With Ms. Leesa Brunson, you know exactly who you are speaking to and have no choice but to love and respect the honesty she brings to the table.
Keeping it real, working hard, trusting the journey and enjoying life while doing it are some things Def Jam’s Senior Vice President, of A&R Operations, Leesa Brunson knows all too well. With over 20 years in the music industry, North East Bronx native Leesa Brunson has been the driving force behind household names in both the urban and pop markets at Elektra Records, NYC & Def Jam Records. Honored as one of Billboard’s ‘100 Most Powerful Executives of 2016’, Brunson is charged with rolling out projects for acts such as Jeezy, Logic, Alessia Cara, Desiigner, Big Sean, Jeremih and many, many others. Ms. Brunson has also participated as a resident speaker for Universal Music Group’s Women in Business Network.
When she’s not busy closing albums, Brunson, a lover of fragrances is managing the company that she founded in 2010 known as OS Candles, which Leesa built from the ground up testing and approving scents with a chemist/perfumer and by hiring a candle plant manufacturing company in the U.S. Her line has taken off very well and is loved and enjoyed by many within and outside of the entertainment industry.
From a temp receptionist to an SVP, Brunson credits her success to never delivering a ‘no’ to her counterparts and bringing them to the finish line by any means necessary. AllHipHop got a few moments to connect with Ms. Brunson to hear her great methods to staying happy and being yourself in the music industry.
AllHipHop: Please, explain what your job entails:
Leesa Brunson: I oversee the day-to-day operations in the Creative A&R Dept. As the liaison between A&R and all other departments at the label, I ensure the timely delivery of album releases. I work closely with the A&R’s, producers and artist management to make sure that we are exactly where we need to be to meet our goals and deadlines. Most people who know me never ask me what I do .. they ask me ‘what DON’T I do’. There are literally endless days and so many variables to making an album but our artists come first and I/we do what we have to do to accommodate them. Once the creative is completed by the A&R team, I grab the baton to move a song or album through each department and then we close it out. We all rely on each other to get things to the finish line as a team & it is never a dull moment.
AllHipHop: What’s the most enjoyable part of the job?
Leesa Brunson: An enjoyable part of the job is coming in each day NOT knowing what I will face. I enjoy working with the artists’ management. Their needs are all so very different from one another. For most people, dealing with so many different personalities can become strenuous… but for me, it’s one of my favorite parts of the gig. The artists need what they need so 9 times out of 10 you want to give the manager a “yes”!
AllHipHop: What is the hardest part?
Leesa Brunson: Disarming someone to do what you need them to do. However, it’s not really that difficult for me. I really do enjoy and thrive in complex situations.
AllHipHop: Who inspired you to become a leader or boss?
Leesa Brunson: My parents, my guy, my siblings, Tina Davis, Sylvia Rhone, Kevin Liles, Steve Bartels, Lyor Cohen, Nicole Wyskoarko & Jessica Rivera. They ALL, in one way or another, encouraged me to stay focused on the door that said “LEADer”. They are all also leaders themselves and huge inspirations in my life.
AllHipHop: How do you balance work and personal life?
Leesa Brunson: I just do it…and very well. There is no formula. You just have to know when to get together with your closest friends and laugh until you can’t breathe –which I do often. I don’t think about the hustle in those moments. In turn, you have to know when to be in heavy work mode and not think about playtime. I also bring my work home and I’m fine with it. It’s easy to have a glass of Cabernet, cook, email, text and handle business calls even on the weekends. You have to love what you do and who you’re doing it for. The balance will come naturally but you have to demand it for yourself.
AllHipHop: What does it mean to you to be a powerful woman and a boss in the urban music and hip-hop industry?
Leesa Brunson: I rarely use the word “powerful” because, for me, the only powerful person is the King who lives within us. Being a leader or one of the bosses in such a fast-paced, and amazing industry is both exciting and a dream come true. Something that I don’t take for granted. However, I like to use any “power” that I do have to teach those who are around me … especially the younger generation. I have a “get it done by any means necessary mentality” overall. Sometimes that means I have to put on one of my hats to accomplish things.
AllHipHop: Any final thoughts or words of wisdom?
Leesa Brunson: If you are given an opportunity, whether career-related, an amazing friendship or relationship … whatever is placed in front of you that seems worth it…GRAB IT and do the VERY BEST you can and then give it even MORE! That way, if it ends, you can look at yourself in the mirror and say “well done, I did my best.” Don’t half a– anything ladies and gents. Even if others think you are too much or not enough, do YOUR personal best for your own self-assurance and so that you can always sleep at night. Also, for those coming through the ranks as future powerhouse music executives, “focus, focus, FOCUS” and take every task seriously. Even the ones that you may think no one is noticing.