I appreciate kind-hearted celebrities, and Levelle is one of them. Conversation with him about his music career was a breeze thanks to his laidback, fun, and down-to-earth nature. Levelle has the perfect recipe for superstardom, from humble beginnings to becoming a highly sought-after R&B artist. Those of us who are now considered "grown and sexy" love his raw natural talent. It's lovely to know that there are artists out there who haven't given up on the classic R&B sound and are willing to continue writing the songs we loved growing up. As Levelle shared his journey with me, I'm excited for you to learn more about him as well. This is what we discussed.
Hi Lavelle, it's such an honor to speak with you today. It's an honor to be here with you. Thank you so much.
I got a chance to listen to your voice, and I tell you, the word is polished! You have such a polished voice! My gosh, you're awesome. Thank you.
You’re welcome. Now, let's get into the juicy stuff. (laughs) Ok
Firstly, what part of the world are you in? I'm in Kansas City, KS.
Have you ever seen a real-life tornado? Yeah, we have.
Have you ever experienced an earthquake? Yes, I have been in one. We’ve had a few of them come through here.
Oh wow! Scary stuff. Yes, it’s definitely something different.
Many people say the same thing about California because we have earthquakes. Right. The crazy thing is that I've been to California, and I felt a small earthquake while I was there.
Oh yes, what did you think? I was like, “what is going on? Is the world ending or what? (laughs) Everything was shaking and moving! I was like, “This shaking is seriously disrespecting my feet and equilibrium.”
I hear you. I've been in California most of my life; trust me, you never get used to them. So, Levelle, let's talk about your childhood. What was it like? Where did you grow up, and how did you first know that you had this gift for music? Well, I grew up in Kansas City, KS. My interest in music was ignited by both my mother's and father’s side of the family, as they were musically inclined. I come from a family of singers and musicians.
People often assume that I began my singing career by singing, but that is not the case. The first instrument I learned to play was the drums.
Wow! I'm sure you're a great drummer. Where did your love for singing come from? I developed my love for singing by watching my cousin sing. On one occasion, I filled in vocally for someone and did very well. This is my earliest recollection of when I first realized I enjoyed singing. What I enjoyed the most was that I could touch somebody's heart with my voice. As a first-time singer, just watching the crowd's positive response gave me a great feeling, and after all these years, it's still a feeling I crave. Overall, for me, singing came at an early age.
What was your favorite childhood song? As a child, I considered myself a little unusual. I didn't listen to the music that my peers were listening to. Mostly I enjoyed old-school music more than the music of my era. In those days, I recall listening to certain songs and thinking, "man, that guy was aggressive with that song." Artists of that generation brought the lyrics to life by voicing every word passionately and making them come to life! It was powerful! It was powerful! Listening to those songs tells you they meant what they said. It was powerful! For example, one of the songs I used to love listening to growing up was Charlie Wilson's "Burn Rubber. What a great song. Did you hear how you sang that song with so much power and aggression? It was powerful! Other artists I enjoy listening to are Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Sam Cooke, and Teddy Pendergrass's song, “Turn Off the Lights.”
I don't know why but listening to Al Green's music felt great. Above all, I loved singing Sam Cooke’s song, “A Change is Gonna Come.” I loved that song so much that I would sing it repeatedly, only in a higher key, just to see if I could do it.
I am amazed! You were already developing your arranging and composition skills at that age. Yes. A song like that can be vocally challenging for most singers. However, I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could sing it in a higher key. So yes, Sam Cooke was a major influence in my life during my childhood.
I know this is a little bit off the grid, but what was your favorite toy you enjoyed playing with as a child? As a child, I enjoyed riding my bike and playing my drums. I was either playing drums or riding my bike.
What kind of bike did you have? I had a BMX.
Those were cool! I remember those! I always wanted the beach cruiser. Levelle, what was that bike with the big wheels? That was the one I had. Which one? The Huffy?
No, not the huffy. This bike had skinny wheels. I forgot what that was called. Oh yeah, the 10-speed!
Thank you! That would bother me all day if I didn't figure that out. Yeah, that's what I had; I had a 10-speed. Oh yeah, I remember those.
Yeah! Great memories. Hey, what was your favorite candy and ice cream as a child that you liked to buy from the ice cream truck? I would probably say the banana bomb pop. That was my favorite ice cream off the ice cream truck. My favorite candy was hands down, the chico stick.
All right, OK? What was your favorite childhood outfit? Did you have an outfit that, no matter what, your parents could not get you to take it off? I did. I had both Michael Jackson outfits, the red one and the black. Gina, I wore those outfits to death! When I put those outfits on, you couldn't tell me anything! (laughs)
There you go! Levelle, for someone who doesn't know who you are, how would you describe Levelle to them? I’m caring, outgoing, loving, fun, humorous, and just a well-rounded person. Overall, I am an individual who loves people and enjoys seeing them happy. If I see someone in need, I do everything possible to help them and be present for them. I think that pretty much sums up my character.
