EXCLUSIVE: The Unflappable Ledisi On Performing “Sweet Love” On VH1 DIVAS: “What You Saw Was My Rehearsal And Performance All Together”

by (@unclegrambo)

One of the most memorable moments from last night’s taping of VH1 DIVAS Celebrates Soul ended up being one that had never even been rehearsed before the cameras started rolling. When you watch Ledisi and Marsha Ambrosius duet on “Sweet Love” tonight at 9 p.m. ET on VH1, you’re gonna think that the two singers had been practicing together for weeks. However, the truth of the matter is that the whole number came together just over an hour before showtime. Say what?

“I was headed to go to the red carpet and the producers and the music director and my manager all came rushing to my room,” Ledisi explained to us on a phone call earlier this afternoon. “I was asked ‘Can you sing ‘Sweet Love’?” and I was like, ‘Stop playin! [laughs] Anita Baker’s singing that’. But then they told me ‘No, this is serious.’ And I was like “Oh my God, yeah sure, sure, if you need me, I’ll do it.’ I didn’t ask what happened because I didn’t want to be in the middle of that — you know, I’m just new, I just want to sing my little two songs and get off stage. But then all of a sudden here’s a third song, so I just wanted to pay proper respect to Miss Anita Baker and not do too much and you know, share in the moment, so it was a lot of fun. I really was honored to be asked, they could have asked someone else but they asked me and Marsha sand the first verse and I was so appreciative of the whole experience, it was like a dream. Like, is this real? Like I left there — ‘Did that just really happen’?”

But wait, with less than two hours notice to perform the song in front of an audience of thousands (and millions of television viewers), how much time did Ledisi and Marsha get to spend practicing the Motown soul classic? “We didn’t practice!”, she explained to us. “[The producers pointed to] a marker, and said ‘This is where you sing and this is where Marsha will be singing. And Marsha exits stage right and you you go center.’ What you saw was my rehearsal and performance all together [laughs].”

“Sweet Love” isn’t the only song that you’ll see Ledisi performing on VH1 DIVAS Celebrates Soul tonight. She also duets with Kelly Clarkson on “Chain Of Fools” during the Motown medley portion of the evening. “That was my first time meeting Kelly and working with her,” Ledisi told us. “She’s amazingly funny and adorable. I absolutely love her voice, always have, and to be able to work with her was so cool. It was laid back, no pressure, and fun. We had a lot of fun. I love being able to sing with another fun person and just laugh, and laugh together on stage. It was amazing. And I thank her for letting me be a part of it with her.”

You can expect to be seeing a lot more of Ledisi in the future, too. Her latest album, Pieces Of Me, came out back in June and has been nominated for three Grammy awards, including R&B Album of the Year and Best R&B Song for the title track off that LP. “This year has been the most incredible year of my entire life,” she confessed. “I had my first headlining tour, and made a great record with great people; that’s what I was focused on. But then I was watching the Grammy nominations show, you know, in hopes that maybe I could be nominated. During the show, I went online to see and my name kept coming up, and I was like ‘WOW, one time? That’s great. What? Two times? Awesome!’ And then the third time I just started screaming and called my parents and said ‘Wow, this is real. Mom, it happened 3 times, I’m nominated!’”

Fortunately for Ledisi, her biggest issue in the next few months looks like it’s gonna be keeping the size of her guest list to a minimum when she hits the Grammys red carpet. “I’m hoping to keep the entourage small as usual, but I think everybody’s going to try and come this year [laughs]. I usually go four deep Mark, just four people! I don’t think it’s going to happen next year, it’s going to be a mess!”

Be sure to catch Ledisi and all of our other fantastic performers tonight when VH1 DIVAS Celebrates Soul airs on VH1 at 9 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. CT. For more information on Ledisi, be sure to check out Ledisi.com. Some of her upcoming European tour dates include London (1/20/12), Paris (1/21/12), Brussels (1/22/12), Amsterdam (1/23/12), Innsbruck (1/25/12), Zurich (1/26/12), and Vienna (1/27/12).