Former American Idol Finalist, La Toya London's New Single,"On Everything" Is On Repeat! Smokin Hot!
All photos are courtesy of La Toya London
Former American Idol contestant, R&B singing sensation, Latoya London is back and making headlines again with her new duet single featuring R&B/ Soul artist, Anthony Hamilton, "On Everything". From the time I heard this future soul classic, I immediately gravitated to the beautifully written love filled lyrics and alluring melodic flow. Latoya's has the voice of an angel! I had the amazing opportunity to catch up with this songbird and this is what she told me about her journey to stardom!
How are you?
I'm good. How are you doing?
I am doing wonderful! Thank you! Where are you calling from?
Oh, that is awesome! Well, La Toya, thank you so much for speaking with me today.
Thanks for having me.
Absolutely! So, tell me a little bit about your background and how you became involved in music?
Sure, I'm a Bay Area native raised in Oakland, CA. I began singing around age 7. The first gig was at my mother's wedding reception. Because my mother saw my talent and wanted to support me, she put me in various talent shows around town. I sang at church and in various youth choirs. One of those was the Youth Chorus, which is a community choir in Oakland and the other was my high school gospel choir. Because I was aspiring to become a famous singer, I auditioned for "Star Search."
Around age 12, my dad would take me into the studio. At age 16, I met a Grammy Award-winning songwriter, Preston Glass. He mentored me and gave me opportunities to sing demos for him. So, by the time I turned 18, I was extremely fluent in the studio and understood what it took to record.
Were your parents in the music business?
No, my parents held regular jobs. I will say this, my mom was a lot more skeptical and protective than my father. She wanted to make sure that I was not taken advantage of in the music industry. On the other hand, my dad, although equally protective and caring, he pushed me to get out there and follow my dreams. He really wanted me to take advantage of the opportunities that came.
Going back a bit, you spoke about being groomed in the studio by Preston Glass. Back in the day, we called that artist development. That seems to be a lost art in today's music industry. What are your thoughts on that?
I think that's a good thing. Artist development gave me the necessary tools and prepared me for where I was headed in this business. I learned a lot about performing on stage and being in the studio. I learned about the do's and the don'ts and how to perfect my craft. Those valuables were lessons I will take with me throughout my entire career.
It's a good thing that you started off young. When you're young, you don't have to worry about bills being paid or anything like that. You can focus solely on your life goals without distractions.
Yes. Learning how to navigate through the industry from childhood until my young adult years, prepped me for what I was going to encounter. That's exactly why when the opportunity to be on American Idol was presented to me, it was so natural for me. I was already performing at a professional level.
That's great. I would love to see more young people taking the time to develop themselves and get to understand and know the business before jumping out there. So, what happened after you graduated high school?
Building upon the foundation which my parents built for me, at age 18, I continued pursuing my music career. I remember sneaking into various clubs, lying about my age, and showing my fake ID that said, I was 21 years of age. I continued performing in talent shows and I even joined a corporate band where we traveled overseas, did big corporate events, and weddings.
A lot of people don't realize that being a wedding singer is a very complicated thing. A wedding is one of the most important and memorable moments of someone’s life. Sometimes as a band you are subjected to drunk and rude people calling out ridiculous musical selection requests. So, anyone that, in my opinion, is extremely polished.
Being in a band and being a solo artist are two different things. How was it transitioning from your band to going into your solo career?
I started off being a solo artist. When I was around 12 years old, I was in a girl's group. Because I held more of the leadership role in the band, being a solo artist was a natural transition. I was in a group called Urban Punk. The group consisted of a rapper, a DJ and me. It was fun, but I didn't feel like I fit in because the genre was different from what I was used to. My fans were even confused because it was a completely different genre. It wasn't what they expected from me. What a lot of people don't realize is that as artists, we love experimenting with different things. On the flip side, because the record industry is a business, you have to be consistent in your branding or you'll lose your audience.
Unfortunately, I learned that lesson the hard way. Quite naturally, I quickly migrated back over into being a solo artist, and that's what I'm doing right now. The rest is history.
Now, you were on American Idol and made it all the way up to the top 4. Wow! What an accomplishment! In my opinion, both you and Fantasia were the strongest vocalists in that line-up, so I had no doubt that doors would open for you because you're so talented!
Thank you so much!
You're welcome. So, tell me, how was the audition process? What was your experience?
