Grown Folks Music spoke with R&B singer/songwriter, Lyfe Jennings. Lyfe talked about his new album Tree of Lyfe, what inspires his music, disappointment in current black music and how he came to call himself Lyfe. Read below and enjoy.
GFM: Tell us about Tree of Lyfe.
Lyfe: Definitely more life… more inspirational stuff. Lyrically competent, I suppose. Something you can listen to with your family.
GFM: Since we’re in a digital time now and a lot of music is downloaded we don’t really get to invest in collecting cds, cover art and liner notes like we used to, so you don’t see a lot of intricate cover art anymore. I really like your cover art. Who came up with that?
Lyfe: I hate to say that I’ve forgotten the guy’s name, but it’s actually an artist (Editor’s note: Korean artist Baki) who did it for me.
GFM: The stories that you tell in your music are so real and so relatable. tell us a little bit about the process of how you create your music.
Lyfe: I go through situations. I let them live. I let them breathe. Sometimes I’ll finish a song in a day or in an hour. Sometimes it will take me months to finish. I just make sure I write it how it’s first on my mind. I don’t try to add to it or take away from it for the public or for commercialism or something like that. I just write it real.
GFM: Is it always just from self-experience, or it is something that you might see or observe in someone else’s life?
Lyfe: It’s both actually, I feel like I might experience it indirectly through somebody telling me about it, and then the majority of it is just the stuff that I go through.
GFM: You’ve been in this industry for a while now as a solo artist. What would Lyfe Jennings [of] now tell Lyfe Jennings in the beginning of your career?
Lyfe: I don’t really try to change stuff. And not that I would change this thing right here, [but] I would work with more artists. In the beginning of the career and even now I don’t work with a lot of people. That’s not really my thing, but I would definitely work with more artists– more features and stuff like that.
GFM: Would you like to write and produce for other artists, or are you just strictly talking features?
Lyfe: Both actually. I tend to look at my songs as personal. Even now, if I would write for somebody, I would have to talk to them in depth– spend the day with them and just get a feel for their life and then write about it. I’ve always felt like if I write a song it has fit you. I don’t want it to just be a good song, like, ‘I wanna cover this song that Lyfe did.’ I want something that you’re gonna sing like it’s a part of you– because it is.
GFM: Speaking of covering songs I saw a clip a while back. I guess [it was] two years, maybe even three [years ago] that you did for the Grammys. Not the actual telecast, but a Grammy-related video where you sang “Human Nature” and it was so beautiful. What was that event? Tell us what that was about because it was so beautiful.
Lyfe: Every season the Grammys finds somebody to feature. You have to pick an artist’s song. I think the [featured] artist at that time was Michael Jackson and you just pick a song that you would’ve loved to have done and I just picked that song.
GFM: What I’ve always wanted to know and what the Grown Folks may not know is how you came to call yourself Lyfe.
Lyfe: My name actually used to be “Music For Life”, but then you know I was in the joint at the time and the guys were like, ‘That’s too long, man. You should just call yourself Life because you speak about life situations.’ I changed the I to a Y because I had a lot of questions on ‘Why is this, why is that?’ That’s mainly what I wrote about, so that’s how it came about.
GFM: What’s your definition of Grown Folks Music?
Lyfe: Music that expands you. Music that will take you on your growth and not stagnate your growth. Right now in my life I’m so disappointed with music in general– at least black music so to speak.
GFM: What’s disappointing about it in your opinion?
Lyfe: I think that either people don’t understand or they skip over [it] when they do understand because it won’t be as profitable in the beginning stages of it, but i just think that as a race of people we put things on radio that are not conducive to growth at all… zero growth. It’s actually conducive more so to de-evolution. We don’t even understand that through this music we create industries, and these industries are just more ways that the powers that be keep us in slavery. All we do is not only do we continue this, we make it worse and worse. I just see something terrible in the future, by all these different things that grow out of this music just for our civilization as a whole.
GFM: Who is Lyfe Jennings?
Lyfe: These personal personas man… I don’t really get into ’em. Lyfe Jennings is an avatar. I don’t look at that as me. Even though you see Lyfe Jennings it kind of concludes my persona, but in reality it’s what the people need him to be at that time. They have a certain viewpoint of Lyfe Jennings and so I make sure that I keep that viewpoint on the top of the gate because that’s what helps them and that’s what they can take advice from.
Lyfe Jennings current album, Tree of Lyfe is out and available at iTunes.
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Kimberly Kennedy Charles (DJKKC) is trying to navigate life (in a minivan, no less) as a wife, mother, caregiver to Grandmother and writer in the 'burbs of Atlanta.