Grown Folks Music caught up with South African sensation Lira to talk about her debut US release Rise Again. She also talks about building her career in America and a few American artists she’d like to work with one day. Enjoy.

GFM: You have a new album out. Talk about the album Rise Again.

Lira: Rise Again is a combination of music from the last decade. I’m really… basically updating all my fans all around the world with what I’ve been doing for the last ten years. I’ve got a lot of fans scattered around the world. A few of them had not been able to get my material over here (in the United States) so I wanted to make Rise Again available before I launch my next album Moving Forward. So it’s very exciting for me. It’s been a long process in the making, but I’m extremely excited to finally have it out in the States. I know my fans have been waiting patiently so I’m looking forward to it and of course I’m doing the tour in June to promote the album.

GFM: That brings me to a point. You’re a major star right now in South Africa and have been for the past decade. But, you wanted to introduce yourself to the US music scene. And as you just mentioned, it has not been without challenges and some starts and stops. Why did you continue to strive to present your music over here? Why was that so important to you?

Lira: Well Like I said, you know I’ve got fans that communicate. They love and appreciate me for what I do and a lot of them are like, ‘Oh please to come to the States. Oh please, we need your music out here.’ Because there’s an appetite for what I do, it became important for me to really make an effort to get my music there. And I think it’s also important for me to grow as an artist. Like you said, I’ve done so much here in South Africa. There’s nothing I haven’t done. I’ve got so many awards… broken so many records. But it’s exciting to get into a new market. It’s almost like starting one career from scratch, which is daunting, but also exciting all at the same time. And it’s really about being all I can be throughout my career, so it’s a very exciting process.

GFM: The artists who are put out in front over here on radio and television sometimes… from what we’re presented… seem to have a very similar sound and a similar style. And it’s different from your style. Does that concern you at all or does it present an exciting challenge for you as you try to break into this market?

Lira: What I did in 2011 was I did a mini tour of the United States. That was for me to feel out the market just to see how people would respond, because I was open to the fact that my music is different. It’s good old fashioned music… feel good music. It’s not necessarily normal pop or just the hit-for-right-now kind of music, and I was sensible enough, I think, to test out the market and the response really overwhelmed me. I was so affirmed. There’s a lot of people who had never heard me, but absolutely loved what I had to offer and that made me feel like there’s a place and a space for what I have to offer and that gave me an exciting challenge. And most importantly, it just means that I’m just finding the people that resonate with my type of music… good old fashioned good music and good vibe.

GFM: What’s the biggest thing you that you can dream will happen to your career as a result of your bringing your music to the United States?

Lira: Having HUGE concerts. I’m able to do big productions here in South Africa. But I’d love to be able to pull big numbers, arenas, and do a really wonderful big concert. I think for me that would be the ultimate. That’s what i love doing. I love stretching my imagination in that way, but keeping it positive and motivational. I think that’s the one thing I’m most proud of. I remember even here in South Africa, initially I was told, ‘Oh you know, positive music doesn’t sell.’ It was really exciting for me to stick to my values and to do music that I find is meaningful and important and make a huge success out of it. To be able to do that in a market such as the states would be an epic achievement.

GFM: Are there any American artists or producers on your wish list to work with?

Lira: Oh absolutely. Kenny Lattimore was actually in the country and he came to one of my concerts. I’ve always loved him. When we were out performing and suddenly I hear this voice… {laughs} in the theatre. It was him. He picked up a mic and he jumped on stage with me. I was so blown away. Oh we had such great chemistry, you know it would be wonderful to capture that. I’d LOVE to work with John Legend. I love his songwriting. I love his voice. I just find he’s also quite talented at being able to get a beautiful song between a modern pop style but also remaining soulful and truthful. I love that.

GFM: What are you looking forward to most during your (US) tour. Tell us some of the places where you’ll be performing when you come over to the US next month (June 2014).

Lira: A lot of the places I think I’ve never been. I’ve been to about 15 countries this year alone, so I’ve been very blessed to travel a lot and I just enjoy visiting new places. But, I’ve never been to San Francisco, Illinois or Cleveland. I love New York, I mean I’ve been there plenty of times, but I always love going to New York. I’ll be in Baltimore, Washington and North Carolina. All of these places are all first time. My dad is in Atlanta. I’ve never performed there that’s also gonna be exciting… a premiere. I have a lot of family coming through to catch it. I think it’s just more of the process of me exposing myself to audiences and actually connecting to people. That’s gonna be challenging and exciting all at once.

GFM: You mentioned that there’s been some fan response and some fan inquiries about when you were gonna bring your music over (to the US) and a wonderful response to some shows you did over here. But for those American listeners who don’t know you, what do you want us to know most about you?

Lira: Most importantly, I’d love them to experience the show. I’d like them to feel and experience the energy and spirit within the show. I’d also love them to fall in love with my music and hopefully to really connect with its purpose and its message. I call it Afro Soul. I mean it’s a beautiful mix of R&B, a touch of jazz and African languages. When I grew up during Apartheid in South Africa, we had a lot of American music that came through. So people view a lot of a music from the United States as a means of comforting the strife they were going through. So I find that I was really influenced by that. But I’ve found, I think, a unique way mixing the two worlds to create something unique. I like to tell stories in my performance as well. So I just look forward to sharing that experience with the audience.

Lira’s US debut album, Rise Again, is available now and she will be performing in the United States this month (June 2014) Connect with Lira on Twitter and check her out in a city near you.

6/18: ATLANTA, GA: Vinyl

6/19: RiCHMOND, VA The Speakeasy

6/20: WILMINGTON, DE: World Café Live

6/22: CHARLOTTE, NC: The Neighborhood Theater (Opening for Dwele)

6/23: WASHINGTON, DC: The Howard Theatre

6/24: BALTIMORE, MD: Soundstage

6/25: NEW YORK, NY: SOB’S

6/27: CLEVELAND, OH: Take 5 Jazz & Tapas

6/28: CHICAGO, IL Austin’s Fuel Room (Libertyville, IL)

6/29: SAN FRANSISCO, CA: Yoshi’s

7/5: LOS ANGELES, CA Savoy Entertainment Center

Kimberly Kennedy Charles

I have questions. Artists have answers.