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.