Lemar is back after a three year break with a highly anticipated new album, The Letter. HELLO! Online attended the album launch party, a glitzy affair at London’s Mondrian Hotel and spoke to the star about what inspired his latest release. We discovered what he really thinks about The X Factor and which celebrities he would most like to collaborate with.
What was the main inspiration for your album, The Letter?
"I just wanted to make a pure soul album that people who love soul would be proud to call their own. I wanted it to be recorded in that old school way and celebrate old classics as well as have some new songs which site nicely alongside."
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Lemar's new album The Letter is out now
You said that Love Turned To Hate was inspired by a long-term relationship. Were you speaking from personal experience?
"I think anyone who has been in a long term relationship has experienced the swings and roundabouts which I'm singing about in the song. I definitely have. I think the key is to not let the lows outweigh the highs."
We love your single The Letter. When did you last write a letter and what was it about?
"Wow... The last time I wrote a letter was probably during the process of making this album. I thought - seeing as the title of the album was The Letter - that it would be cool to write the lyrics out with a message saying thanks for the support etc, and explaining a bit about the album.
I don't think we write enough letters nowadays. Emails aren't quite the same. Note to self... write more letters."
Lemar has stayed out of the spotlight for three years
Your lyrics tend to focus on matters of the heart. Would you call yourself a romantic?
"I think once upon a time I definitely was. Now I work so much and am away so much, I think I'm letting my previous self down just a touch. When I do focus - yes I am romantic."
Is it hard to balance a music career with family life?
"I find it hard. Not sure I have or will really ever find the perfect balance but - I do my best “
How did you find your recent album launch tour after having a three year break?
"I can't express how good it was to be back on the stage. I love performing with my band and the people who came out to support were brilliant every night. The album launch at The Mondrian Hotel in London was pretty cool and the final show at Bush Hall in London was off the chain. A lovely welcome back. I can't wait to do more!"
Lemar burst into limelight after winning Fame Academy
Who are your all time favourite artists?
"I like Marvin Gaye and Al Green. They are pretty awesome. But the list is a long one. Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Prince, R Kelly, Jodeci, Donny Hathaway - I could go on for a while."
Which artists would you most like to collaborate with?
"My CV reads very well at the moment but I would like to record something with Kendrick Lamar, Alabama Shakes, Bruno Mars... any of those I think would be pretty cool."
Lemar has three MOBO awards
What have you enjoyed most about releasing this album?
"Everything on this album has been new. New Management, new Label, new recording approach, new enthusiasm. It’s very refreshing to feel like you're at the beginning of something new even though you're seven albums down the road. That and the opportunity to get back on the stage and perform. That’s where everything makes sense to me. The stage."
You found fame after taking part in Fame Academy in 2002 – do you think it’s harder for graduates of star search programmes to establish themselves as serious artists?
"It can be hard. The opportunities may - in some instances - be less, and you may feel like you have a harder task of proving yourself. I feel very fortunate that I was able to gig for 8 years prior to any 'discovery' of my talent and also very fortunate to have been around long enough not to care about anyone else but the fans and people who really want to support.
"We live in an age where people have an opinion for having an opinions sake (qualified or unqualified). As long as you're doing you, and your peers and people who respect and who understand just exactly what you have to navigate as an artist, appreciate you and give you the silent nod - other opinions don't matter so much."
Lemar wants to get back into the habit of writing letters
Do you watch programmes like the The X Factor and The Voice or do you avoid them?
"If I’m at home when it’s on then yeah I take a look. I love voices and anything that involves voices so if I hear one - I'll take a listen. Why not."
Do you have any advice for anyone considering putting themselves forward for a show of this nature?
"Do your ground work first. I think these shows work best when the people in them or winning them have been paying their dues prior to doing the show. You would be surprised at how much you learn from getting on stages and singing day in day out, and the training you get from going on a circuit and singing every week.
"It will only make you better when you're on those shows and bring you a step closer to being a better artist / performer overall."
Lemar’s new album The Letter is out now.