Marsha Ambrosius - NYLA Tour with Opener Leah Jenea presented by Lovenoise - LATE SHOW added by popular demand! - 3/5/19Tuesday, March 05 2019 9:30pm Doors / 10:00pm Start / Ends 11:30pm (Estimated End Time)
Marsha Ambrosius - NYLA Tour with Opener Leah Jenea presented by Lovenoise - LATE SHOW added by popular demand! - 3/5/19
at City Winery Nashville
- 11:30pm (Estimated End Time)
Love enlarges life and makes each experience three-dimensional. It also dramatically amplifies the impact of art.
GRAMMY® Award-nominated soul singer, songwriter, and pianist Marsha Ambrosius catalogs two transformative years via the 16 impassioned, irresistible, and inimitable anthems comprising her third full-length album and first for Entertainment One (eOne)—NYLA. During that time, she met her future husband on the road, married him, and gave birth to the album’s namesake, her daughter Nyla.
Now, these moments live and breathe in her biggest and boldest body of work to date.
“Bringing a daughter into the world just added to the size of my heart, which added to the size of my musical experience,” she admits. “Playing a piano isn’t just playing a piano anymore. Writing lyrics isn’t just writing lyrics anymore. I’m channeling something that was completely foreign to me before. It’s real love. I let go of everything, fell in love, and became a wife and mother. The record gives you this storyline.”
Nearly two decades in the game set the stage for this story. After co-founding the gold-certified and influential Floetry, Marsha went from penning tunes for Michael Jackson “Butterflies,” Alicia Keys and Jamie Foxx to launching a successful solo career. Her 2011 debut, Late Nights & Early Mornings, bowed at #1 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart and #2 on the Top 200 and yielded hits such as the GRAMMY® nominated “Far Away” and “Hope She Cheats On You (With A Basketball Player).” As her profile rose, The First Family - The Obama’s, invited her to perform at The White House for The National Christmas Tree Lighting.
2014 saw the follow-up Friends & Lovers soar to #2 on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart and #12 on the Top 200 highlighted by collaborations with Dr. Dre, Charlie Wilson and her nephew Skye. In between a relentless tour schedule, she lent her voice to five tracks from Dre’s 2015 chartdominating and gold-selling swan song, Compton, in addition to high-profile collaborations with the likes of Kanye West, Solange, A Tribe Called Quest, and many more.
In the midst of these accomplishments, NYLA initially took shape during a period of emotional upheaval.
“I was losing my mind,” she admits. “Being a creative can be a lonely and cold road. I just didn’t feel like myself. Channeling all of the energy into the music is what helped save my sanity. Poems turned into melodies and a bunch of songs like my personal therapy in a sense. From beginning to end, it’s me letting go of everything I wanted to let go of in my life and experiencing things all over again through Nyla’s eyes.”
She initially teased the impending album with “Luh Ya.” Satiating rabid fan demand, it quickly generated 7 million Spotify streams. Kicking off the campaign, the first single “Old Times” pairs sparse piano keys and subtle bass with a stark vocal that builds towards a rapturous refrain punctuated by fiery falsetto.
“My heart was desperate to have love, but I was also afraid of it,” she confesses. “I wrote ‘Old Times’ before I got married. A year later, it sounded so different. To me, it’s about wanting to preserve that old love and that good feeling when you used to listen to your Stevie Wonder, Prince, Marvin Gaye, and Michael Jackson records. You want to be comfortable, hold your loved ones tight, cry, sing, and pray. It’s all about true feelings for me.”
Pushing the limits of her expansive range, the emotionally charged “Never Be The Same Again” pays tribute to a friend who would be tragically taken from the world too soon. She notably recorded it in one tearful take, and it remains a stand out.
“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he was stabbed to death,” she sighs. “It’s still difficult to talk about and say he’s not here anymore. We wish we could go back, but we never can. It’s dedicated to his memory. I’m crying out my feelings on this one.”
Elsewhere, Nyla swings from the swaggering strut of “I Got It Bad” to “How High,” which perfectly captures what she describes as a “Marsha Moment.”
