Last week, I got the chance to have a chat with rising R’n’B artist, Leven Kali from Los Angeles (LA), California, who is set to perform at some epic festivals this summer. Leven is set to grace the same stage as Erykah Badu, Usher, Ella Mai, Summer Walker, T-Pain, Ari Lennox and Common to name a few at the Smokin’ Grooves festival in Long Beach in LA. And the Outside Lands festival in August alongside Lil Wayne, Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals and Childish Gambino to name a few.
Leven Kali and I had a great Conversation about:
- An unreleased song he and Usher collaborated on, that has The meaning behind his songs and his name having a deeper meaning
- Dealing with attention from fans and his rise
- Choosing between playing Golf professional and doing music full time.
- His live London show and musical influences.
- Working with Diggy Simmons and Syd from the Internets
- Music of course and much much more.
Continue reading to find out all you need to know about the talented Leven Kali.
Full Leven Kali Interview
Fashion over health
Hey, What’s up?
How you doing?
I’m Great! How are you?
I’m very good thank you. Thank you for joining me today.
Of course thanks for having me.
So, you’re in the UK? How are you enjoying you London leg of the tour?
It couldn’t be better to be honest.
I wasn’t even expecting like….. the… vibes we got. It’s been amazing!
Yea. How do you cope with like people knowing your from around the world? Do you know what I mean?
I’m like learning how to do that. It’s my first time
*Laughs* Your first time in London?
No, I have been out here before. But it’s my first time being here like- you know promoting music and doing shows and stuff. Seeing like a response you know.
So, I read somewhere….cause you know I did a little research. That you use to play golf and you stepped away from playing professional golf?
I was playing erm like at the NCAA college. I wasn’t like A pro yet- but I was in school playing.
Goooolf though? I feel like that’s such a grown man sport.
How did you go from like golf to music?
I was like already doing music, so I was playing instruments and you know like jamming with the homies and then golf was like later. Golf was like the weird thing I did, compared to what people around me were doing. And then….. I just came back to the music. I was like I can’t be doing that.
I’m so happy you came to the music.
Beause I’m not gonna lie. I don’t watch golf. It’s a little bit boring for me.
I’m shocked. *Laughs*
*Laughs* I tried to play it once but it was an absolute failure.
It’s pretty difficult at first.
I was like no. I got kicked off the course. But that’s not the story. Anyway back to the music. You have got a tune with Syd from The Internet?
How did that collaboration come about?
So that was errm….. that was like a blind date session. I had never met Syd before.
And erm my best friend/collaborator coproduced her – Zack Sekoff. He and I linked up with Syd in the studio. We just kicked it and errr became homies. They maybe had worked together in the past. But as far as the 3 of us or me and Syd, it was our first time. So it was like linking up. Like I always like to talk to people before we get into the music. It was just a great vibe and then we made the song and then, yea!
Now that song is amazing and what else is amazing is your Low Tide project.
So many good tunes on there.
OOHHH My ! Like how did you get into that creative zone to create such beautiful work?
Erm it was just like over time . I’ve kinda grown even like when I look at that tracks, I see like how far I have come. Just as a musician, and as a producer, and a song writer and everything. It was like a mood spanned over time. You know.
Did I answer the question?
Like a mood span like everywhere. I feel like everybody need to listen to that body of work because it just so like ….a lot of people say R’n’B is dead, but then when you hear that project it is so much alive.
Thank you- I appreciate that.
Who did you grow up listening to?… Cause it gave me like kinda like Keith Sweat vibe .. like some old skool 90s
Yeaaaa Twitsed and all that yeaaa, yeaaa.
As well as him, who else did you listen to growing up?
Erm I listened to a lot of Earth Wind and Fire and Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder ermm I use to love Rage against the Machine. errrm I went through a little metal phase, like a lot of like this band called Avenge Sevenfold and like System of a Down and kinda like some Jazz artists. I mean I love D’Angelo so much.
I can hear the Jazz in your project as well
Yea, I mean I grew up playing drums in a jazz band -so that was that like big. Being in a Jazz band in school they like make you listen to all the classics and play a bunch of standards all the time.
And speaking of the music on the project one particular tune ‘1 on 1’.
That’s like my Keith Sweat join
Yeeaaah. I was like woooo. You really brought the 90s in 2019 so well.
Talk to me a little bit about that tune.
Sooo, there’s a producer from Australia, his name is MXXWLL. You know about him?
He is a beast. So that we linked up and now that is like a brother of mine. Like a close friend.
So we are gonna have more music from you two?
ok. Good good good.
