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Hybrid Soul Project honored to headline live on the Levee

By Bill Lynch, Staff writer
F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Gazette
The Hybrid Soul Project rehearses in the recently constructed recording studio in singer/co-founder Shayla Leftridge’s house. The band headlines Live on the Levee Friday night.

For The Hybrid Soul Project, getting to headline Live on the Levee Friday night feels like a major step and an honor that’s been a long time coming.

“I feel like we’ve paid our dues. We’ve worked really hard, and it’s just nice to get that recognition from our hometown,” said Shayla Leftridge, lead vocalist and the group’s self-professed “band mother.”

She said the band has big plans. 

“I just built a recording studio at my house. Starting in September, we’re going to record some of our original music and try to tour more.”

Headlining Live on the Levee is an important step toward that. Leftridge said it’s a vote of confidence.

“If you have the support of your hometown, you’ve already kind of made it. People in your hometown are the hardest ones to impress. They’re the people who see you at the bank and at Kroger’s. You’re nobody special to them.

“If they’re willing to come out and see you and support you, then you really have something,” she said. “They wouldn’t come out if you weren’t good.”

The Hybrid Soul Project began almost four years ago as a collaboration between Leftridge and keyboard player Randraiz Wharton.

“We used to play together at these local gigs, just sort of sitting in with other people,” she said. “We became friends and started talking about doing something together.”

Leftridge said the pair looked around, didn’t see anyone else doing what they wanted to do and started reaching out to other musicians to assemble a band to play R&B, funk and soul.

“We looked around for the best people we could find,” she said.

That included Mark Price who joined as a drummer but later moved to vocals.

“Mark is a very excellent drummer,” Leftridge said. “But he’s a better singer, and we wanted him to sing.”

Keyboard player Johnathan Smith and percussionist Tajae Mosley, who sometimes sits in on the drums, also joined the band, as well as vocalist Sara Renee.

“I wanted background vocals right off,” Leftridge said. “Nobody else had that, and I really wanted it because it just makes a fuller sound.”

The band got bigger. Artistically, she said, that was wonderful. But financially, it wasn’t so great.

“You can’t really support seven people on stage monetarily — at least not in Charleston,” she said. “But it all sounded so good we didn’t care.”

The music the band plays is supposed to sound both familiar and new.

“We take songs you know and change them into crazy new formations,” Leftridge said. “You’ll hear a song you know, but it doesn’t sound like a song you know.”

People like it so far, she said, though she hopes people also like the new stuff they’re working on.

Leftridge said she and Wharton had a similar vision for what the kind of music they wanted Hybrid Soul to make, but they didn’t agree on what they wanted to accomplish.

“He wanted to have fun and play on the weekends,” she said. 

Leftridge was ambitious and thought they could build more. It was a disagreement, though not a fatal one.

Last year, Wharton left the band, but it had nothing to do with discord or creative differences. It was for love.

“He got engaged this past year and moved,” Leftridge said. 

However, he’s not completely out of the band, which now includes bassist John Inghram. Instead, Wharton just joins in at bigger shows and at some shows on the road.

“He’ll be back Friday night,” Leftridge said.

She said it’s exciting to have him there and added that the group would be sharing the spotlight with some other people, too.

“We’ve also got some guests — friends of the band — we hope will be there.”

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5195 or Follow @LostHwys on Twitter.


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