to the community and elevating the youth. I left there inspired by Roland Martin, Soledad O’Brien, Jeff Johnson and Minister Farrakhan. There were discussions about religion, relationships and black colleges. Being around all these people on one cruise talking about a variety of hot topics, taught me so much and highlighted how beautifully eclectic we are as African Americans. We have so many different views but want the same goals, Peace, Love and Respect as a race.

The comedians had their say and boy did they say whatever came to mind. Laughter puts everything back into perspective. I also learned a lot hanging out with Legends like Charlie Wilson, Ron Isley, Kevon Edmonds and my favorite hang, Frankie Beverly and Maze. There was a tribute to Frankie Beverly and Maze and I was chosen to sing "Happy Feelings." I cannot explain to you how uncomfortable it is every single time, to sing a song to the original artist who made it a hit. My nerves always get the best of me, LOL! It was also a treat to hang out with KEM while we watched Melissa Morgan perform. There were so many wonderful moments on the cruise.

Hip Hop night was great! Seeing Doug E. Fresh, Monie Love, Common, Fat Boys, Arrested Development and so many more. That was my favorite night ever! Doug E. Fresh stole the show! More great moments took place off the ship, hanging out with my dear friend/writer/ radio personality, Jawn Murrary. The weather was awesome on the beach. Here is a photo we took on the beach. Thanks to Mr. Tom Joyner, for letting me be a part of a wonderful fantastic voyage!

photo by BunnyBoots Photography 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


TED WINN Gives us Balance

photo by D. Blanks

When I first heard the song " Moving Forward" by Ted Winn, I was riding in a car in LA with his Manager Mr. Roland Jack, who is also my Tour Manager and the General Manager for LedHead Productions. He played this song and I began to cry and tweet about it on twitter. I was moved by the lyrics and the production of the vocals and music. That one song led me to seek out the history of Ted Winn. I listened to a full day of TED and SHERRI’s CD as well as their individual projects. Sherri is Sherri Jones-Moffett, an incredible singer whose debut solo CD “Renewed,” received a Grammy Nomination in 2009. Both artists have released amazing projects both together and separately. This week "Balance" is in The Top 10 on the Gospel Music Charts and has become a favorite in the Gospel Community. I wanted to know what was the inspiration for “Balance,” I could have asked him about the group but... it's really time to talk about TED WINN, the solo artist. In some ways, “Balance” speaks of his independence and his connection to GOD.

Ledisi: What inspired your New CD Balance?
Ted: Balance was inspired by my desire to see people live life in a healthy & happy state. Sometimes we are so consumed with the routine we become mono-dimensional in our focus and forget to engage life on EVERY level. I hope my music will be a vehicle to transport people to a more balanced place - to look at the glass half full and realize how incredibly valuable they are.

Ledisi: What's your favorite song on your new CD?
Ted: My favorite song on the CD is "God Believes In You" and that's largely because it's the first song I wrote for the project and served as a catalyst to help me feel comfortable doing a solo CD. It speaks to the fear of failure that paralysis each of us at some point. It dismisses the notion that you cannot be successful unless certain people support or validate you. It raises the GAZE of the listener to see over EVERY obstacle and focus on the fact that the GOD who gave you vision will ALWAYS give you provision - so we can be comforted in the fact that no matter who comes or goes, GOD believes in us and since he's on our side, failure is NOT an option.

Ledisi:How do you Keep Balance?
Ted:I keep balancing by being intentional. I spend time with my family and friends. I make it a point to do something, i.e. music, that I love. I also read, go to Broadway shows, museums and plan vacation/down time. Thinking about life from different people's perspectives also keeps me balanced. In my opinion, it allows me to appreciate life to the fullest!

Singer To Singer: Yazarah aka Purple St. James

To find a word to describe Yazarah aka Purple St. James, is a silly idea. She's a performer you must see live. She effortlessly makes people blush and has no shame while doing so. It is so exciting to witness this energy on and off the stage, still living and breathing in 2010. She's petite but struts a mean stiletto and possesses a voice filled with opera,rock,and soul.

Ledisi: So.. Ms. Purple St. James....Where are you originally from?
St. James: Washington, DC Proper Born and Raised :-) All day honey!!! And a proud graduate of Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

Ledisi:What inspired you to be in this business?

St. James:It wasn't the business at all that inspired me to
live for music...
My story starts in the church at 7 years old,I was so short that the pastor had to hold me up so the congregation could see me when I sung. I had a very mature voice which made it so moving. But, they swore I was in the tot's choir until I was 10 years But it was there, were I saw how music could change a heart.And I wanted to be part of what did that, changing a heart and mind for the better. I knew God had given me something special and I wanted to use it
to please him and help people....
When I was 10 I started singing outside of church and my first gig was the Kennedy Center in a youth talent search.
I ended up winning first place and I don't know if it was winning first place, the roar of the crowed or that life size
trophy. But, it was at that moment I knew I wanted to perform for the rest of my life....