But yea he produced that one, that was him. and we just caught a vibe. He had like an idea of the beat, loop and we were kicking it and I heard it. and I was like this is mine. And we wrote it and that was it. It was like a pretty quick creation, but then we added that bridge and that modulation and everything later. My DJ and my bass player helped me write the bridge and then it was like a cool. It definitely made the record go from like here to here.
It is sooo. Like listening to it…. it definitely did give me Keith Sweat vibes and erm when you are hearing it, it’s like….you know when you are listening to an old skool 90s tunes you know you are listening to Jodeci, you know you are listening to like…… and it sounds like its coming from there.
You two did it so well, where it sounds like you kinda second guess it- did this come out now, or did this come out in 1992?
Was I alive when this tune came out. It’s really really really good. So
Thank you that’s props to MXXWLL. I mean he produced that joint that’s like his ear on the beat and just like we spent so much time tweaking it, and like mixing it, and then going back and fourth between us and Jimmy Douglas- who helped mix it, so that was a real props to MXXWLL thank you for blessing me with that track.
Yea, Big up MXXWLL. Cause I love it and I have it on repeat. Someone else who you have worked with is Diggy Simmons?
You feature on a tune ‘Text Me’?
I wanna know. If you was to text your crush what would you say?
Well I mean I don’t have to text any crush cause I have a lovely lady that I can say whatever I want.
Sorry ladies he is not available. I’ll just leave then
*Laughs* Only joking. I’m joking i’m joking. If you had a free pass to text a crush.
You tryna get me in trouble
hypothetically speaking- what would you say Or give some advice to the guys out there
Maybe errr, maybe err I would say “Yo, do you wanna come kick it with me and Sophie” and instead of a 1 on 1, we can do a 2 on 1.
Ok, so you are just friend zoning all the crushes out there. Ladies it’s not a thing. On the topic of text, we will move away from the crush talk, cause you don’t want to get yourself in trouble. Well done
OK, yea yea yea. I still feel like girls are gonna be screaming for you but well you know. Your gonna have to bat them away. Errr on the topic of text what is your most used emoji.
Probably the palm tree
Yea, I love the palm tree.
I was not expecting that
Well we have a thing called Palm Studios, so Palm Studios is like our movement, our place were the homies, the creative force behind like everything we have going on. So Palm, you know I’m from LA so there is palm trees everywhere. and erm yea
That is such a random emoji to use, I wasn’t expecting that.
I love the palm tree. I love the palm tree and I like the errrm the face that’s like agghh. *Laughs*
*Laughs* I reckon I can’t relate to the palm tree cause look. you know you are over here in london, you can’t see it but the window is right there grey clouds. so unfortnately.
The rain drop and the chicken.
You opened up for the one and only Lauryn Hill
Yea, that was crazy
Oh My Oh My Gosh. What was it like sharing the same stage as her?
F’in crazy. Insane!
Yea. We will just beep that out
No your fine.
It was unreal. It was an honour. I mean the night before the show we got a call.
No way? The night before?
I had known a week before that she was picking or her agent was picking between a few different options. or R’n’B artist that were already in the area. We had just done a festival in Northern California and so we got that call. It was actually crazy. We had just got off stage, like tripping and got a phone call saying we were gonna open for Lauryn soo… it was just like. The emotions at that point were just like.
That is mad…. How do you prepare for that?
You don’t have that much time, when it’s the night before, but we had a set already, as we planned to do other shows around that time. So we just do what we do.
Did you get to speak to her and get any advice from her?
I did. And that was pretty magical, because you hear so many things about celebrities and I’m a big believer in you can’t take somebody’s word for somebody else until you meet the person. So getting to meet Ms Lauryn Hill -was like such a pleasant surprise and such an….amazing experience because you know we all look up to her so much and she had nothing but positive nice things to say and gave me a big hug and we took pictures. She said “You know- we gotta do this again” and like yo That was really cool. So thank you to whoever made that happen. Thank you Ms Lauryn.
How did you keep your cool around her. Cause I’m not even gonna lie I feel like I would be fan girling out.
Nah we, *Laughs* were tripping. We had to like make a whole plan, cause we knew she had a meet and greet. But we knew if we could stand in front of her looking sad for long enough, she would notice us and feel guilty and come over and talk. So you know we had to talk to her team and finesse our way in and then finally get the picture and all that.
That is incredible! Oh My Goodness
It was pretty crazy.
Who else like with Lauryn Hill have you been in ore of meeting?
Oh, I opened for the legendary Craig David that was like my first
Craig David, and you called him a legend. I respect that you respect the London culture like this.
Yea! You got to.
That’s my cousin Craig.
No he is ligit like everyone’s cousin over here
He is a beast. I love his music. and he is also like same thing. Meeting him was like wow. Like once again another example of like somebody who. Not that I ever heard anything but just like you never know what to expect when you meet somebody of that stator and that level. He was humble and kind and respected everyone on my team. You know nothing but respect for you Craig.
