By Chris Wells
Since Echoes readers can be assumed not to be au fait with the doings of Simon Cowell and his ridiculous TV shows, it’s probably news to you – as it was to me – that Texan soul singer LaTasha Lee once took part in the American version of X Factor. And failed very publicly.
It was during the programme’s 2012 season when Lee, through to the last 50 [where the supposedly serious bit begins] and facing a sing-off against another contestant, forgot her words so badly that she broke down in tears and was ejected. It hadn’t helped that she’d boldly told the pre-performance interviewer she was confident of breezing through.
The good news, though, is that LaTasha has now turned the mini-disaster to her advantage – by walking away from the demands of the trashy TV pop world and rebuilding her career as a more genuine, down-home southern soulgirl. With producer, co-writer and life partner Salih Williams by her side, Lee’s independently assembled album, trading under the name LaTasha Lee & The BlackTies – it’s available on iTunes – not to mention a host of youtube videos, have rebuilt her popularity Stateside with audiences who prefer their music uncluttered and heartfelt.
In fact, hearing her now, one can only wonder as to why LaTasha thought she needed X Factor in the first place. Her answer is simple.
“My sister is a huge fan of the show and she basically talked me into it. I didn’t want to put limits on myself, so… well, I tried it. I never expected to get anywhere, so making the last 50 was a bonus.
“Looking back on what happened, at first I was mad at myself. Now I think about it, I feel more like it was supposed to be that way. It definitely made me more determined. I decided pretty soon afterwards that I wasn’t going to let it stop me. Failing was embarrassing, yes, but I knew I had to get over it.”
Had she been over-confident?
“No it wasn’t that. Some people think that, but it was actually the opposite – it was because I was so nervous. I was saying those things because I was pumping myself up. I found out the hard way that TV can really make you seem a bit different to how you are. I’m really not like how I seemed on the show.”
Subsequently, LaTasha and Salih sat down and talked through the true direction in which they wanted to go, musically. Williams’ background in hip-hop [where he’d overseen platinum selling projects on Mike Jones, Bun B and Paul Wall] didn’t stop him approving a complete change of style to one that LaTasha herself felt more suited her nature.
“I knew that I wanted to do soul music. Prior to X Factor we had been mixing it up with a little R&B and pop. After X Factor I knew that I wanted to go completely soul. So Salih got his guitar out and we started to work on making some real soul music. It was the push I needed.
“I grew up listening to Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Etta James, Otis Redding… all the greats. That’s all I listen to today, and people like Johnnie Taylor, Wilson Pickett and Muddy Waters. I must have an old soul or something, because that music is all that speaks to me. In fact, Salih and me, we listen to that old school music to put us in the right place to create what we want, and we go from there. I guess I’m just a country soul girl at heart.”
Watch the vids: http://www.youtube.com/user/salih7779311