Awesome! Sounds like you’re a great guy! Sounds like you’re a great guy! When I listen to your music, I hear a strong R&B and neo-soul influence. Have you ever wanted to experiment with other types of music or explore different aspects of your vocal ability? An example of that would be opera or country music. Have you experienced that? Believe it or not, I do enjoy listening to country music. I also enjoy rock and roll. Have you ever heard of a guy by the name of Charlie Pride?
Yes. Ok, well, I was blessed with an opportunity to grace the stage with him and sing one of his songs called “Kiss an Angel.”
Awesome! Yes, it was a memorable experience. Even to this day, there are things that I would like to tap into just because I like music. I don't look at music categorically. My philosophy is this; If music is in you, just let it out. I used to practice this song; “Take me home where the grass is green, and the girls are pretty” That was not an R&B song. So, I never limited myself to a particular genre. I used to sing songs like that also. Because I was also a drummer. I would listen to music and sing it. I try not to put myself in a box.
I agree. I’ve always felt like true singers should be able to sing multiple styles of music, experimenting with multiple tones within their voices. If you put yourself in the box, you stifle your growth. Yes
I remember watching an Instagram post posted by Kenny Lattimore. To my surprise, I learned that he was classically trained in opera. He sang this opera song beautifully. I think it's wise for singers to expand their vocal abilities. Consequently, I believe more doors were open for you if you sing an R&B song and then turn around and hit an operatic note, like Tom on the Tom and Jerry cartoon, “Figaro” (laughs). Right!
What was it like when you were first discovered, and how did it change your life when you realized you were living in the moment you dreamed of? Here in my hometown, I performed everywhere I could. A promoter had been watching my performances for approximately two years. He approached me and told me he had seen my performance at an event they held here for many years for the "Negro League." In this particular event, they put on a huge baseball awards show and brought in notable baseball players worldwide. So he saw me performing at this event and liked what I did.
This connection resulted in him placing me on a major show with R&B singer Trey Songz and Charlie Wilson, former lead vocalist of The Gap Band. So, while I was doing my soundcheck, people started coming into the room to find out who was sound checking. They wanted to know whose voice that was. Amongst those people was Charlie Wilson's wife. It was an amazing feeling to have all those people standing after my soundcheck, inquiring about who I was. That night I had a great performance, and I'm still chasing that feeling. I try not to view myself as someone who has made it. I try my best to stay humble and never be overly confident. I try to stay in that mindset even if I think I made it, and I don't view myself that way.
When you think this way, you'll continue pushing harder to where you want to go. Those who feel they made it, stop pushing. If you always keep the mindset that you haven't made it, you'll continue working hard. And that's what I do.
To have amazing artists such as Trey Song, Charlie Wilson, and the Bar-kays come up to you and tell you, don't ever stop what you're doing because I have a gift; that's a great feeling. They told me that I touched them even in soundcheck. I would have to say, as wonderful and life-changing as that moment was, I remain humble and willing to listen. That moment will always be memorable and one that I cannot describe, but it was an amazing feeling. Because of my love for people, just to know that I've impacted their life in such a positive way drives me crazy. In a good way.
Although you are such a polished singer, there was a time when you sang background vocals for Charlie Wilson. Did you resent the fact that during that period, you just had to do that to make ends meet, but you would have preferred to be singing solo, or is singing background something that you simply have a passion for? Well, for me, the way I viewed it was like this, Charlie Wilson is a legend. So, just to have the opportunity of being on the stage with him and having him watch me was incredible. Additionally, having the opportunity to open for him was an honor. Doing so allowed me time to learn and grow because to be a good leader, you must be a good follower. So, for me, just to even be there was an honor.
Did you ever experience any musical setbacks? In 2019, we were rolling, but everything slowed down when the pandemic hit. That was a difficult period. Coming out of the pandemic, along with Charlie Wilson, drove me to push even harder to launch my solo career. Charlie Wilson groomed me and pushed me so much to where it made me want more. Although I was honored to be where I was, singing backgrounds for Charlie Wilson, I wanted it more. I would say that Charlie is an amazing teacher because he encouraged me to have the mindset to be the best version of myself that I could be. I will always be grateful to him because of what I do as a solo artist. He had the biggest influence on that choice.
I love your humility, and I love that you recognize that. You, I love your humility and your teachable spirit. I'm sure Charlie Wilson is proud of you. Thank you. The crazy thing is, Charlie believed in me so much that even though I didn’t know all the songs or dance routines, he hired me and put me on a Valentine’s Day show with him the following weekend in Kansas City. Can you believe it? The following weekend, I was out touring with him.
