LeToya Luckett Talks Dionne Warwick, ‘Back 2 Life’ and Bad Marriages: ‘If You Don’t Feel the Love, RUN’
LeToya Luckett is Back 2 Life.
Two-time Grammy award winner and former Destiny's Child member LeToya Luckett is back with her third studio album, Back 2 Life. It's been 11 years since Luckett made her debut as a solo artist with 2016s LeToya, an album that debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 165,000 copies and shot to number one on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
Over the next several years, Luckett would release her second album (2009s Lady Love); bolstered her acting career with roles in the Christian drama The Preacher's Kid and on HBOs Ballers; and she went through a well-publicized marriage and divorce from author Rob Hill, Sr last year. She recently released her second video for the single "Used To." We caught up with Luckett to talk about her new album, the inspiration behind her music video mini-series, and her successful transition from singer to actress.
So much has happened in your life and in the world since Lady Love, how is Back 2 Life different from your past albums?
I don’t know if you can hear it, but a lot of growth. I stepped out the box on this album and I wanted to open my heart and talk about some of my experiences, things that I’ve gone through over the past seven years. I feel like a completely different woman since my last album, definitely more mature, more confident, and more sure of myself.
That’s why songs like “Used To" [are] edgier, more in your face, and just like, "Yeah, negro--this is who I am, what I bring to the table–don’t forget." I probably would have been scared to speak like that on my last album. But I’m in a different place and I hope that people hear that. I also wanted an album that was more relatable than any other album that I put out lyrically.
After enduring a painful divorce last year--what relationship advice would you give to get over a heartbreak?
Love is never easy, it never is. And I’m not just talking about girl and guy, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband and wife. I’m talking about family, friends--all of that. When you love someone, they have a piece of you, one of the most important pieces of you, and that’s your heart. And when you decide to love freely and love hard--like I do myself--that’s a risk that you’re taking–getting hurt.
With everything, especially romantic relationships, you have to protect your heart. That doesn’t mean you can’t show up and be able to give this person a piece of you and be open to being yourself. But at the same time, I don’t mean to get spiritual, but my faith lies in God. Everything that I give is to God and my trust is in Him. People are going to hurt you--know that--in any romantic relationship.
So your expectations of someone being perfect--you gotta chill on that a little bit. But at the same time, if you’re not being treated the way you’re supposed to be treated and that deep still voice is telling you to run? Baby girl--run.
Don’t stay for convenience, don’t stay because this person is financially supportive of you. He’s treating you like crap. And he’s talking to you crazy, he’s not lifting you up [or] encouraging you. If you don’t feel that love–run. Don’t waste your time, time is something that you cannot get back.
How did you know when it was time to get out of the relationship?
I think we all know when it’s time to get out, but sometimes we let it go on a little longer than it should. But on the other side of that, you can’t expect people to be perfect. And if this is something that your heart is still in and he or she has the 80/20 joint and he is something you can work with, don’t be quick to say the grass might be greener on the other side.
And don’t let other people’s lives--and we do this with social media a lot--but don’t let allow other people’s lifestyles and the way that they're living their lives distract you from your path and what God has for you.
Trust yourself, trust your gut, and that’s what you should be led by. I’m led by the voice of God, I pray for wisdom and direction, and I would encourage anybody in a relationship to pray for the same thing. And be okay with your decision.
The videos for “Back 2 Life” and “Used To” are like short films.
I grew up watching music videos with storylines. When Michael Jackson came out with a video it was a mini-movie. He would pump you up with the previews and you just couldn’t wait to be in front of your TV screen, because it was an experience. It wasn’t just someone trying to be cute and make great facial expressions and hand gestures in the camera to a beat. It was telling a story, and that’s what I wanted to get back to.
I wanted you guys to see what I was going through. When I listened to Back 2 Life in the studio I was like, "Yo, this is where I was in this moment when I was singing it." I wanted you guys to see that and experience it with me. I knew it was something that everybody could relate to.
Can we expect the video series to keep going?
Yes, it will keep going. Right now, we are set to release one more, but we’ll see. I love putting these projects together, I was very hands-on with this. I’m so blessed that Mike Vaughn saw my vision, he directed it, and I co-directed it with him. This was my first time producing, writing, editing, and really getting my hands in it. I didn’t just look at a treatment and say, “Oh, okay--yeah I’ll do that.” I wanted it to be an experience, so I’m so glad that he got it.
What does the title Back 2 Life signify?
Originally my album was called Until Then, I came up with that title when I was under the hairdryer and I was having a moment with myself. I was kinda in the in-between stages and was like, “I’m just letting the Lord work and he gon’ show up when he show up. I’m gon’ trust in him but until then I’m gon’ be right here where I’m at and live my life, and be happy in it.”
And once I did the rest of “Back 2 Life,” I said, this is speaking to me. I gotta get back to me, I gotta get back to what makes me happy. I gotta get back to what makes me feel fulfilled. And music is a part of that, I’ve been singing since I was five, and that’s what gives me life. Also, just as a woman, a lot of times we lose ourselves in so many things around us and in so many people around us.
We are givers and nurturers and all these different things, and we forget who we are. We forget the power that we have, we forget how strong, how beautiful, and well-crafted we are. And this song says all of that, so I said to myself, why not make it the title of my album? That is what this album stands for, getting back to me and what I love.
What's the most important lesson you've learned so far that has kept you?
Staying true to yourself, but first, finding yourself. Finding yourself and trusting yourself, especially in this business where so many people want different things and you're being pulled in different directions. God gave you intuition, trust it, it will save your life. And not just in your career but with everything that you’re doing, trust yourself and be confident. Walk in your knowing and be confident in it.
What do you consider to be the lowest/highest point in your career and how did you overcome it?
The lowest point in my career was in between my first and second album. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t even want to be a solo artist, and the fact that I was able to drop an album and a single and it did what it did, I was so thankful but I was like "Where do I go from here?" I felt like in that moment I couldn’t hear God’s voice, I knew he was present but I didn’t know what direction to go in. That was probably the lowest point.
The highest point, I’m on a high every time someone comes up to me and says, “Your song ‘Torn’ gave me the courage to leave my toxic relationship.” That’s what I get high off of--when people listen to my music and it encourages and inspires them to make the right decision. That’s been the highest point so far, it wasn’t a number one, it wasn’t the Grammys. Those are all amazing things but knowing someone heard me, that someone heard my heart, those are the high points for me.
You have been cast to play Dionne Warwick in an upcoming biopic.
I’m honored that she would think enough of me to cast me in this role and trust me with it. It’s a huge responsibility, but I feel like I’m going to grow in this character, this is going to do something for Toya. It’s scary--but at the same time, I can’t walk in fear. It’s going to be on my shoulders to carry this out, I can do it. I don’t think that God gives you anything that you can’t handle.
It’s so important to honor our legends and our icons while we still have them here on earth. I think that it’s wack that we wait to say, you’re awesome, you’re great, you’ve opened so many doors for me–after they're gone. She’s still here, I love that I can call her and read the script, and ask her how she felt in that moment. Or just to say "Thank you, thank you for opening up the door for black female artists." We know--especially back when she came out--it wasn’t easy, they weren’t getting love and respect.
So to be able to tell her thank you right now is great. We have to do that, as African Americans, we still have some icons here and we have to celebrate them.
YOU CAN CHECK OUT LETOYA LUCKETT'S VIDEOS FOR "BACK 2 LIFE" AND "USED TO" BELOW: