Leona is back!
August 17, 2007
In these frenzied modern times, there are few people who can seemingly slow time and capture a nation's attention for the duration of a song. But look back to the end of 2006 and Leona Lewis provided those moments every single week.
The X Factor's clear favourite from beginning to end, she transcended the show, receiving rave reviews way beyond the usual confines of the TV talent contest.
Blessed with a voice of power and restraint, capable of heart stopping intensity and a playful light touch, the 22 year old from Hackney, East London was never going to be an ordinary talent show winner. Six months ago, her massive Christmas Number 1 A Moment Like This smashed the world record for downloads by selling 50,000 in the first half an hour. The single sold 600,000 copies in its first week, making Leona the fastest selling debut female artist of all time.
But the world has seen no more rush releases since then, no gimmicky TV tie-in. Leona has been away earning her superstar status.
Who else has been recording her debut album in London, Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles with the cream of international producing talent?
The unassuming manner that millions of fans immediately fell for makes Leona mentions of some of the world's coolest music minds sound like a roll call of old mates.
"We started in London with Steve Mac," she says of the British pop supremo who has had everyone from Kelly Clarkson to Mariah Carey in his care, "Then Dallas Austin in Atlanta, Soulshock and Carlin, Jam and Lewis in Los Angeles. Walter Afanasieff too and also Salaam Remi in Miami. I love his studio, unlike most it's on the roof of his house next to the pool. I got quite burned from sunbathing between takes."
Those producers boast credits for work with the likes Aretha Franklin, Michael and Janet Jackson, TLC, Destiny's Child, Fugees, Usher, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse. Leona has just visited Diane Warren, the queen of American songwriters to work on further material.
With Simon Cowell and the legendary Clive Davis executively producing, she has been afforded the luxury of time and control over her destiny.
"I've been treated as my own person," insists Leona, "I've not been given a formula to follow. I had the time to find my feet and co-write a lot of material. I've learned a lot and Simon and Clive really listen to me."
Seemingly down to earth and disarmingly shy when not exercising her startling voice, Leona has stepped forward as an artist.
"Simon always said to follow my instincts and be true to myself. Clive said exactly the same thing and he also gave me the opportunity to write. I wanted to sing great songs and we have loads that I feel a connection with. The album is classic songs with a contemporary edge. There's a few ballads and there's some uptempo stuff too. I've been experimenting, we used up and coming producers like Fernando who have added some really cool electronic 80s sounds. But it's important to me that they're all proper songs. They're not just beat driven or following the latest sound.
For me, songs need to work acoustically. I used to go out and gig acoustically, I like songs that work even when they're broken down."
A lot has changed for Leona Lewis since we first fell in love with her, but her life long commitment and passion for music is thriving with her new status.
"This album is from an honest, genuine place," she enthuses, "I know some people are asking, 'where has she gone?' But I wanted everyone who has supported and worked with me to have an album they're proud of, one that is credible and one with songs that people can connect to.
"I'm working hard to make sure that I'm around for a long time to come. It's going to surprise people."
Set for an autumn return, subject to enormous anticipation and scrutiny, Leona Lewis is more than ready to stop the nation in its tracks once again.