Associate Editor Troy Lilly sits down to chat with Le’Andria Johnson, winner of last season’s Sunday Tea Caddy Best on BET.
With the release of her debut solo album around the corner (September 6, 2011 on Music World Gospel), Le’Andria talks about the new music and her ministry, as well as things going around about her– some true, some false…
* * *
Troy: Hey Le’Andria! How are you?
Le’Andria: I’m good, how are you?
Troy: I’m doing well. Excited to talk with you! I guess we’ll just jump right into it?
Troy: I want to start by asking this: How has your life changed since the big win on Sunday Best last year?
Le’Andria: Well, um… oh, boy. That’s a good story…
Troy: I’m sure it is.
Le’Andria: Well, it changed in a little, funny kind of good way. For starters, I lost my brother after everything on April 1st of this year. And I began to be on the road more, and more often I’m away from my kids. I’m not in my church home at all but maybe once a month, if that. I can’t complain, really, because I’m doing something that I really wanna do. It’s good.
Le’Andria. You can go ‘head and nut that up in a shell.
Troy: I know the orchestrated elements of performing on Sunday Best and being on the road was all kind of new for you. Have you gotten used to it? How’s that going?
Le’Andria: Getting used to it. Like I said earlier, being away from my kids is the craziest part. I’m working throughout the week now, singing like almost every day… then doing interviews and going to sleep early to get up early and do more interviews. It’s different.
I do my best not complain. I mean I’m going to complain, but I try not to let it show or be a part of who I am. That’s basically what it is. Hey, I guess this is what it calls for, you know?
Troy: Speaking of that, a video surfaced earlier this year that showed you asking for prayer and breaking down somewhat at a church. Can you tell me what was going on at that time?
Le’Andria: That was a mistake. What I learned from that was you can’t expect people to pray for you in that manner. Everyone’s gonna have their own thoughts. But, yes, at that time I was dealing with something very heavy and I had started drinking.
Le’Andria: And I shared that with the people [in the church], and nobody asked me to share it, but I shared it because I want people to understand that I’m not perfect. I’m winner of Sunday Best, yes. Because I’m this, that and the other people think you’re so high and mighty; that I don’t make any wrong decisions. I let them know I am imperfect just as you. But God will use imperfect people to make people perfect.
Troy: I see.
Le’Andria: I have to be careful of who I ask to pray for me because a lot of people don’t want to see me make it, you know? There were rumors that I was pregnant, too. I’m not pregnant! The Bible says pick up your brother and your sister… lift them up in prayer. So even if I was, tearing me down isn’t the way to go about it.
That’s the message that I put out. I’m Le’Andria Johnson, yes, but I’m not perfect. When I asked people to pray, I was just doing what I was taught to do.
Troy: That’s understandable.
Le’Andria: Now I just tell my testimony without asking folks to pray for me.
Troy: Did any of these experiences contribute to the material on your new album, The Awakening of Le’Andria Johnson, out September 6th?
Le’Andria: Well, we decided to put a couple of medleys from Sunday Best on there to give back to the viewers and voters. I decided to give back to them what they loved and what they were asking for on the road.
On songs like “Cast the First Stone” and “Make Me Like You,” you’ll definitely hear a different sound… I’m not good at putting a label on the music, but you’ll definitely enjoy it! There’s some mid-tempo and upbeat songs… not many, but it’s just the beginning of my story; the awakening. And I hope it’ll be received as such.
Troy: Now, we know you can sing and wipe a room flat out…
Le’Andria: Aww man…
Troy: But I read in the liner notes that you’re also a gifted songwriter and you wrote several songs on the album with your brother, Terrance Johnson.
Le’Andria: Well, that’s what people are saying. I don’t know. My brother is moreso the real writer. I really do believe I’m more a singer than a writer. He can sit down with a pad and paper and write all day. I can’t do that. I get in the studio and sing whatever comes out from my heart and then I cut and paste. That’s all I can say on that one.
