Maysa performing live at the Birchmere. (Photographer Roy Cox)
Maysa performing live at the Birchmere. (Roy Cox)

R&B singer and Baltimore native Maysa Leak was celebrating her son Jazz’s 14th birthday when she finally got the call that would validate a career spanning 22 years and 10 albums.

“I just lost it,” Leak recalled. “I screamed at the top of my lungs, then could barely talk.”

On the other line was Wendi Cherry, executive director of the Recording Academy’s D.C. chapter. Leak’s song “Quiet Fire” had been nominated for a Grammy in the “Best Traditional R&B Performance” category. Her first Grammy nod.

I wish everyone in their career could experience how it feels to be recognized for your work,” Leaks said on Thursday, as she was on her way to pick up a custom gown from Baltimore-based designers Hyman and Hyman for Sunday night’s awards show. 

No stranger to Hollywood, Leak, known to her fans as simply Maysa, moved to Los Angeles in the early 90s to sing backup for Stevie Wonder. She’s come a long way since. At a 2012 fundraising event Leak performed a song Wonder wrote for the Obamas called “Have Sweet Dreams” — and in front of the first lady herself. She wasn’t nervous then but admits to harboring butterflies now. She doesn’t have a speech prepared, although a Baltimore shout-out seems likely.

“If I win I would share this with all the underground kids who keep pushing along in our careers. This is for all of us.”