After her remarkable acting debut in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights, Leslie Grace is preparing for her next movie role as Barbara Gordon in the upcoming Batgirl. She’s training, she’s reading comic books, and overall, doing a lot of research. “I want to do my very best to make sure [the character] gets the best of all I have to give,” she tells Billboard.
In between, she’s also creating new music, having released her first solo single in five years, “Bachatica.” Dedicated to her loyal fans, she returns to her musical roots in a sensual but sultry bachata fused with urban and R&B undertones at the helm of emerging musicians Maye, Musiana, and Eddie Perez.
“[Music is] the foundation for all that I’ve been able to accomplish as an artist and as a person,” she notes. “Whether it’s through acting or through music, my ultimate goal as an artist is to express not only for my own enjoyment but also in hopes that it can ignite or inspire a true expression in others as well.”
Below, Billboard caught up with the 26-year-old artist to talk about “Bachatica” and Batgirl. Read the Q&A below.
“Bachatica” is your first solo song in five years. We know you didn’t stop making music during this time but did you take this time to focus on your acting career?
While I have dedicated some of my focus to developing my acting career and myself as a person, I haven’t stopped making music along the way. As I continue to discover new things that excite and inspire me in different ways, I continue to funnel that inspiration into my music. “Bachatica” is very special to me because it’s been a while since I’ve released a song as a soloist, and it felt right that it would be this one.
In your new single, you take it back to the roots. With so many new musical trends, why opt for a bachata-heavy melody?
Well, the song itself just happened. Maye, Musiana, and I wrote it from a very true place of wanting to tap into the feeling old boleros would ignite in us, and present that song structure in a new way. The three of us are all romantics at our core, and lovers of artists of that time like La Lupe, Celia Cruz, and Eydie Gorme. So the melody was birthed by Maye and Musiana, a guitarra y voz, with that sensibility. Once we went on to complete the lyrics, we knew this melody and BPM had all the elements to be a romantic bachata. It hit all the chords that my favorite bachatas of all-time hit. Sweet but sultry, while remaining danceable because of its percussive element.
Is “Bachatica” the beginning of an upcoming album?
I’ve been working on some music at this time that will be a part of an upcoming project, with a lot of different colors. “Bachatica” is the first of my babies that we all felt was perfect to share as a gift to all of my fans — who have been waiting for a new bachata from me for years. There is definitely more music in the works in varying tones sonically, and you will hear more soon!
How are you preparing for your role as Barbara Gordon in “Batgirl”?
Lots and lots of training! I’m currently fight-training every day with my amazing “martial arts mom,” Ming Qiu, who cracks the whip! [Laughs.] I’ve never fought in my life, so we are working really hard every day to get my body used to all the motions! I’m also reading a ton of comics and, believe it or not, keeping my eye out for tweets from our beloved DC comic fans to see what they are excited to see in my iteration of Babs! Research is everything.
I’m so excited to honor this iconic character whose legacy spans over 50 years. It’s a huge responsibility but also an honor — and I want to do my very best to make sure she gets the best of all I have to give!
How would you say your singing career shaped your acting career and vice versa?
It’s the foundation for all that I’ve been able to accomplish as an artist and as a person. Music and performing overall is my first love and has given me so much. It is also my first gift to the world. When I think about the experiences I’ve had within music, it has taught me so much of what I get to do now as an actress. I’m so grateful for it because I can’t imagine doing what I’m doing now as an actress without having undergone the unique process I’ve undergone as a music artist. It’s prepared me for this new phase of my artistry.
However, I don’t really separate the two so much as I see both skills being two halves of a whole when it comes to my pursuit of expression as an artist. Whether it’s through acting or through music, my ultimate goal as an artist is to express not only for my own enjoyment but also in hopes that it can ignite or inspire a true expression in others as well.