In a world where so much of music is lost in the pursuit of popularity and fame it is refreshing to meet this iconoclast. Meet Levantay, her latest single “beYOUtiful,” is a mesmerizing blend of an entrancing beat, soulful voice and thoughtful lyrics. The catchy chorus stays on your mind, the rhythmic beat makes you move your waistline and the lyrics stay with you like your favorite poetic lines. In this interview we caught up with Levantay to get a sneak peak into her mind, music and mission.
What is your name? Levantay
Where are you from? I grew up in a small town called Spur Tree located on the island of Jamaica then later moved to New York.
How long have you been making music? I’ve been making music seriously for over ten years. However, I have been writing songs all my life but they used to come out in the form of poetry. I started writing poetry in a black composition book when I was around eight years old after my mom migrated to the United States to work leaving me in Jamaica with my sister. I wrote little love notes to her in the form of poetry that I never sent to her then that poetry book later turned into my sacred space where I could go to express myself. Over time I found myself writing little chorus’ and refrains in the poems because deep down I had a secret desire to write music and sing but I was told by a family member at a young age that I couldn’t sing and I believed her. So I kept my desire to sing to myself until one day I was performing poetry in Queens and after I got off stage the stage manager invited me to the studio and that was it…I reclaimed apart of myself that I had lost hope in.
What genre of music do you make? Pop/Dancehall, with a message. A typical genre would be World Music.
Can you tell us about your upcoming release and the background and inspirations behind it? My latest release is a song called “beYoutiful,” it’s the first single from my upcoming EP. “beYOUtiful,” was written in a time when I needed to believe in myself and pick myself up off the ground as I started the journey to making music on my own. I had spent years working with people who tried to get me to change myself to make music they thought would be popular. As I stepped out on my own I vowed to make music that is authentic to me and hopefully resonates with the souls of others. The song is an ode to finding my truth and standing in that authentic space as I go through life.
What would you say to someone who feels like “beYOUtiful” is being cynical of beauty especially since you are by any standard a beautiful woman? Anyone who would think that “beYOUtiful” is cynical represents the group of people who stay on the surface and places limiting standards on what is considered beautiful. “beYOUtiful” is not cynical but in fact celebrates beauty…not the kind on the surface but true beauty found when you are true to yourself and live authentically. Yes I am beautiful but not because of what you see on the outside…I am beautiful because of who I am. I own that space and I own my right to be beYOUtifully who I am. If you can’t stand my light then you just gonna have to cover your eyes, buddy
Do you prefer singing or songwriting? Definitely song writing. In my own process that’s when I come most alive… when I have a new idea and I start writing it. I recently had the most amazing opportunity to write a song for a vocalist whom I admire and just sit back and watch her sing it with all her heart. On the other hand something happens viscerally when I sing. As I open my mouth and let music into my emotions it’s quite a healing process. I’m grateful that I am able to have both together and don’t have to choose one over the other.
How would you define yourself? I try not to dwell in labels by calling myself any one thing but to live fully expressing all of who I am.
What do you think of the music industry in 2015? As an Indie Artist I have lots of thoughts about the music industry but lets say that if I had a choice I would never choose to be in this industry. Mark Cuban said it best on Shark Tank “the music industry is the worst industry on the planet, I’m out.” I wholeheartedly agree with him and I wish I didn’t have to deal with the beast that it is but I am a musician inclined to make music that reach and touch the world and therefore I have to spar with the beast. However I am very grateful for the new music industry because I don’t think someone like me would’ve found myself on a record label’s roster in the traditional industry. I have worked very hard to develop my business and pride myself on being an entrepreneur. I am co-founder of my own management and entertainment company and I consider myself a real renaissance woman not only a singer/songwriter but also an author, coach and speaker that combines inspirational keynote speeches with music.
What’s your favorite song at the moment? Right now my favorite song is Cheerleader because I remember listening to that song in its former version four years ago and now here it is at the top of the Billboard charts…a song from an unknown Jamaican singer. It makes me believe in possibility. Also I love the positive message it sends in a world that calls women the B-word, and revels in infidelity.
Who is the most influential artist now, and 10 years ago? That’s a difficult question simply because it depends on how you define influence. Well as for me influence means the people who touch me deepest not necessarily those who are most popular or on top of the charts. So I will answer this from a personal perspective. The most influential singer to me is Jill Scott because her song “Love Rained” with Mos Def, Coffee Shop remix jolted me out of my sleep one night when I was a teenager. As it played on the radio I realized that there is the possibility that if I combined poetry with music it could get played on the radio. Before that my music and poetry were two separate things. Plus her first album “Who is Jill Scott,” stays on repeat in my head. I could name so many artists who had great influence on me, I’ll name a few here: Bob Marley first and foremost for making that timeless, authentic music that changed the world. Shine Head, Super Cat, Sizzla Kalonji, U2, UB40, Whitney Houston, Tami Chynn…and the list goes on and on.
What is your favorite saying? My favorite saying is something I came up with at 16 and I hold steadfast to even today. I believe that “you can’t live forever but your impact on the world can last forever.” I make music because it is a piece of me that will outlast me and some of the greatest artists I know did not truly feel the impact of their work until after they were gone from this earth. It is an incredible power to be able to make something that can outlast you! It’s exciting but what’s more exciting is that it opens up a portal for connection with other people and I do believe that no man is an island, we all need each other.
What other hobbies or interests do you have? As I said I am a renaissance woman I am a creative at heart with so many varied interests and hobbies. I’m a Brave Butterfly who lives with passion and through creative expression shines a light to help others do the same. I love inspiring and encouraging others through music, writing, speaking and performing. I love to write, and I love public speaking. I have published one chapbook of poetry and recently finished my first book which is a piece of creative non-fiction.
Tell us more about your upcoming project or this new project? I’m excited for the launch of my full website and the launch of the beYOUtful Official Video. While filming the video we featured some strong, bold and beautiful women and as an off shoot we decided to do a mini documentary…I am excited to bring that out later on. Also I am on the journey to releasing the songs from my first EP entitled “Brave Girl,” and eventually releasing the EP itself. I hope to be on the road meeting my Brave Butterflies at performances, speeches and workshops and I am most excited to connect with my people..
What’s in the pipeline after this project?
Thank you for your time and may you carry on making dope, fresh music.
Thank you for having me