How to travel like a well-known jazz singer

Image: Ledisi
“Not to be all cliché, but I love New York,” Grammy-nominated Ledisi says. “I love the food selection, I love the theater, I love Central Park, I love that you don’t need a car and you can walk everywhere, and if you have a car, you can go to the Hamptons.”Jason Decrow / AP file
/ Source: Special to

New Orleans-bred chanteuse Ledisi (pronounced Leh-duh-see) was nominated for two Grammys in 2008 (Best New Artist and Best R&B Album), capping a great year in which she saw her third album, “Lost & Found,” hit the Billboard R&B charts. Since then, she’s appeared in the George Clooney film “Leatherheads” and on the soundtrack for “Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns.” She’s also been traveling all over the world, and we caught up with her recently over the phone to discuss those jet-setting ways.

Q: You’re from New Orleans. What are your favorite things about your hometown?

A: Well, I haven’t been there since Katrina, but I will be there for the Essence Festival (in July), and I heard everything is starting to get back to normal there. As for the restaurants, the beignet is the best thing, ever since I was a little kid. I can’t wait to do that when I get there. Anyone who visits New Orleans should also see some of the Mardi Gras. That’s beautiful. I also loved to get a snowball. It’s like an ice cone. It’s fresh ice with flavored syrup and sometimes they put ice cream in it, too. That and the beignets were the best things for me as a little kid.

Q: Any phobias or travel superstitions?

A: Other than getting a cold on the plane, not really. That’s about it. I can’t stand getting sick, so I go through little rituals beforehand. I do a lot of wrapping up and taking vitamins. I’ll wear a hat and a scarf, even if it’s hot. I turn the air off all the time. I don’t like it blowing in my face, that recycled air. I’m not germophobic, but I like to have hand sanitizer with me. Basically I’m very careful. I’m a singer, so I have to avoid getting sick as much as possible. And I rarely get sick, but I did get the flu not too long ago and it took a month to go away.

Q: What’s the best place you’ve ever visited?

A: Wow. That’s tough. Not to be all cliché, but I love New York. I love the food selection, I love the theater, I love Central Park, I love that you don’t need a car and you can walk everywhere, and if you have a car, you can go to the Hamptons. There are nice little trips away from the city. I can get up at 3 a.m. and still find something to do, like nightclubs. It’s a vibrant city, and I like the people. When I first moved there, I was there for a year and a half and if I was lost, I could always get help off the street. Always. Everybody says New Yorkers are mean, but they’re not. I love them. And I love the work ethic in New York. Everybody’s like, “Let’s do it! Let’s do it!” And I love their honesty.

Q: When you’re on tour, do you have a routine? Are you a sightseer or do you prefer to be a homebody?

A: If I have time, which I did when I was in Japan, every morning I’ll always walk around and figure out where I am from my hotel and where all the little markets and things like that are. In every place I’ve ever been, I try to go shopping. I get coffee and walk around and learn the city and the people. That’s better than a treadmill. In Hawaii and L.A., I loved the walking around. Anything to avoid the car. When you’re in a car you’re trapped. In hotels, I love a nice bed, and if it has Internet, I’m happy. I’m kind of a techie nerd. And a hotel needs a gym, too. Those three things I have to have. And somewhere if there’s a store nearby with fresh fruit, I love that, too.

Q: Exactly how much of a techie are you?

A: I have a Macbook and a travel plug from every country in the world, I think. I’ve got to have that and a power strip so I can BlackBerry and talk to people. I also have to have books and a journal. Lately I’ve been starting to do a lot with my camera. It’s a Canon digital high definition camera, and I’m doing a lot of footage of wherever I go. I’m going to start putting video logs of it up. Since the Grammys, I’ve been preparing for it, taking a lot of little tapes and stuff.

Q: Any good horror stories from travel?

A: Don’t even start. Let’s see. I’ve lost luggage. Luggage has gotten places before me. I remember buying cheap luggage. My last experience with that was that the zipper came loose and clothes were coming out. My clothes came before my bag. I once also missed a flight to London before and couldn’t get there in time for my gig. Nothing too scary, though.

Q: What was your favorite vacation?

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Q: What’s Ledisi’s dream destination?

A: I want to go to Bahia. I have to go there. I want to perform in Brazil somewhere, and Bahia would be great to visit. The little of Brazil I’ve tasted, I’ve heard it’s more natural there. And I have to go back to Africa. I’ve been to Zimbabwe, but would like to go to South Africa. Also Spain, because I heard the people are amazing. I get a lot of e-mails from people from Spain and I’ve met a lot of folks from there, and I love the language and the way they embrace their culture. I want to see it up close. And they’re passionate about the music. They say, “Be here, Ledisi! Be here!” I tell them I will be soon.