Vibe With: Houston’s sultry, soulful ‘Lenora’
Written by Vibe Houston Staff on February 1, 2021
Houston’s “sultry siren” Lenora is taking us on a magical journey of life, love and “situationships” with her debut album “Girls.” The rising star sat down to “VIBE OUT” with us, giving us a glimpse into her world.
So who is this young singer with the soulful name?
Lenora, who’s from the Hiram Clarke neighborhood, said she was born to sing.
“I think I’ve known my entire life that I wanted to be a singer,” she chuckled. “When I was 3 years old, I would put on my gowns and the plastic toy heels and I would walk out when my mom would have friends over and I would say ‘ya’ll are going to look at me now!'”
Like most singers, Lenora got her start in the school choir, but by the age of 13, her interests turned to classical music.
As a teen, Lenora was accepted into the highly competitive High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA), where she studied opera. After graduation, Lenora attended college in New Orleans, where she fell in love with jazz. She then began to move away from opera after learning the financial woes of the business.
“They say that you don’t settle into your voice as an opera singer until you’re about 30, followed by more training and grad school, and there’s not a lot of money coming in, so you’re practically broke most of your early career,” she explained.
As she started to embrace the idea of becoming a mainstream artist, she struggled to find her voice. She says she had to get comfortable with showcasing her quirky personality, which she admits is mixed with a little dry humor.
“Everyone is a one of one. There’s only one of each of us. There’s nobody like anyone else, but when it comes to artistry where do I began?” she asked. “My music doesn’t sound like anyone and at first my team was trying to figure out if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but I think that now I am very confident and I love my unique sound.”
Lenora became the breakout star of 2019 with her single “Relax” that featured legendary rapper Slim Thug and super-producers Beanz and Kornbread. Lenora credits the single with helping her to reach a wider audience and build momentum in the city.
The single turned out to be a major turning point for Lenora, and she doesn’t take the opportunity lightly. In fact, Slim’s stamp of approval was the boost that Lenora needed.
“Slim doesn’t co-sign people like that,” Lenora said. “ Thugga has only been featured on two female projects in the past, including Beyonce and Gwen Stefani. That speaks volumes.”
For the “Girls” album, Lenora shifted and decided to work with a producer from the West Coast.
“I wanted to go to LA to work on some new music and connect with new people and I asked DJ Mr. Rogers if he had any suggestions on producers and he told me about Polyester the Saint.” she said. “I went to his social media and saw that he only followed like 38 people and one was my friend Le$, so that’s how I got the introduction.”
So was it hard to work with a producer who wasn’t from the South?
“I know he’s going to laugh if he reads this, but Poly was so dry when I first met him,” Lenora laughed.
She and Poly only created one single during the first LA session, but she couldn’t stop thinking about how great the track turned out.
“After a couple of months passed by, I was like ‘that song was crazy,’ because it’s only a two and half minute song,” she said. “But it’s a journey that kind of reminds you of the early Neptunes. It was electrifying. That’s the best way that I can describe it.”
Lenora says Poly, who has worked with Nipsey Hussle and Dom Kennedy, was able to capture her sound and push her, which is why she chose him to produce the entire “Girls” album.
“I have never felt like that working with anyone else, mainly because Poly pushed my pen. He’s so experimental and once I saw how musically versatile he was and how well we worked together, I knew that I wanted him to do the entire album,” she explained.
Lenora does not shy away from the fact that her music has been compared to older artists. In fact, she embraces it.
“My grandmother raised me, so I grew up listening to the Blues. She had a crazy vinyl collection and a club called the ‘Doll House.’ She was always booking talent so music was always around,” Lenora said.
The singer cites Diana Ross, Michael Jackson Rose Royce and Blues artists like Johnny Taylor, Little Milton and Bobby Blue Bland as her musical influences. Their sounds are visible in the “Girls” album, which can be described as a meeting point between futuristic and nostalgic! Is “Nostalguristic” a word? Welp, it could be.
“The music [Blues] shaped me. It shaped my writing, and it shaped my sound,” Lenora said. “But don’t get me wrong, I love all of the female R&B artists that’s out there right now, and I can’t lie, I’ve tried it but it’s not me. I can’t do it, because it doesn’t feel right.”
When asked who she listens to, Lenora shares that Anderson Paak, Tame Impala, Kaytranada, Thundercat, and Phony Ppl are some of her favorite artists right now.
Despite a global pandemic, Lenora managed to record the album and shoot the visuals over the course of a year. “Girls” is filled with so many different musical styles that it will be hard to place it into any one category, but Lenora feels that the various genres is what will captivate the listener.
“We did the most with this album, it’s still cohesive but it’s all over the place and I love that,” she said. “I feel like Poly helped me discover my sound and we got so close over this year, he’s like a big brother to me now. He calls me his Chaka and I call him Rufus, because we feed off of each other so well.”
So what’s next for the multifaceted entertainer?
On top of the album, Lenora is gearing up for a full-length production in the spring.
“Right now I’m focused on pushing the ‘Girls‘ album as hard as I can and making it look label ready,” she said. “I just created a four-piece all-girl band for a spring show.”
The upcoming production will be in the style of the 80’s girl group Vanity 6, and reminiscent of Prince’s “Purple Rain.”
Lenora is certainly on her way to becoming the newest breakout star from Houston and we can’t wait to say “You heard it here first!”
Check out “Red Flags” and show Lenora some love in the comments!