You know, I literally slept outside for a few days along with everyone else until they called us into the stadium. Once we got in, I auditioned and made it to the next round.
So that's a continual process until you make it to the big stage?
Who were your running mates on American Idol?
Fantasia and Jennifer Hudson. Simon Cowell called us the three Divas.
Yes, all three of you guys can sing your behinds off!
You're welcome. You know American Idol to singers was what a Keenen Ivory Wayans TV series, In Living Colors was to comedians.
Mostly everyone on that show went on to stardom. And that's the same as American Idol. Most of the people who came off that show not only have great careers but sustainable ones.
Now you must tell me, is Simon Cowell the same way off-camera that he is on camera?
During the show, yes. When the cameras were on, we knew because of his persona that he was going to be critical, straightforward, and discourteous regardless of you being offended or not. On another note, when we encountered him off-camera, we saw a different side of him. Surprisingly, he wasn't mean but rather quiet and pleasant. He was just a normal guy. His job was to put on this tough persona, so that's what he did. He was pretty cool!
I guess it can be looked at in two different ways. You can either be crushed by what he says, or you can use it as a tool to grow from. You can tell yourself, “What doesn't kill me will make me stronger”.
To me, you have become stronger! Have blossomed into becoming an amazing artist! To me, you have become stronger! Some amazing opportunities came to you from being on that show. God has truly blessed you and I'm extremely proud of you!
You're welcome, so tell me about some of the doors that have opened as a result of you being on American Idol?
There were a lot of opportunities that opened for me after being on American Idol. I even explored the world of acting. Since then, I have come back to singing because singing is something that I love to do.
But yes, many doors open for me and the acting arena. In fact, I performed in, "Redemption of a Dog" with Snoop Dogg. It was Snoop Dogg's gospel musical. Recently, I wrapped up a tour. I was in a stage play called, Set it Off. The stage play was based on the Queen Latifah and Jada Pickett movie, Set it off. Because I started acting, music took a backseat, but now I'm bringing it back to the forefront because music is my first love. I missed that element of my life. I think it's time to come back to it.
So, you began acting on Broadway. At what point did your love for acting develop? Was it something that you always loved to do, or was it something that you decided to explore?
It kind of fell in my lap. In my childhood, I performed in Christmas plays, but nothing to this magnitude. When I was on American Idol, a few people suggested that I would do great on Broadway. growing up in an urban city and not being exposed to musical theater I thought it was kind of corny. I've heard of Broadway, I just never experienced it. Of course, after experiencing it, I felt like wow, this is amazing!
My first real experience with acting is when I was approached to do a musical in Los Angeles. Once I agreed to the offer, I began attending rehearsals. It was great because I was able to sing and act but mostly singing After that, spawn another opportunity to be in The Color Purple. That was the first time I ever had to learn a script. This was a big deal! I mean, this was a major production with a major script. I had to learn the songs, and the script, then you go into the audition room and become that character. But I was determined to ace this because I really wanted to be in this musical. The Color Purple is legendary.
Yes, it is. Great story. In fact, I went to Morningside High School in Inglewood, CA with the talented actress that played Whoopi Goldberg's sister. But Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover did an extraordinary job in that screenplay.
Yes, they did.
So, did you get the role?
Yes! In fact, my audition went so well that I got the gig, and I was given the role of Nettie.
How exciting! It's after the fact, but congratulations. If they would have given that role to anybody else, they would have made a huge mistake.
Did The Color Purple Tour or were they more of a stationary Broadway show?
It was either going to be a tour or just being on Broadway. They hired me for the tour. I toured with The Color Purple Broadway show for about three years. I really enjoyed it! So basically, it wasn't till I was on American Idol that I was approached to do musical theater. Saying yes to that opportunity opened the door to musical theater and Broadway. That's how my career on Broadway began.
Was learning so many lines challenging for you?
No, because I grew up having to learn songs. I learned songs by writing the lyrics down. This way, it became muscle memory for me. With theater, you have to do what works best for you. There is no one size fits all method. Every actor takes a different approach to their learning style.
For me, the best way I learn is by understanding what was going on in the scene. My approach to learning a screenplay was different from my approach to learning a song. See, if you know what's going on in the scene, you'll know what your line is, because that only makes sense.
