Ledisi's catalog of studio albums could double as the chapter titles of a compelling biography. There are her independent releases, 2000's "Soulsinger: The Revival" and 2002's "Feeling Orange but Sometimes Blue." Next are the singer/songwriter's first two Verve albums: 2007's "Lost & Found" and 2009's "Turn Me Loose."
Verve will deliver the next chapter in Ledisi's musical odyssey on June 14. Titled "Pieces of Me," the set offers an even deeper and more satisfying read on the Grammy Award nominee's formidable skill set. "People are starting to know what I'm capable of doing but they still don't know who I am," Ledisi says. "'Pieces of Me' is more personal; I'm not hiding in the music. I'm growing more confident and stronger in my own lane. I'm just going for it."
She does exactly that on the set's title track, which also serves as the lead single. In only eight weeks, "Pieces of Me" has become her first top 10 hit on Billboard's Adult R&B chart, where it is No. 7 this week. Produced by Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly, who also co-wrote the song with Ledisi, the introspective ballad provides the perfect showcase for her searing vocals.
"She's on her way to the mainstream," Harmony says of the single. "It's a radio-friendly record with a singalong kind of melody that works with her powerful, clear voice."
Rex Rideout, Ledisi's longtime production colleague, adds, "The challenge overall was to keep her individuality and message but increase the commercial appeal; to give the audience a slice of the dynamic performer that she is."
But the single is just part of the total picture. Executive-produced by Ledisi and Rideout, the album features collaborations with such songwriter/producers as Salaam Remi, KayGee, Mike City and Carvin Haggins & Ivan Barias. Jaheim guests on the standout "Stay Together," while John Legend co-wrote the equally noteworthy "I Miss You Now."
Ledisi's signature R&B, jazz-scatting style courses throughout the project, as on the sparkling "Shine." And her strength in ballads is reinforced by such cuts as "I Gotta Get to You." But she doesn't stop there, seamlessly shifting into girl group mode on "BGTY" (as in "Be Good to Yourself") then switching to sassy on "Shut Up" before evoking Aretha Franklin and Etta James on the gut-wrenching "Hate Me."
Citing "Hate" as the set's "killer track," retailer Dedry Jones of Chicago's Music Experience predicts the album "will fulfill Ledisi's destiny as a true R&B singer. This is the best female R&B album of the year."
Now managed by Kevin Gasser and John Dee of Benchmark Entertainment, Ledisi began promoting "Pieces of Me" in February and March while touring with Kem. She has since appeared on the Steve Harvey and Tom Joyner syndicated morning radio shows and taped a 30-minute BET special that will air June 15. Additional engagements include the Jimmy Fallon (June 13) and Mo'Nique (June 14) late-night shows plus three Walmart stopovers in Memphis; Birmingham, Ala.; and Baton Rouge, La.
Verve senior VP/GM Nate Herr notes that the song "So Into You" will be featured as iTunes' free Discovery Download for one week beginning June 21. A free iPad and iPhone app will become available June 14, complete with two games-one that ties into the album cover's puzzle motif while the other will let fans "Led head" themselves by placing the singer's braided hairdo on images of themselves.
"I'm really all these songs and I love singing them," Ledisi says. "They give me swag. I didn't think I could get there but I am. And I'm feeling good."
Check out Ledisi's video for "Pieces of Me."