That's awesome! You know it was an honor. As I said, the things that I've learned from being around him, I just don't think I would have learned from the new millennial singers. Gina, I can remember the time he had pneumonia, and a doctor had to come into his dressing room and give him an Ivy because he was dehydrated. This happened behind the stage in the dressing room. Although everyone wanted him to cancel the show and reschedule it, he could not because he saw how many people were in the audience and didn't want to let the audience down. Over 6 to 7000 fans had bought tickets to that show.
When Charlie learned how many people were in the audience, he said, “because those people came out to see me, I must go out and deliver. They spent their money.” That's the man that Charlie Wilson is. He's a great guy and a great performer.
And Gina, Charlie Wilson went out there and did that show with pneumonia! Not only did he pull that show off, but he did a great job at it. No one would have known that he had pneumonia. That's his drive, and that’s the love he has for his fans. I learned that you must keep yourself together no matter what to be there for the fans supporting you. Those lessons that I learned are priceless.
Yes! This is so true. So many people focus on the results of achievement but don't look at the journey of achievement. It takes hard work to reach a certain level of success. Unfortunately, most people are unwilling to put in the work it takes. What you learn along the way is priceless indeed. Not only are some artists performing with pneumonia, but some have lost loved ones and found out during a show. Everyone sees the glamour, but they don't realize what it takes to get there.
Because of what they do for a living, many public figures are separated from their families. Some are in relationships and marriages; they break up because their spouse cannot deal with the fact that they're not home as often as in conventional marriages. They have friends who turn their back on them because they become jealous of their wealth status. All sorts of things happen as a result of success. There are many wages of success. Regardless of what that person is going through, they must still deliver. And the clever part is that you must do so without it being detected by the fans. What were the greatest and worst moments of your career thus far? The Greatest moment was when I did a show in Virgins called "Something in the Water.” I think it was around 80,000 people there. Uncle Charlie was on that show, and it was just unbelievable! So, that was one of my greatest moments, and I would say one of my worst was my first week with Charlie Wilson because I didn't know anything and didn't even know what it took to perform behind a legend such as him. One of the problems that I ran into was that I wasn't in shape. I don't know if you've seen Charlie Wilson perform live, but he moves from beginning to end. So, by the second song, I was exhausted. It showed me the importance of having my body in shape internally and externally. As you stated, everyone sees the good but doesn't see the hard work it takes to get there. They don't see behind the scenes, and they don't know about the struggles.
You have a background in church. How does your faith in God and being in the music industry coexist? In everything I do, I pray and ask God to show me the way and guide my footsteps. Anything that's not for me, I ask Him to remove it. I also ask Him to fix my heart to deal with the things He removes from my life for my good. I've learned that sometimes God removes things from your life that You thought were good for you but were not. So, when you ask God to direct your path, you also must be willing to accept what he does in your life. My faith in God is everything to me. Even before I hit the stage, I acknowledge Him and Pray that I will touch someone in that audience.
That's great. I love what you said. It's beautiful. So, tell me about any new projects you have coming up. Anthony Hamilton and I have a song out right now that’s #4 on Billboard called, Fell in Love. My Album, “My Journey Continues,” was released earlier this year. We just released the 2nd single called “Don’t Play with Love,” and I have another song with Raheem Devaughn that will also be coming out.
Congratulations to both of you on that Billboard charting single! Thank you. The song did well. I am on the "Night Tour" with Maxwell, Joe, and Anthony Hamilton.
Where can people pick up your music? Tidal, Sirius FM, Apple Music, and a host of others. It is pretty much everywhere.
You're on tour with Frankie Beverly and Maze. Am I correct? I've been blessed to be out with Frankie Beverly and The Isely Brothers. I’ve been going on tour with them for about a year. Frankie Beverly and Maze were under the management of my previous manager. Sadly, he passed away. His name was Joe Douglas.
I’m so sorry to hear that. Yeah. Thank you. Despite all the ups and downs that I've been through, I'm determined never to give up. This is where my title album comes from, “My Journey Continues” It's about my struggles.
What would you like to say to new artists? I would say do as much as possible in your community and learn as much as possible because you never know who's watching you. Going back to what I said earlier, I got my first shot from a promoter who watched me for two years, and I never knew he was watching me. Even though I had not hit the level of success that I have today, I conducted myself as an artist, and I dressed the part. Another important thing that I would say is that every artist should learn about the business and get much experience as they can. If you're writing songs, put them out there and get them Copywritten. I think it's important that every artist does these things.
What wonderful advice! Last question. Out of Brown eggs and white eggs, which ones taste better, and what makes them different? You got me on that because I honestly can't tell the difference in the taste.
I know, right? At the end of the day, they're all eggs.
Which ones do you buy? Both (laughs)
Awesome! Levelle, it's been an honor and a privilege to interview you. I pray that God will bless you on your journey. I pray that the Lord will bless the works of your hands, be it done according to His will and that He will keep you safe in this time while you're out here on the road. I pray that many of God’s blessings will flow in your life. That’s my prayer for you. Thank you so much!
You're so welcome!