Troy: Oh, come on…
Le’Andria: Yeah, like with “Jesus,” I didn’t write that. I just sat in the airport one night and sang it on my phone and saved it. With “Cast the First Stone,” I sang it on my phone, saved it, then put it on record [in the studio]. Melodies come in my dreams, they come when I wake up in the morning…
Troy: Guess what, Le’Andria? Even though you don’t use a pen and paper, that’s still called songwriting. Donna Summers got the melody to “She Works Hard for the Money” in a restroom and she jotted down lyrics on a piece of toilet paper!
Troy: It doesn’t matter how or where you get it. If you are creating the words and the melody, you are a songwriter. So, believe that!
Le’Andria: Oh, ok! Well, thank you. I’ll take that with me now.
Troy: You’re welcome. Did you have a hand in writing “I Shall Leap Into My Destiny,” the song you performed after winning Sunday Best? It sounds like… feels like you!
Le’Andria: We were actually sitting in my living room, in the house that I lost right before I auditioned for Sunday Best. My brother got on the keyboard and we just jammed. He was doing the music but I didn’t have the words. Then my mom called and asked me to write a song for her women’s conference. The theme was “Leap Into Your Destiny.”
I told her the same thing I tell everyone else… “Mom, you know I don’t write.” And she says, “Well, God will give it you.” So the night of the conference she called me up again. I still didn’t have it, but later that night I got with my brother, he started playing the music and it did eventually come to me.
Troy: You speak of your family quite a bit. Is the whole family in music and ministry?
Le’Andria: My father has been my pastor all my life, Bishop Gregory Johnson. My mom is the co-pastor… all of my brothers sing, they all play. I used to play as well but singing has taken over.
Growing up as a PK [preacher’s kid] though, whew, Lord… because of tradition, I felt I was the only person that had it bad. Now I’m glad that God kept me sheltered for so long because he was saving me and I can appreciate what I’ve been through.
Troy: Do you feel there’s a difference between “Le’Andria the singer” and “Le’Andria the minister,” or are those roles interchangeable for you?
Le’Andria: No, I feel that you said it very good. One flows into the other because I could be singing to let you see the talent and gift that I have, then next thing you know I’m ministering. Even if I’m joking on the mic, it’s ministry, reaching out and touching somebody’s heart.
Troy: I see.
Le’Andria: That’s just what it is.
Troy: So… what’s another career interest you had outside of singing? Something that gospel music listeners wouldn’t know?
Le’Andria: Honey! I wanted to be a police officer!
Le’Andria: Yes, Lord! Then I wanted be an RN (registered nurse) until I found out that you had to clean up bodily fluid and blood. I axed that immediately! Immediately!!! ‘Cause I’m not that type of person.
But, yes, I wanted to be a police officer, especially when people ignore signs that say, “Don’t block the intersection”… I’d be right there pullin’ ‘em over. “Just pull on over!”
Troy: Oh my goodness…
Le’Andria: I drive fast, too! I’m trying to tame my foot a little bit, but that would be so fun.
Troy: Certainly sounds like you love to have fun and let loose.
Le’Andria: Yes, that’s me.
Troy: Finally, to wrap it all up, I have one last question.
Troy: Given your newfound visibility and national platform, are there any initiatives you’re trying to push besides music?
Le’Andria: I want to bring people from all over together to celebrate God with the gifts he has given us, through music, poetry, rap, dance. It’s not always about a competition. I believe in going to the men’s and women’s shelters and singing to them, to the homes of adopted children.
I want people to know that a ‘yes’ in me is also a ‘yes’ inside of somebody else. I am a singer, but it goes beyond me being a singer. I want my rags to be filthy when He calls me home.
Troy: That’s awesome Le’Andria. Know that I… we wish you all the best both with the new album and with your other, less glamorous endeavors. Thank you so much for your time today.
Le’Andria: Thank you. I enjoyed this conversation and I hope we have more.
Troy: I hope so as well.
* * *
Check back here soon for our full review of Le’Andria’s debut album, The Awakening of Le’Andria Johnson. You can grab the album via pre-order now on Amazon.com.
Also, listen to her single, “Jesus,” on the Pundit Player bar at the bottom of your screen!