Oh, I just love that you love a bit of craig David. What is one of your favourite tunes from him?
This hit *Hmmms Craig David 7 days Song*
Monday, took her for a drink
Yea, is that 7 days
I’m not gonna sing it but Love a bit of Craig. Now what can we expect from you in 2019. The rest of 2019
We got a bunch of shows. Not sure how fast this is coming out, But on Saturday we have Smokin’ Grooves in Long beach- Erykah Badu and Usher Headlining that.
Oh my god
Crazy! And then we have a few festivals in America and then High Tide part two.
So wait, can we go back to Eyrkah Badu and Usher. You going to be at a festival with them.
They are headlining. It’s a super R’n’B festival, Erykah Badu, Usher, Ari Lennox, you know. Who else is performing there Tom? *Asks friend in the room*
*Friend in room answers * I’m gonna telll you right now
*Sighs* that sounds amazing
Its honestly just a Stack line up.
When is this
*Friend in room replies *Usher, Daniel Caesar, Kali Uchis, T-Pain, The Dream, Teddy
*Sings* Turn out the lights. NOOOO!
When is this
Saturday in Long Beach
I feel like London we kinda Lacking. We are coming
You got that festival that like Love
That’s out here that similar R’n’B thing similar.
That’s more R’n’B than Lovebox. I’m not gonna lie
Well this one is pretty insane like this is like that line up is.
It sounds insane
Its an honour to be part of that line up
Have you met Erykah Badu before,
What you gonna do when you meet her? Apparently you don’t look into her eyes, cause you will like fall in love. Yea, cause she is that awesome.
Yea you just like yea. You gotta like look at the floor
I don’t know, I like if I get a chance to meet her that would be cool but you know how it is at those festivals. she probably busy. And I am like an earlier set time so I like be in the crowd.
But that’s good though.
Don’t be in the crowd, mingle.
I wanna hear that you don’t get good sound backstage.
No, I Know, In the crowd is so much better. Where it needs to be.
But a collaboration with you and Erykah or You and Usher? I’m here for
I have a crazy fact to drop on you
Drop it now *Makes bomb drop sound*
In the deep, deep, vault ungrounded, underneath the back cave, like you know face recognition passcode, finger print everything. In a super locked vault there is a Leven and Usher track.
Shut the front door. Why is this not coming out?
It was just like a vibe. U know that’s like big bro? Yo, its nothing bro. It was like a little bit ago we had some sessions in the studio because he was working with Srillex and the time and I had just been introduced to Srillex so we were working on some stuff just like kinda just vibing out and went to dinner a couple of times.
Just casually went to dinner with Usher?
It sounds like I am saying it light- But I have had time to come down. *Laughs*
But it is pretty crazy but year Usher when he speaks to you in real life you are like you’re a legend. He sings when he speaks. and weaars shades all the time, and has the Wraith with all the lights.
*Laughs* Now that is….. When did you lot record that?
Errmmm it was like 2017, 2018
I’m gonna need you to release it
We just have a few ideas
We will see maybe we will reconnect and see what happens.
You need to- At the festival on Saturday. Jus be like Usher do you remember that tune. I’m just gonna release it on Tuesday. I’m just going to drop it.
And he will probably be like “Yeah, Yeah” *Sings Ushers Song Yeah*
That was my cheesy joke for the day.
Nah you landed that though, I like that. Congrats
Thank you very much, thank you.
Round of appaulse *Claps*
No we are gonna need to hear that. So as well as you have a secret Vault Vault locked away with Usher. Who else would you like to work with in the future?
Erm I think it would be incredible to be around Stevie Wonder. Even just like jamming to learn and absorb. He is like one of the last to like, all time legends that we still have on the planet with us so …I feel like that’s a irreplaceable moment to value and look at. You know what’s crazy I’ve sat at a table next to him once and that was almost enough, but I would really just like have him at a keybroad and be around him that would be like over the mooon! Like ultimate!
When you were at this table did you speak to him. Did you get to speak to him?
No, he was getting bothered by a bunch of people so. He was turning to chill to.
I believe in putting things out into the universe, so if you say it multiple times stick it on a mood board you will meet him.
I love it!
So anyways thank you for joining me today.
Thank you for having me.
I mean it’s a pleasure! Where can we keep up to date with everything you have got going on?
Ermm so Where can you keep up with it?
Like if we wanna stalk you. Not too much cause we know you are taken.
Everything is @ L-E-V-E-N K-A-L-I. Leven Kali.com, Merch we got the Low Tide Stuff. Can’t wait to come back here