“I’ve been writing and recording with just me and the keys since I was eight,” she smiles. “Even with all of the bells and whistles. It comes down to great lyrics, a melody, and a strong performance. It’s vulnerable when it’s just me and the piano. There are a lot of those moments.”
They’re also impossible not to feel. That’s what makes NYLA so impactful.
“I’m trying to bring feeling back,” Marsha leaves off. “It’s nothing contrived. I’m trying to create music that people can feel again. I felt this. I’m sharing it now.”
Many will recall Leah Jenea from her dazzling debut on Fox’s The Four: Battle For Stardom, where she wowed the judges as one of the show’s youngest competitors and quickly rose to become a fan favorite. Her 2018 was filled with well-deserved success, though her 2019 is about to one up the previous year. As Leah Jenea readies her upcoming EP Leah Meets Nina, the 18-year-old upstart is geared to craft music that melds the old school with the new school.
Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, it seems as though Leah entered the world with headphones on. Her mother Janine would often sing to her, while her father (rapper Left Gunnz) taught her the art of rap. That duality would follow her through childhood. “My parents always surrounded me with music and people doing music,” she remembers, “always making it a huge part of my life. Newark’s art world is amazing. I started networking with the community very early, performing in showcases, open mics, and stuff like that. I got myself involved with the help of my mom.”
At nine years old, she attended summer camp at Newark Symphony Hall, later taking part in the Special Ensemble, a gospel group consisting of 12 kids between the ages 9-15. After being together for only nine months, they went on to win a Gold medal in the 2011 McDonald's Gospelfest Children's Group category. “I was about 14 when I had the realization to make solo music,” Leah explains. Her brother joined the cast of Broadway musical Kinky Boots and so for nine months, Leah traveled with her family on the show’s national tour and witnessed the performing arts in real time on a regular basis. “The show is about being yourself, so seeing [the cast] express themselves made me come out of my own shell and really realize that this is what I wanted to do full-time,” she admits. “Prior to that, I didn’t take music as seriously as I could.”
When she returned home from the tour, she knew where her heart truly lied. “When I got home, I had songs written, ideas for projects, I was working with different people through posting videos online,” she says. “I was ready for whatever.”
Leah continued her competitive streak, auditioning for The Voice in 2015, along with Apollo’s Child Stars of Tomorrow the following year, where she won first place three times in a row. In 2017, Leah dropped her debut EP Life W.T.R. described by Leah as a “compilation of different genres ranging from R&B, hiphop, soul, and pop. It tells the story of different things that I learned through music, going through the motions of life.” The project enhanced her buzz, through her authenticity and undeniable sound.
However, once The Four: Battle For Stardom happened, it was game over. “It blew my career up, honestly,” she explains. “It kind of grew me up pretty quickly. That jump from 17-18 felt like five years. I learned so much. It helped me to take my craft seriously while people started taking me more seriously.”
In the midst of her growing fame, Leah met hip-hop legends Kay Gee and Vin Rock of Naughty By Nature through her father. While the rap veterans took an interest in her sound, they weren’t sure she was ready until a clip of her song “Pulse” hit Instagram. “That’s when they knew it was time,” she says, becoming part of the Illtown Sluggaz collective and appearing on the track “On It.” Now managed by both her parents and the Naughty icons, Leah is geared to level up with her Slugga Music/Cinematic Music Group release titled Leah Meets Nina.
Leah Meets Nina reflects that continued balance as Leah Jenea delivers a striking project harnessing the power of Nina Simone with her own authentic style. It started as a mixtape to test the waters for her career, though once the music industry caught wind, Leah was urged to make it a full-fledged project. She struck a deal with Cinematic Music Group, and the rest is history. Leah Jenea has an undeniably classic sound mixed with a modern twist. As she reaches the next phase in her career, her mission remains intact. “My goal is to bridge the gap between old soul music and new soul music,” she says. “I want to bring back music with substance. It’s coming back slowly, but I’d definitely like to be that glue.”