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Lalah Hathaway comes alive

Jazz singer's latest release celebrates 25 years on the stage

When jazz and pop vocalist Lalah Hathaway stepped onto the music scene in the early 1990s, she garnered a lot of attention from critics and fans alike due to the fact that she's the daughter of legendary soul singer Donny Hathaway. But today, nearly 25 years after her musical debut, Hathaway is recognized for her own acclaimed catalog of soul-and-jazz-centric classics. And come October 30, she'll add another project to her discography: Lalah Hathaway Live. To celebrate the album's release, Hathaway is playing two sold-out shows in Atlanta, the day her album hits record store shelves. But before she takes the stage, Hathaway checked in to talk about her new music, a quarter century spent working in the music industry, and the joy of finding music.

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What inspired you to make your latest album a live one?

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Oh, I grew up with live records in the '70s and '80s — I mean, all the way from Earth Wind and Fire to Peter Frampton to Donny Hathaway. I really wanted to create something like that: An experience for people to feel like they were at the show, and something for people who haven't seen me perform live to feel like they were right there in the room. The intent of the album is also to include songs spanning from the time from when my first album, Lalah Hathaway, came out in 1990, up till now.

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I remember blasting that debut album in my college dorm back in the day. As dope as it was, your voice seems to have improved over the years.

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I hope so! That's really the point. That's what you're supposed to do. You know what I mean? You get better and you get greater and you have more insight and you work with more people and you evolve and do different things. It's so cool to me that in the past year I'm on a Kenny Lattimore record, a Kirk Franklin Record, a Teri Lyne Carrington record, a Kendrick Lamar record. I just try to be as well-rounded a musician as possible and that means doing as much music as I can.

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And you have built a body of substantial work without ever going pop.

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Well, we always hope. Everyone wants for the populace to get what they're doing. I've done records with Meshell Ndegeocello, Marcus Miller, Take 6, artists who are all over the board that I wish 3 million people would hear. Everybody wants to get to as many people as possible. As a musician, it's just not your intent when you go in the studio to make music.

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Well, I for one, would hate to hear a Lalah Hathaway trap song!

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Why would you hate that? Laughs The hope is I can take anything and redo and put my spin on it and then it's gonna be something different. You'll never hear me with Auto-Tune, but musically, perhaps there is a way to do everything. And that's the joy of doing music. It's really trying to find the music.

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So, there may be a Fetty Wap collaboration on the horizon?

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The point is would you check it out?!

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I would definitely give it a listen. Looking forward to this record release show on October 30. What do you have planned for the folks in attendance?

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We're doing some new stuff. We're doing a lot of old stuff, a lot of the best of my career. But, that's one of those things I really decide on the day. And even more than that, when we perform at places where they need the set list before we play, it always kills me — because I might look at the crowd and feel something like: "Hey, let's play this," or "let's leave that out." So, I don't really know what the show is gonna be. We just get in there and knock it down and get out.

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Looking forward even further, have you started plotting out your next 25 years in music?

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Absolutely not. I don't know what's going to happen. It's so crazy. I've been making music for 25 years, and I feel like I'm just starting to pop right now. It has been one of those evolutions for me. It's amazing to think I've been doing this as long as I have. There are so many things I've tried to do and there are so many things I have plans to do. But, I am really excited about the next phase of my career, and I'm still super excited about music.