For instance, if someone walks over to the desk and grabs a pen, then you know that your line is, “why would you grab that pen” I'm just making this up (laughs). That triggers me to remember my lines because I would say, “she got the pen, so my next line is this or that?” So, that type of flow helps bring the lines back to my memory.
Is Broadway flexible to the point where they would allow you to adlib?
Now that's the hard part. In many plays that aren't Broadway, they might allow you a little more flexibility, but in Broadway, there is no flexibility. You have to learn the lines line by line.
In Broadway, every word counts including the “and the (The’s) and that’s.” You're not allowed to create your own little propositions. You are not allowed to adlib whatsoever.
That's understandable because one word missing can change the whole fabric of the story.
Exactly. You have to make sure that you're on point at all times. But going back to what we were speaking about earlier and how to learn lines, I would say the key is repetition and understanding what's happening in the scene.
Let's talk about personal life, family, and industry. How do you toggle between the two?
Good question. It's definitely a marriage. Because of what I do, and being out on the road touring, I have missed a lot of important family functions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays. When you make the decision to be a part of this industry, you, your friends, and your family must come to an understanding that there will be times that you will not be able to be there for important events.
With every great thing that you achieve, there’s a cost, and sometimes that cost is your time. I'm grateful because my family and friends are extremely supportive of me and what I do. That helps quite a bit. Additionally, being gone all the time puts a strain on your romantic relationships. It's not always convenient for your spouse or significant other to join you while you're touring because of job restraints. It's a balancing act. Once again, it's so important to have a family who is supportive of you and that understands that what you do is not only putting food on your table, but also helping them. It's your livelihood.
How does race play a factor in getting opportunities and this industry?
As far as acting. I noticed lately that more roles are opening for not only people of color but all nationalities. I think that's fantastic! There has been a shift. In the past, Broadway roles for people of color were very limited.
As far as the music world, as of today, I haven’t had any problems. I’m not saying that I won't experience anything, but as of today, I have not witnessed or seen anything that I would deem to be racist. I will say this.
Depending on the genre of music that you're in, it’s more challenging for other people of color to break into other genres than it is for other nationalities like people from a Caucasian background to break into the urban music market. It's almost like it's a nuance but to the industry it's amazing! But if people of color try to break into the country or pop music genre, it’s harder for us to break in. So again, although I've not personally experienced it, it has been my observation. The more I expand in my music, hopefully that will not be the case, but we'll see.
What is your favorite all-time project that you've worked on?
The Color Purple because it was such a powerful story. It never got old. We were moved through laughter and tears every night.
You talked earlier about playing the role of Nettie in The Color Purple. What did you like most about that character?
I loved her because she was fun, loving, encouraging, and daring. Nettie didn't take any mess! In that role. I fought for myself, my family, and my sister. She was an amazing sister!
Not only did I enjoy playing the role of Nettie, but it was also fun watching the other characters in her act as well. I loved the way they put the overall story together. On stage, it was amazing!
The interesting thing was, they didn't use the same music from the movie. They brought a group of phenomenal iconic producers, songwriters, and musicians together like Quincy Jones and Brenda Russell to create music for The Color Purple. You came to the show expecting to hear the same music out of the movie, but after you left you didn't even miss it because the music was that good. you didn't say oh they didn't do this or that song because out of there feeling fulfilled. The music was just beautiful. Hands down, The Color Purple was my favorite project and favorite character role.
Can you tell me about, Set It Off?
Yes, we recently wrapped that play. The character I played was, Stoney. It’s the same role Jada Pinkett played in the film. There was a boatload of emotions that this production brought out of me. There were a lot of highs and lows. Out of all the Productions that I've been a part of, "Set it Off" stretched me the most. I'm grateful because it pushed me into becoming a better actress because it brought out so many emotions within one piece.
The narrative of the story was that she lost her brother and because she was so desperate to get out of the hood, her friends pressured her into robbing a bank. Then there's the loyalty factor but on the other hand, she wants to be free and experience life outside of the hood. Overall, I wouldn't say that it was challenging but it definitely pushed me. But I really enjoyed it.
Have you ever been approached by Tyler Perry to do one of his plays or movies?
I did work with Tyler Perry. I was in one of his stage plays called, Madea on The Run. The tour had about a 1 1/2 year run before it went to DVD. That was another great experience. It was amazing seeing how he runs his operation.
