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Music

The Pulse: Ledisi Reflects on Feeling Good About Her Career Path, and Paying Homage to Nina Simone

Ledisi
courtesy of the artist

For Ledisi, the saying holds true that the race isn’t given to the swift, but to the one who endures to the end. For those who have watched her trajectory as an artist — 13 Grammy nominations before she finally won one this year — Ledisi offers inspiration, and an object lesson in persistence.

She has been intentional about the creative decisions she’s made throughout her career. Her first album, Soulsinger, released in 2000, was self-produced, engineered, and promoted by just her and a small team. It caught the attention of Rachelle Ferrell, who spread the word, and invited Ledisi to be her opener on tour.

Ledisi credits Ferrell for lending that support early in her career. During that time, she was a singing waitress; did a stint on Broadway; and hit rock bottom, when she contemplated ending her life. It was Nina Simone’s “Trouble in Mind,” playing as she rocked on her front porch, that lifted her out of the darkness and made her feel seen.

The Pulse featuring Ledisi

Almost 20 years later, Ledisi Sings Nina — an independently produced tribute album featuring the Metropole Orkest and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra — has generated no small amount of buzz, especially among those who are just catching up. Ledisi says this is a familiar dynamic in her career, and yet she never lost her stride.

She chronicles her journey, and how she has embraced every step of the way, in a new book, Don't Ever Lose Your Walk. In addition to the new album (her 11th release), she has also been doing some acting, and is currently working on writing another book.

As we hope you know, Feeling Good is the theme of WBGO's Fall Fund Drive. Back in mid-July, WBGO premiered a song by that title — the first single from Ledisi Sings Nina — in Take Five.