Biography of Leela James

Leela James
Leela James. Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images

eela James is a native of Los Angeles. Although she's tried to keep her exact age and date of birth private, she's believed to be in her late 20s.

Early Life and Career

Leela James grew up in a home where her father had a huge collection of '60s and '70s Soul and R&B records, and she set her sights on a professional singing career in the late 1990s. She was signed by RuffNation Records but her contract was absorbed by the Warner Bros. label once RuffNation went under. Unfortunately, her project fell between the cracks at RuffNation and Warner and languished for nearly four years.

A Change is Gonna Come

Her trials as an artist in limbo led to the overall theme of the debut album she put together for Warner. The album, which she titled A Change Is Gonna Come, after the Sam Cooke song of the same title, was released in June, 2005. The album's theme is facing and overcoming obstacles - a subject she came to know well while working and waiting to get the project released. Led the by the first single, "Music," the album became a critical success. The album incorporates the styles of 1960s and 1970s American soul singers, and Leela's husky vocals have drawn comparisons to Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and Tina Turner.

Old-School Soul

The album's first single, "Music," laments what she sees as the decline of Hip-Hop and Soul music and asks for a return to the artistry of musicians of earlier decades. She included the title track, a cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," on the album at her mother's request. Despite the critical success of her debut, the album only sold about 200,000 copies in the U.S. Eventually, Leela moved from Warner Bros. Records to Shanachie Entertainment, where she released second album, Let's Do It Again, in March 2009, nearly four years after her debut album.


2012: Loving You More ... in the Spirit of Etta James
2010: My Soul
2009: Let's Do It Again
2005: A Change Is Gonna Come


  • Despite having a deep, soulful singing voice, Leela has a very high-pitched speaking voice.
  • She is fairly short -- barely five feet tall.
  • Leela was a track star in school.
  • She has a degree in business from California State University.

Notable Quote

"I want my music to be more than just good music. I would like to challenge what is considered popular R&B music today. I want it to bring back good lyrics and real singing that touch people in their hearts and and melodies that stick to their ribs and nourish the soul."

-- Leela James, 2005.