I'm sure it was. He seems to me to be a person that dots every I and crosses every T.
Yes, he runs a very tight ship. Tyler Perry does not play around!
He doesn't look like he does.
Yes, and that’s why, after all these years, he’s still going strong. But that's exactly what I respect about him.
Now you released an album in 2005 called Love & Life?
I love that album! Some of my favorite songs on that album are, Anything, More, Learn to Breath. Ok, I must admit I loved them all! I just love your voice!
Yes, making the love & Life album was a cool experience. I really enjoyed the process!
Speaking of albums, who are some of the other artists that you’ve worked with?
I've worked with the legendary jazz saxophonist, Najee, the legendary songwriter who mentored me, Preston Glass, and recently I wrote a song in which I recorded a duet with Anthony Hamilton. Being in the studio with Anthony Hamilton was amazing! He was so much fun!
Who would you like to work with in the future?
Being that you've now made it to a level that so many people aspire to be, you balance your moral values and your career?
The good thing is that I have not been approached to do anything out of my comfort zone. The only thing I can think of, if there was an outfit that I had to wear that I was uncomfortable with, I would say, no, that's not for me. Or if I was asked to do a kissing scene while I was married and my husband and I agreed that I would not do a kissing scene I wouldn’t do that either. Honestly, if I wasn't married, I still wouldn't do it because that's not something that I felt comfortable doing. As of today, I haven't been faced with those types of decisions. If I was on TV, that would be harder to fake. In Hollywood, you can either do what they ask you to do, or they'll find someone else to do it. They're not going to modify it for you. They look at it like this, there are plenty of other actors out there with big names that will be happy to fill that position.
So yes, I do agree that it is a thing, but you have to stand your ground and stay true to your boundaries. All money isn't good money. There's lots of ethical ways to get it. That's not the only way to make money. You can always take another role.
You can always research that and figure out what that is for you. I think it is extremely important to stand your ground. Because at the end of the day, you don’t want to look back and regret the decisions that you made. If you make bad decisions, it will take a toll on how you feel about yourself and your self-esteem. Where are the first protectors, so you don't want to betray yourself. Doing that will only eat at you.
You're absolutely spot on. All of us Latoya London fans are wondering what's next for you. What do you have cooking in your kitchen? Any new projects? Can you give us the scoop?
You want the tea? (laughs)
Yes, I want the tea girl! (laughs) So come on with it!
Well, I'm currently finishing up my album now. As I mentioned before, I have a duet with Anthony Hamilton. I'm really excited about sharing that!
Is the duet with Anthony Hamilton going to be your first single release?
It's highly probable that it will be.
What's the name of the song?
The song is called, On Everything.
Awesome! Any other goodies on there?
I may have another surprise, but that's still something in the works. This album will be my second full project. Although Love & life was my first full project, over the years, I've released a few singles.
What was the name of the single she released?
Faith in love, the breeze, last song here called, "Forever". Forever will be on my new project as well.
Do you do any of your own writing?
Yes. On the first album I wrote about five songs out of the 14, but on this new project, I was involved in the writing process of every song on the album.
That's great because nobody can tell your story like you.
Exactly. Going through so many life experiences has caused me to mature and evolve into the woman that I am today. Therefore, I was able to take those real experiences and use them in my songwriting.
Latoya, I can't tell you enough how proud I am of you! You are a powerhouse You are a powerhouse you have the voice of an Angel. I have no doubt that your new release is going to be "fire" and that your life will continue to be successful. Because you're such a hard worker and you're so amazingly talented, you deserve every bit of your success.
Thank you Gina!
You're welcome! In closing, what advice would you give to someone aspiring to do what you do?
I would say, “if you feel it and see yourself doing it, it’s possible. Completely possible! Don’t be concerned about the naysayers and what others think of you because they're not in your skin, neither are they in your body. Always remember your dreams aren't their dreams. Listen to that voice inside of you. if you can feel it, if it’s real inside of you and you can see yourself out there, then it is possible. So, move forward into your purpose.
So beautifully said. Thank you very much Latoya! What an honor to speak with you! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with the Indie Post about your creative journey. I'm sure your story will inspire so many people. May God richly bless you and your family, and I wish you all the success in the world! God bless you.
Thank you so much, I appreciate you. I pray and wish all blessings for you as well!
Awe thank you Latoya! You’re Amazing!
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