“I’ve been running around like a chicken with its head cut off,” says LeToya Luckett of being back on the promotional circuit after a seven-year hiatus from music. “But I’ve missed being on the road, so this is fun for me.”
The Grammy Award-winning original member of Destiny’s Child and actress just released her third studio album Back 2 Life. Featuring 13 tracks, the set has already given Luckett her first top 10 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs tally with the title track. Now at No. 6 on the chart, the song is paving the way for the singer-songwriter’s newly released second single “Used To.” Both singles’ accompanying videos are the initial chapters of a three-part movie mini-series that has garnered more than 4 million views on YouTube.
As a soloist, Luckett has charted seven entries on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart including two top 10s: “Torn” (No. 2) and “Regret” (No. 8 and featuring Ludacris). Her first two albums, LeToya and Lady Love, both debuted at No. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart while LeToya also bowed atop the Billboard 200.
Luckett’s self-described “unintentional hiatus” was actually more a matter of simultaneously balancing her burgeoning career as an actress. Her credits include roles in the OWN series Greenleaf, Fox’s recently canceled Rosewood (“I’m super-duper sad, but that was such an awesome experience”) and HBO’s Ballers. Up next: portraying legendary singer Dionne Warwick in a forthcoming biopic.
During a recent interview, Luckett talked to Billboard about being summoned by Warwick for the role as well as challenging herself creatively. “I don’t operate in fear anymore,” Luckett declares. “That’s the one thing I’ve learned about myself over these last seven years. That’s made it easier for me to walk in my truth.”
Take a look at some of the other takeaways of our chat with Luckett below.
Her mindset while recording the new album: I wanted people to get to know LeToya in a different way. I’ve always been very safe, laid-back and chill. Now I wanted to be more personable and relatable, more honest. Of course, I wanted to keep it R&B, but the production is very open, not a whole lot of clutter with various instruments. That’s different than my first two albums. “Back 2 Life” is probably something I would have never thought to do before. In the lyrics, I sing about having a hard time moving on from a relationship — and come right out of the gate saying this might be my problem, not yours. We’re quick to blame others a lot of times in those situations but this time I wanted to do some self-reflecting. I was willing to try everything. I didn’t want to be stuck to one thing.
Inspiration behind the project’s movie miniseries: I felt that people needed a visual. Remember the old-school days when Michael Jackson would come out with a video? He would do like a whole world premiere. And it would be a movie, not just a regular music video. I wanted to get back to that. This was a story that needed to be told; something that I had gone through and knew people could relate to. Nobody had seen that side of LeToya before: angry, upset, vulnerable and emotional. I prayed on it and went for it.
The miniseries’ third and final episode: It will be the song “In the Name.” And that’s what the whole series is about: the good, bad and ugly of love. Both of the people on-screen in this relationship love hard. Are they on the same page about everything all the time? No. That’s the other thing I wanted to showcase in the miniseries: communication and how vital it is to work through tough situations. I don’t want to give anything away about the new episode, which comes out next month. All I’m going to say is that we do the craziest things in the name of love [Laughs].
Her special chemistry with Ludacris: That’s my brother. I played him the record all the way down and asked him to get on whichever song spoke to him. He chose “Grey,” telling me this is the one I can’t stop listening to, I love the vibe. And man, when he sent his verse back I was like what? Yes! He always kills it.
Being hand-picked to portray Dionne Warwick: Dionne reached out to my team, saying she wanted to meet with me. So I flew to New York — because who doesn’t meet with Ms. Dionne Warwick when she calls for you? You just come. So I sat down with her and she offered me the role right there on the spot. I’m honored she would even think of me and so excited about portraying such a phenomenal woman and icon. We’ve already been working one-on-one in the studio on her songs. Just being in the studio with her, I was like am I here? Is this real life? But she’s so cool.