Check out my interview with Lalah Hathaway for gay press. Her album, Self Portrait, hit stores last month. Click here to purchase.
I first met Lalah Hathaway on a red carpet at event at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York. Celebrities were sashaying for the press and there was Lalah, looking stunning in a flowing, earth tone dress. She was taking questions from reporters when she was asked, “What are you wearing?” Lalah answered with a warm smile, “I’m just wearing Lalah!” Whenever I think of Lalah Hathaway I think of her “just wearing Lalah”, which is exactly what the R&B veteran is doing on her new album, appropriately titled Self Portrait.
Self Portrait, her fourth overall album, a confessional, soul record, where Lalah channels the spirit of her late-great father, R&B icon, Donny Hathaway. The twelve-track album is Hathaway at her best: captivating, honest and emotional. Daddy would be proud.
Hathaway chatted about the new album, her gay following and shares a few laughs.
What can your gay fans expect from the new album Self Portrait?
Basically, the same thing I hope that everyone expects, which is an album of quality and original material, written and co-written by me, produced and co-produced by me. I really hope it’s the music that they need, and when I say “they”, I mean everybody. I don’t really separate one group from the other, that’s just me.
R&B has changed so much since the days of Donny Hathaway, your father. Many people don’t play instruments, lip-synching is common place. What is your reaction to the state of mainstream R&B?
I’m kind of disappointed just in mainstream everything right now. I’m on this promo tour and every city you go to, black radio stations are either the hip-hop power stations or the oldie stations. It kind of gives you the impression that no new soul is being created. It used to be when I was growing up that each city had its own set of radio jocks. You would hear soul music, new music, local music—it was just more about the city in which you were listening to the radio. I think that R&B is homogenized and it makes me kind of sad.
Back to the gays—when did you realize you had a following in the gay community?
Did you say “back to the gays”! [Laughs]
Yep, back to the gays!
I like any group of people that we put the word “the” in front of! [Laughs]
It’s funny, I always say “the straights” so I kind of go back and forth!
That’s hilarious! [Laughs] Okay, I’m sorry… when did I realize I had a following in the gay community? In the last ten years or so and it’s a weird realization because it’s like—am I realizing that, what is that and why am I realizing it? It’s just like figuring out, oh, older black ladies come to my shows, wow, I wonder what that’s about.
I know some old school queens who were big fans of your father when he was alive. Was your father at all aware of having any type of following in alternative or gay communities?
I don’t know… I’m going to say, probably not. It’s easy for me to look at my web site and get the comments on MySpace to see who is coming to see me. I don’t know if it would have been as easy for him to know, I can’t say for sure.
Do you have any thoughts on gay marriage?
I had a talk with some friends of mine; they’re married for like twenty years. They felt like it was an abomination, which I understand for them because they got married in front of God and the state. They did what they thought was the only way to do it. But, I really think that whoever wants to be married, if you want to call it a civil union, whatever you want to call it, should be fine. I don’t feel like if two people live together and want to be together that they shouldn’t be able to benefit in the same way that married couples do. However that has to happen, I think that’s fair and that should happen. It seems likes a no-brainer to me.
Who is the closest gay person in your life?
Who is? You want names! [Laughs] I have a few friends. I mean, you know, I’m a musician. I grew up in this industry so I know a lot gay people. People who are bisexual—I know a couple trannys! You know, I get around a little bit!
How are gay fans different than straight fans?
None at all! I’m looking in the audience and I don’t know who is gay and who is not, so everybody is enthusiastic to me. Sexuality is not something I’m considering when people come to a show and they’re excited about it. The only group of people I found more enthusiastic than other groups is like Asian people because I can clearly see that they’re Asian! [Laughs] So, it would be hard to say.
When I interviewed Patti LaBelle she said that straight people are stiff and boring.
She said that? [Laughs] Well, you know, I’ve seen men at a Patti show dressed like Patti so that’s totally different! If you come with the Patti wig then you’re extra enthusiastic, but I can’t tell with my audience. That’s funny though, I love that…
I know you don’t like to compartmentalize your fans, but any last shout out to your gay fans? They are very loyal to you.
I understand, the thing is I have many fans on my web site and they are all extremely loyal. That’s how I measure the success because if I measured it on how much money I make or how many groups of people come see me—then I wouldn’t be able to measure it. I’m sure we have a lot of gay and lesbian people on the web site, but it’s not like we discuss it all the time. I just really appreciate everybody that can appreciate it—the work I do is for them. I hope we can get to a time, perhaps I’m naïve, where we don’t have to do gay press and straight press, the concept is kind of strange to me.
Self Portrait (Stax Records) is in stores now.