Ledisi: You sang background for Ms. Badu, done recordings with Marcus Johnson and most recently formed a partnership and in a group with Grammy Nominated Foreign Exchange, how does it finally feel to complete "The Ballad of Purple St. James" and tell us about the process and the meaning behind the title.

St. James: Yes grace of God I've been a lot of places and seen a lot of things. (Give thanks)
But I feel that I have been really fortunate, to enter into friendship and partnership with Nicolay and Phonte' because out of every musical venture I have been a part of this is the one where I have had the most autonomy.
I've been writing songs with Phonte' now for almost 10yrs now and Nicolay has become a music brother as well...
They believe in my talent and the vision I have for my career.... Working with them brought back the joy I had previously lost for making music.I didn't have to write the perfect record for the music business working with them, I just had to write the best record for me. They really set out to help me produce my truth... And it's resonating with people.
Gotta admit it's excellent middle finger to the previous situation I was in where I was told that people didn't like my first record "Hear Me" and that my image (lack of racial ambiguity) was why I couldn't sell records....
God be thanked nether of those things are a problem now. Weren't then, and now I have proof that truth sales records... (Humbly sticks out tongue)

It was after my last deal that Ms. St. James was born....The very mention of my name caused me so much pain I went in to writers block and then depression. I had been forced to put out a record that had confused my fans I almost lost everything I cared about.... Including the joy of making music.

After a while I emotionally recovered and decided not to quit completely,folks like you Ledisi and Anthony Hamilton particularly made me jump back in the saddle again.Your encouragement and that of others was priceless.
But I still wasn't sold on making another record. I started writing songs in hopes of landing them on other artists, as well as singing hooks. And started writing under the name Purple St. James.The name triggered something in me, I was writing songs without boxes (meaning without worrying about what people thought) And eventually got the courage to start working on my own project and because "Purple" was the key to my brand new freedom I decided to dedicate this
album to her. Later I teamed up with Phonte and Nicolay to finish the remainder of the project and the rest is history.
I almost feel like I'm introducing myself for the first time.
Because this is the type project I've always wanted to do...

Ledisi: When people come to your live shows it's very erotic in a Grace Jones kinda way and your energy is electric.Lol!What do you hope people will take from seeing you live and experiencing your music in their ears?

St. James: I really believe that my fans deserve my absolute best so I take what I do on albums and turn it up ten notches. I'm willing to work myself into an asthma attack to make sure leave full and satisfied.
I've always said my shows are half juke joint, half church service.

Ledisi: Yes, Half juke joint , half church service.(Laughing)

St. James: You'll leave my show energized,spiritually full and yes maybe even ready to make

Ledisi: (Laughing)What do you love most about being a woman and being a chocolate woman?

St. James: Hemmm...What I love about being a woman is the opportunity to be just as strong and fearless
as my male colleagues. But to quote "LL. Kool J" also "surrender act tender be gentle and kind".-Round the Way Girl
Now what I love about being a chocolate woman, is that now that I've grown a little.
I don't focus as much on others making it handicap. I am Ghanaian and in Africa we come in many shades shapes and sizes. Just like here in the states.But being an american born african I feel like the states is the most guilty of dividing up our beauty by shades...
So I guess aside from representing my more chocolaty sistah's (who don't get as much shine as I would like to see) I'm glad to just represent beautiful African women as a whole.That's the angle I want to focus on now, because there are already enough people trying to make Africans and the afro-american community divide itself by color cast....
And our little brown babies of all shades need desperately to see us shake this off so we can focus on the real issues.
Like economic diversity and equal education and strengthening the black family...

Ledisi: Wow.. great answer! What have you learned that you wish someone told you before becoming an artist?

St. James: It's okay to say no, and to let go of things that glitter but are not golden.Please me first than I can focus I the rest of the world around me.I've learned how to protect my peace and make it important to me tell my truth and not worrying so much about what the world thinks about it.
So glad I know that now...

Ledisi: Alright here comes a bunch of quick questions. What is your favorite word?

St. James Awww....I don't know if I should say....My favorite word is Shiiiiitttt! and when I say it I mean it.May I use it in a sentence....

Ledisi: This is your interview you say what you want!(laughing)

St. James: "Shit I wish they would" or " I was laughing like shiiiiiiit!"
I know I'm wrong but it feels so right when I'm saying it, smh (hanging head in shame)

Ledisi: (Laughing) What is your favorite sound?

St. James:The Ocean at night.Brings me so much peace, I really get some of my greatest revelations at the beach or lakeside.
Could be because I'm a Cancer and we are most relaxed near the water...

Ledisi: What do you love?

St. James:God, Music, Family (In that order)

Ledisi: Who do you listen to the most?

St. James: My Heart (Trick Answer)