She’s the only woman in her household. She’s surrounded around nothing, but MEN! After talking with this down home Southern girl, I think she can hold her own wherever she goes, especially behind the mic!
I never quite know what to expect when I get prepared for these interviews. But, everyone has been a pleasure so far and LeJuene was no different. LeJuene is the type of person you strike up a conversation with at the grocery store and you guys share one good laugh for the 45 seconds you are standing in line. This interview felt like that, except it was just a little longer than 45 seconds! (lol)
How did you get your start in Gospel music?
I started out with John P. Kee. He was big on the Gospel scene and a friend introduced us. It’s hard to believe, but I was only 13 at the time. I have been working ever since!
So how did you get connected with Donald Lawrence?
Donald is from North Carolina, so I’ve known him since the early ‘80s! Donald was real hot around the Tri State area, but he went off to school to get his degree. So he was gone for a minute. After college, he came back and produced Stephanie Mills’ first Gospel project and that’s when people really started to take notice of him. I actually didn’t start singing with him until the late ‘90s, when my husband Cedric started playing for him. I went on tour with Donald and had a blast!
Speaking of your music producer husband, Cedric Thompson, how did you two meet?
We met in John’s camp. That’s another reason why I love John P. Kee and thank God for him. He’s the reason I met my husband. I didn’t like Cedric in the beginning. He thought he was all that! I had to let him know that I wasn’t checkin’ for him like that! (lol) I was a bit of a tomboy back then. But, a mutual friend of ours kind of pushed us together and we took it from there. We were young when we met. I was sixteen and Cedric was seventeen. We dated for about a year and as soon as we turned eighteen, we got married. I knew he was the one. When we first met, he kept saying we were going to get married and we did.
Was Sheri Jones Moffett singing with Donald Lawrence at the same time you were?
Yes, we were singing with him at the same time! It’s funny that we all have our own solo careers now because back then we never really discussed it. That really wasn’t our focus back then. Being a background singer is my first love. I love being in the background and being the support system. It’s interesting because you can be a good leader, but be a terrible background singer. It takes a lot of work and training. Working with Donald Lawrence is some of the best training you will ever get in this business.
Was it always your dream to do a solo album?
Honestly, that was never a goal for me. A solo deal had been offered to me and I just wasn’t ready. I’ve always been a little gun shy. My deal with EMI really came about because of Donald. He walked me through everything. I was still unsure about the whole thing, but I was confident enough where I knew I could do it. It was also vital to me to have something to sing about. If I was going to do an album, I wanted to have a real testimony. My momma always said don’t be up there playing with God. During the time that this solo album came about, I went through some deep tragedies. My four year old godson was murdered, my grandmother died, and my aunt and uncle died all within a 6 week period. It was a very tough time, but I knew God was doing something.
How was it being in the studio all by yourself?
I had to shift gears in terms of recording by myself. I was so used to singing background, that it was definitely an adjustment going into the studio alone. Being in the studio by yourself can be very intimidating because you don’t have that tenor or alto voice to rely on.
Was it hard working with Cedric “the producer” opposed to Cedric “your husband”?
Cedric told me when it’s business, we ain’t friends! I was mad at him 90% of the time. Cedric knows how to get me mad to the point where I will give him exactly what he wants. (lol)
Were you disappointed with how your album did as far as sales were concerned?
I was a little disappointed. It’s interesting because your first project is almost like having a baby and you want everyone to think your baby is cute! You want everyone to love what you do, but that’s not always the case. It’s a humbling experience. EMI was going through a transition phase at the time my album was released and it honestly just got lost in the shuffle of everything. I also don’t think they really knew how to market me. EMI actually wanted me to record another album on the label, but they wanted me to record an album that wasn’t me. The direction they wanted me to go in was not my area of ministry. If I’m not into it, then I can’t effectively do what God has called me to do. But, even through everything, I knew God had his hand in the whole situation.
There was a 5 year gap between your first CD “Soul Inspirations” and your second release“Metamorphosis”. What took so long?
I had been talking to other labels, but I was very apprehensive. When you sign with a label, they have the majority of the power and they have there own idea of what they want you to do. I didn’t want to get into another situation where I didn’t have creative control. It got very discouraging at times. Sometimes I felt like I just wanted to go to Wal-Mart and be a cashier to get away from all the stress. It was a difficult transition period and I went through a lot. I talked to a lot of other artists who were having the same issues as me, so I wasn’t feeling too positive about my situation. But, Donald told me and my husband that we should do it ourselves. He said go independent.
Was it difficult going from a major label to becoming an independent artist?
Going from a major label to being an independent artist is very different. It was a bumpy road. Cedric and I were entering into uncharted territory. I’m talking blind faith…like you’re blindfolded in the dark! It can be rough because everything falls on your shoulders if something doesn’t turn out right. But, I’m extremely happy with how “Metamorphosis” turned out. It’s who I am and the woman I’m evolving into. I was able to do the type of music I wanted to do and experiment with different types of sounds. I didn’t have a lot of say on my first album because when you’re spending someone else’s money, you do what they say.
Can Gospel artists financially live off their ministry or do they have to have a “regular job” too?
Well my husband and I live off of music now, but in the beginning it was hard. I worked at American Express for a long time. The Gospel industry is so fickle. When you’re a new artist you really have to prove yourself. Many churches and venues don’t want to pay you anything either. If they do offer you something, it can be very little. As you become more established, it does get easier. Even though it’s a ministry, it’s a business too. The good thing for my family is that if I’m not getting any dates, we still have Cedric’s income to keep us going. That’s been a real blessing!
Do you listen to your music?
I am my biggest critic. I’m always trying to outdo myself. I hate to hear myself sing. You will definitely not find me playing my CD for my own enjoyment. But, I’m always surprised when I hear my sons singing one of my songs around the house. I like to get their opinion on my music. My two oldest sons keep their ear to the streets, so they will tell me if something is whack in a heartbeat!
Is there a third project in the works?
Yes we are working on it now! My oldest son will be taking on a bigger role as a producer on this album and Cedric will be more on the executive producer end. We are going to reach out to some other producers that are on my wish list. I would love to work with Tommy Simms! My goal with all my music is to reach souls outside of the church walls. People are dying in the world and we can’t continue to just minister to the same church folks!
LeJuene Thompson’s 20 Random Truths
- Favorite movie? “Fried Green Tomatoes”
- Andrae Crouch, Walter Hawkins or Marvin Winans? Walter Hawkins.
- Favorite ice cream? Cookies N Cream.
- Who did you want to win Sunday Best? Jessica Reedy.
- Favorite Donald Lawrence album? “Songwriter’s Point of View”.
- Which natural disaster would you rather go through…Earthquake, Tornado or a Hurricane? If I survive, a Tornado!
- Favorite restaurant? “Mimi’s Café.”
- Least favorite song on your 1st album? “Deliverance”. It was hard to sing.
- Dream car? Jaguar.
- Do you like rollercoasters? No. I ride the kiddie ones!
- Jeffrey Osbourne, Peabo Bryson, Barry White or Luther Vandross? Luther Vandross.
- Do you know how to change a tire? No.
- Favorite fruit? Strawberries.
- Favorite TV show? “Good Times”.
- Witness, Virtue, Mary Mary or Trin-i-tee 5:7? Witness.
- Favorite store to shop in? Wal-Mart. It’s therapeutic!
- Favorite album your husband produced? Vanessa Bell Armstrong’s album.
- Favorite Bible verse? Hebrews 11:1.
- Favorite American Idol? Fantasia of course!
- The View, Dr. Phil, Oprah or Ellen? “The View.”