Leona Lewis on Branching Out on Her Own With New Album 'I Am' and Saying Goodbye to Simon Cowell

Leona Lewis
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Leona Lewis attends the European Premiere of "Entourage" at Vue West End on June 9, 2015 in London, England.

Newly signed to Island after parting ways with Simon Cowell’s Syco Music in 2014, the X Factor U.K. alum, 30, breaks down what went into making her fifth album, I Am, out Sept. 11

Saying Bye to Simon
“It was like leaving a relationship. We broke up and I had to stand on my own two feet. The [split] gave me inspiration and some songs are about him. But Simon has been incredible for me and my career, and I’ll always love and respect him.”

Leona Lewis Finds Her Own 'Power' After Leaving Behind Simon Cowell's Label and More Insider Scoop

Declaring Independence
started making I Am without a label. There was no guidance or anyone telling me what to do or when to finish. That’s the best way for me to create: without a million people telling me which direction to go. My goal was to create raw, authentic music — anything that comes after that is just a bonus.”

Saying Hi to Stevie 
“I got to meet Stevie Nicks [after leaving Syco], and she gave me the pep talk of my life. She hugged me and started singing my song ‘Bleeding Love.’ She said that the world needed to hear my music.”

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Getting Out of London 
“Home is always London, but I also have a mini-ranch with horses in L.A. I’m closer to songwriters and producers, and it’s a nice environment to write in.”

Avoiding Pressure to Make a Hit 
“I don’t write or sing songs because I think they’re hits. I only do what’s meaningful to me. I’m not the kind of artist that chases a hit. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”

This story originally appeared in the Sept. 5 issue of Billboard.