Lakisha Jones: To Whitney, With Love
—-By Moyah Smith—-I had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Lakisha Jones, one of the top 4 finalists of American Idol (season 6), who will be performing at Springfield CityStage on April 6th, Lakisha Jones: To Whitney, With Love.
Moyah Smith: So I am sure you have come a long way from first setting foot on that American Idol stage. How long has it been since that experience?
Lakisha Jones: I can’t believe it, but it has been ten whole years. My daughter was 4 years old. She is in the 9th grade now!
MS: Wow! I watched that season. She was so little then. Does it feel like yesterday or does it feel like eons ago?
LJ: It actually only feels like a couple of years ago, until I look at my daughter. Then reality hits.
MS: How has your life changed since American Idol (“AI”)?
LJ: AI completely changed my life. I am able to reach people through my music and that would have never happened otherwise. AI allowed many firsts for me. My first time in California. My first time on Hollywood Boulevard. It was an amazing journey.
MS: And what has Ms. Lakisha Jones been up to in the last 10 years?
LJ: After Idol, I immediately went on the 3-month tour with American Idol Live. Then I auditioned with Oprah for Broadway’s The Color Purple. From 2007-2008, playing the characters of Sophia and the Church Singer, I shared the stage with Chaka Khan and BeBe Winans. I’ve recorded my album, So Glad I’m Me. Traveled with symphonies throughout the world to places like Russia, Prague and Germany, working with 60-70 piece orchestras. While touring, I came up with this brainchild of the Whitney performance. I’ve always admired and looked up to her.
MS: So this show, To Whitney, With Love, this was actually your own vision?
LJ: Yes! But it was just in my head. I would talk about it all the time. I knew how I wanted to open the show, what songs I wanted to sing, and even when I wanted to make wardrobe changes. But it was just in my head. My friend encouraged me to at least write the ideas down.
MS: So how did you take this idea from your head, to paper, to actual production?
LJ: I mentioned it to my friend while I was in Russia. She said, “You have to do it!” The next thing I knew, she came back to me and said, “We have a booking. Your vision has come to life.” It felt like it happened overnight. Springfield is actually our first stop. We will be in Ridgefield, CT next along with other bookings coming up. So it’s very exciting.
MS: When did you first realize you had a gift?
LJ: My grandmother used to make me sing in church and everywhere since I was about 5 years old. She would just say “Lakisha will sing.” And I would get up and sing. Wouldn’t look at anyone. Kept my head down. I would sing and just sit down. No confidence. I began getting compliments everywhere I went. When I got to high school, my teacher put me in an a cappella choir.
MS: When did the love and passion kick in?
LJ: Sometime around middle school is when I realized I could actually do this thing. I never believed or even thought about it before then. I actually thought I was going to be a teacher.
MS: Are you still nervous when you perform?
LJ: Oh my goodness, yes! I am nervous every time! Always thinking….What if my voice cracks? What if I forget the words? But once the music starts, you just have to walk it out and light it up.
MS: Do you have any particular rituals prior to performing?
LJ: Just drinking tea, take in some steam and prayer.
MS: With your daughter, how do you balance family and career with all the traveling?
LJ: Girl, it takes a village. I actually have two daughters now, an 8-year-old and my oldest. We have a strong village supporting us.
MS: Well, I can’t wait to meet you and see your performance. What can we expect?
LJ: You can expect to be touched and inspired. I want everyone to remember Whitney’s voice…..I am not trying to be Whitney. I just want people to remember how she touched everyone with her voice. Forget all the negative things. Just remember how she touched them. Stand up and clap, dance and feel the music. We will also feature tributes to Aretha, Diana Ross and Donna Summer in the show.
Tickets to the show are available at the CityStage & Symphony Hall Box Office located at One Columbus Center in downtown Springfield, via telephone at 413.788.7033 or online at www.citystage.symphonyhall.com. Group discounts available. Call for more information.