Ryan Leslie – Artistry Fulfilled
It has been a creative year for Ryan Leslie. After first announcing his new album, Les is More, earlier this year, the versatile artist has spent months of recording his most ambitious project to date. The record is set to be completely driven by visual content. A conceptual outline that deserves more details. Thus, we sat down with the famed crooner and discussed the ideas and motivation behind this LP, the road until its release, and how it enhances his artistic output.
You have dedicated lots of time and passion to your new album Les is More. The LP is set to be driven completely by visual content. Could you outline this concept a little bit more in detail for us?
We are in a special time of technology right now. And being in that special time of technology means for us artists, the opportunity to express ourselves on several different levels – beyond just music. So the visual album is an example of the way that an artist can expand his expression. I have been inspired by so many different places in this world, so many experiences, so many different people. I have been capturing all of this since 2005. I wanted to do something that was an extension of this practice. That meant that I could write music in different cities around the world and also shoot videos while I was visiting these cities. Thus, the spirit and the essence of all these different places have been captured in a special way. So this is what the album is basically about. You are not only able to hear the music, but you are also enabled to witness the musical process in a variety of studio videos. In addition, you will also be able to see the point of inspiration that I have while I'm in the studio. Every time I'm working, I can actually see the video as I am creating it. So this project is all about challenging myself as an artist to more than just the music, producing, writing, arranging, performing, but also to achieve the visual dream that I had in my head. So "Beautiful Lie" was just the first installment. There are more records that will be released in the course of the next few months. You will be able to see how the records were made and a music video for every song.
How did you approach the visual aesthetics of every song?
Personal perception and the direct inspiration lay down the basic theme for the visuals. We have "Beautiful Lie" which is set in Paris, we have "Dress to Undress" which is set on a vacation between Paris and Milan – two of my favorite cities. We also have "Swiss Franks" which is inspired by Zurich and the amazing architecture of Switzerland. In this video, you see me playing a huge pipe organ and performing the song with a cathedral right behind me on the streets of Zurich. Very inspiring to say the least. There is also "5 Minute Freshen Up" which is set in Miami and conveys the city's unique vibe and much more. I am very very excited about being able to be unrestricted in expressing myself with this album. Being independent offers me so much freedom. I am really excited to see the response.
You are a creativity-driven artist. What initially inspired you for this rather unusual approach to create this album?
The idea basically stemmed from the album's title, Les is More. Ryan Leslie is more than everyone has an experience as of yet. Maybe you have just experienced me in the studio as a producer or as an R&B artist. I am all of these things and more. Not only am I interested in expressing myself on a musical level but also visually. So it circles around a creative way of presentation of artistry and creativity on every level. This is what this project is really all about.
The industry certainly needs projects and output like this in order to generate inspiration for musicians. Bjork's Biophilia points out at the right direction of multilevel music experience. Now, your project offers a similar approach. What about the sound? You stated that sound of your music is a blend of '70s rock and modern genre. Can you give us more details?
Wow. I really do not like to describe the sound since I prefer the listener to have a personal experience while listening to it. I want them to be able to interpret the sound the way they hear it the first time. Sure, for the press we had to come up with a short description of it, but we just tried to be as general as possible with it in order not to bias the first impression of the whole album. I don't even like to do interviews about the album from the artistic standpoint. I just went to see Pedro Almodovar's movie and nobody gave me any hint on the plot and the cast. It is just so beautiful when you can experience art without any preconceived notions about it. Hence, I would prefer not to describe the sound.
Definitely a change in this digital, leak-plastered time of ours. Can you talk about collaborations on the album?
There is a record called "Breathe" featuring Mr. Hudson which is pretty much the only collaboration at the moment. Like I said, the album is growing and happening as we speak. The album is written, performed and arranged completely by Yours Truly. However, since it is not finished, there are definitely opportunities to collaborate as for the final result.
You are also working on a brand new website called RyanLeslie.com. What can the world expect from it? Will its launch be coupled with the album release?
The new website is still being constructed. It is set to mirror the applications that we are building for the handsets. Those will allow people to interact with the album. We hope to offer the applications on Christmas and we are shooting to offer the website in conjunction with that. You will be able to watch a number of different videos and a number of blogs that will be filled in. When it is fully complete, you will have the entire album available on your headset.
This is also your first album as an independent recording artist. You left Universal Motown once you started to work on this project. How did the recording process differ as an independent artist.
It is just so free, man. Just so free. It is amazing. I am very happy to have the freedom to travel and record, and make this album the very way I initially intended to be. And I am still recording actually. So there are no deadlines, less pressure. It allows the people to listen and digest every single audio/video. Let's call this a staggered album release during the next six to eight months.
With this staggered release, are you also planning to go on tour with this album?
We will look into a tour once the album is fully released in a few months. One thing I know for sure, we will hit Hong Kong in January. We will capture lots of its amazing spots. The Big Buddha, the Peak, lan Kwai Fong, Avenue of the Stars with the Bruce Lee Statue, the Ladies market. Hong Kong money is in plastic. We will shoot a video there for one of the songs that has been inspired by this great city.
Music is keeping you more than busy obviously. But are there any other venues where you can live your energy and creative drive or any other projects with your involvement?
I'm an A&R at NYU, so several times a month I am giving lectures at the university. I am also involved in emerging technology. I recently bought an interest of this website called WorldPopVideos which aims to become one of the top international music videos. My company bought a large stake at the company and you should definitely stay tuned for that.