Leon Timbo’s debut album shows hard work is its own reward

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Photo credit: Daniel Ortiz, Courtesy Riverphlo Entertainment

At this point, it’s probably fair to say that the release of Leon Timbo’s highly anticipated debut album What Love’s All About is a dream come true and the culmination of  a  lot of hard work — musically and professionally. His first single, “You’re My Darling,” has been climbing the Urban AC charts to introduce Timbo as an artist with staying power. The Jacksonville, Florida, native was “discovered” by Tyrese Gibson in Dallas and that relationship has brought him full circle.

This has been a musical journey for you. Where are you now?


Right now, I am just trying to figure out how not to fight anymore. By fight, I mean the constant creative battle. There is the process of completion that artists constantly struggle with, wondering “is this the best version of this that I can do …” Babyface told me that it is not until you write the song and perform the song, and the performance gives you the life of the song, that you have completed the song. So, an artist is always in that process until the final piece comes out. So now, since I have been in that space for as long as I have, it has been interesting to not be in that space of creating an album anymore. I have to personify the album now. I have to take that canvas from the studio and put it on stages, and put it into people’s homes — that is where I am learning how not to be in a space of making an album and embracing a new dimension of artistry.

Tyrese discovered you. How did that come about and how has he influenced you and your work?


I was singing at The Potter’s House in Dallas (I regularly do praise and worship at churches, it is a unique duality that God has allowed me to walk in). Tyrese happened to be in that service. He had a show that evening at The House of Blues. He came to me after service and said “man, I don’t know what just happened, but I want you to create this moment before my show tonight.” I was already about to head to the airport when we approached me. I was humbled and grateful, of course, but I wasn’t sure that I should accept his offer. Ultimately, I did, it was a great experience and he sort of took me under his wing from there forward. He said that he felt it was part of his calling to make sure that the world knows who I am. I couldn’t be more grateful. Tyrese is the ultimate artist and entertainer. The most valuable lesson I have learned from him is how to translate the magic that happens in a live environment to a studio environment when  recording. I learned how to articulate the essence and energy of a song when I am in a controlled studio environment. Everyone isn’t able to do that, and Tyrese is a master at it — so I learned from the best.

Your bio has the following quote, “Unless we’re willing to give voice to what people are afraid to discuss or bring life to, music really doesn’t have a purpose other than escapism.  I want to give voice to what I feel is socially underserved.”  What does it mean to you personally?

To me personally, that means finding ways to use the platform of music to make people think productively about societal issues and mobilizing action toward addressing them. Some of the social issues that I am fortunate enough to address are the plight of Brown and Black boys, voter registration, domestic abuse, substance abuse and homelessness. These are the areas that I continue to address the most. I have an initiative called UNIFI that puts us in cities to do shows for the purpose of helping local nonprofit organizations that are working in these areas. Every city has these issues so, as a community of creatives, we are wrapping our arms around those nonprofits to support the work they are doing. It feels great to do so. We have UNIFI dates coming up in Memphis [and]Nashville, [Tennessee], and Oakland, [California]. Next spring we are targeting Chicago, Detroit, Charlotte, [North Carolina]; and Jacksonville, [Florida]. We will go into these cities and do shows to raise funds and also raise awareness of the local organizations that need our support. The goal is to connect the people that follow this music to the cause(s) that are most important. I want to wake up the part of the communities that can help to assist the parts of the community that need help. Ultimately, not only will funds be raised, but ideally a local volunteer base will be built as well. I want to inspire people to commit their lives to giving back more, as creatives, we have a key to opening people’s hearts in a way that no other industry has and I think it is important to use that key for social good.

What has the musical experience working with Riverphlo been like?

It is absolutely a custom fit. Mano Hanes is the ultimate producer. He is a visionary who I put into the same category as the great Quincy Jones. He thinks in terms of concepts, and storytelling, and the moment that a sound or a note can create. He operates with a concept of a musical idea. Every song is a key. Every track is created to articulate the space around a lyric. Mano’s process is very holistic and intentional. Working with him and Riverphlo has been liberating because I always know what we are doing and why. Nothing is ambiguous. I have been in camps where we have done hundreds of songs only to choose 10. Everything that I write can have a hundred variations, so the Riverphlo process is just a custom fit for who I am as a person and who I am as an artist. Whatever clothes I want to put on for a song, Riverphlo is the precise tailor. We are not throwing songs in the wind and waiting on something to catch. From beat one to the very last note, there are many variations and options that we have dissected and chosen to get the most effective, clear interpretation of a particular thought. I enjoy the process with Riverphlo and couldn’t ask for a better fit.

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