Lee Langston Carries The Soul Music Torch
Kansas City vocal artist Lee Langston has been a fixture on the local music scene for the past several years. His covers of neosoul music have attracted a faithful audience of young urban professionals. Langston’s “tribute” shows – celebrating the music of artists like Erykah Badu and Lauren Hill—have drawn sold out crowds. He recently assembled a musical tribute show to the neo soul artist D’Angelo.
Lee Langston grew up in Kansas City, and he’s spent years performing with gospel groups, like the St. James United Methodist Voices of Pride choir. He performed secular music for the occasional party, but he didn’t get serious about performing it publicly until about four and half years ago. Since then, he’s become among the city’s most popular singers in the neo soul genre.
“My dad’s side of the family where all – they were all heavy church, so all of them sang. I can remember times getting together with them as a child, and my dad was like one of 13, 14 kids. And they would just get together and have these big music things at the house all the time. There would be non-stop singing, and I would just sit there as a child in amazement, just look around and go, ‘Wow, like, my entire family, they are all singers. I think I thought all my family were movie stars back then, cause, I’m like, they can all sing.”
“This may sound weird to some people, but when I’m on stage I kinda channel people’s energy. You know when you’re getting good energy in the room and when you’re getting bad energy in the room….Some people find it hard to engage with people that are staring at them, but I find it very easy to engage with them because people hear a song and when you see them respond, it’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s my cut! That’s my jam!’ And you talk to them because they relate to that song.”
“Don’t always fall into what everyone else says is hot. Cause if they feed that to you long enough, you’ll believe it, and that’s kind of how I feel about what’s on the radio. A lot of what’s on the radio is what they’re trying to feed us to make us believe it’s hot. And a lot of it I don’t like. It kind of is what it is. Soul music has kind of lost a lot of its soul, in my opinion.”
“For the venues that don’t have an urban demographic or don’t do anything in reference to soul music – they have one image of how it looks in a lot of cases, and some of them will admit that. They think it’s going to be a crown of rowdy people that come through; they think everything in the urban demographic is hard-core rap….I notice there seems to be a fear when it comes to the rap genre. You know, I see the exact same things play out at the venues with the rock genre, but it seems to be like, “Oh, it’s just rock. That’s ok.”
“Gifts that we have – it’s like God shining through us, you know. Why would you try and do something over there and try to do something that’s not authentically you when you can do something that’s authentically you and be married to that at the end and be ok with that and be very happy with that?”
Lee Langton has been working on a new CD of mostly original material, but he says there’s also more tribute shows in the works, including one to Whitney Houston.
This story was produced for KC Currents, which airs Sundays at 5pm with a repeat Mondays at 8pm. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KC Currents podcast.