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LEAH Interview

LEAH Interview
Performed in February 2013

If there were a “Ha-Ha Told You So” prize for missing out on one of the most compelling releases of 2012, a shiny trophy would be sitting on my mantel right now. Despite Lindsay’s stellar review and T.S. Johnson nudging me, it wasn’t until Sonic Cathedral’s Best of 2012 lists came out, that I scampered off to check out LEAH’s debut album, Of Earth & Angels. An album that makes the Top 10 list of several colleagues deserves a careful listen, and man was it worth it … plenty of lush piano passages and Celtic influences, blended with a metal twist. Delicious!

Sonic Cathedral’s (very sheepish) Robin Stryker sat down with Canadian singer-songwriter, LEAH for a long winter’s Skype. Dive in to find out the stories behind Of Earth & Angels, the embarrassing secret lurking on LEAH’s iPod, déjà vu moments, and much more!


Robin:  Sonic Cathedral is very happy to welcome Canadian songwriter, LEAH. Would you kindly introduce yourself?

LEAH:  Hello! I’m LEAH, and I’m from the Vancouver area of British Columbia, Canada. I have just recently put out an album in 2012, called Of Earth & Angels.

Robin:  I checked out your YouTube and SoundCloud channels, and you have something like 30 or 40 songs. How did you narrow it down to the 12 songs that are on Of Earth & Angels?

LEAH:  That was quite a process! In reality, I had more like a hundred songs that I had to choose from. The ones on YouTube and SoundCloud are just random things that I put out, but we narrowed it down. It took a few weeks to do that. I did some pre-production demos and just tried to get a vision of where it might go and which ones might fit together in a story setting. So after a few weeks, we got a better idea, and eventually it became like my own reality TV show where each song had to make the cut or be eliminated. (laughs)

Robin:  Was it hard to cut some of your beloved songs?

LEAH:  Yeah, there were a few that I had a hard time with, and it was quite a toss-up. In the process, you have to try to not get too emotionally attached to songs; it all depends on how meaningful that song is to you. I had so many to choose from going in, that I just thought: “Well, if it doesn’t go on this album, then maybe the next one.”

Robin:  Which tracks on Of Earth & Angels are the most meaningful to you?

LEAH:  “Say Yes” and “Illusion”. They are the older ones. I wrote those songs years ago, and have always envisioned them the way they are now. Back then, I was writing a lot more for personal therapy, and just self-expression -- not that I’m not doing that now! But back then, it was just a little more intense. Whereas some of the other songs are really fun, and now I enjoy writing stories from my imagination, so they are just different.

Robin:  I love stories, and two of the songs about which I am really curious are “Remember” and “Confess My Love.” What are your stories for those songs?

LEAH:  “Remember” was a fun song to write. It was one of those songs that wrote itself. I didn’t even have to think about the words; they just flew out onto the paper. I usually have a concept in my head, and I just go with it, if I’m really in tune with the melody and everything that’s happening.

I like to write things that are personal to me, but I like to write them in a little bit more of a broad sense, so that others can hopefully relate to it in their own way. For “Remember,” it was the concept of a déjà vu, a feeling or a memory that keeps happening over and over. Trying to push it away, and maybe it’s painful or it’s nostalgic. It’s about needing closure.

“Confess My Love” was also written in a very short amount of time. That one was about love and war, and how they’re related. Love is very gruesome at times … just going through life, and also the brutality of rejection, and how gory it feels when you put yourself out there. I also wanted to write a theme song that connected the ancient world and the modern world.

Robin:  It seems like there is a lot of ocean imagery in your lyrics, as well as a hint of sailor ditties in some of the compositions. Does the ocean have a particular appeal for you?

LEAH:  It does! I’ve lived near the ocean my whole life, so I think that is natural for me. I also have Scottish and Irish heritage, so I’m very drawn to the Celtic side of my family history and the imagery that comes with it. However, the water imagery throughout the album wasn’t on purpose. We kind of discovered it after the fact.


Robin:  Would you give us a little run-down on your musical background?

LEAH:  My early music experiences involved more of a gospel background, with blues and rock-and-roll. On my mom’s side, it was more of the gospel and choir background. On my dad’s side, he introduced me to Jimmy Hendrix and The Doors, which is where I got my first taste of Eastern scales. I was drawn to that immediately as a young musician.

Eventually, as a teenager, I finally came across Dream Theater; I think that was the first metal band that I got into. Then it was a little more power metal like Symphony X and symphonic metal like Nightwish, and it just went from there. So it started when I was young, and I started writing songs when I was 13.

Robin:  When did you go from scribbling songs in your notebook to joining a band?

LEAH:  I had that desire probably from the time I was 10 or 11 years old. I knew I could sing. I would practice in my room, just mimicking other artists and practicing what they did. I think that is what most people do to find out that maybe they have a talent -- by mimicking other artists and thinking: “Hey, not too bad! I kind of sound like that person.” That’s what I did, and then I taught myself piano, so I just started writing right away. It was always a dream of mine to be a professional artist. I didn’t think it would be in METAL or the symphonic rock genre. (laughs) It’s a very cool twist that it has taken over the years.

Robin:  Was Ashur the first band that you joined, or were there others before that?

LEAH:  Yes, Ashur was the first serious band I was in, where we actually did local touring and put out an EP.

Robin:  Congratulations on having your first show with LEAH, during your December CD release! What are some of your highlights from that night?

LEAH:  I was overwhelmed with the applause I got when I walked onto the stage. I was not prepared for that, and it set the tone for the whole rest of the evening for me. It was pretty unbelievable how excited everyone was! When I saw how eager the crowd was to hear my music, I was like: “Alright, let’s rock!” The double-encore we received at the end was also very fun.

Robin:  What was it like being on stage again? You had been posting about how you couldn’t wait to play live with LEAH.

LEAH:  It was a little nerve-wracking, but once I got out there, it felt like HOME. You know, like I’m born to do this, and I’m supposed to be here. Ohhhh yeah, it was great!

Robin:  Which song did you just feel in your marrow, when you performed it live?

LEAH:  At that December 12th show, we did a few Christmas carols… kind of our own Medieval metal version of them. We sang “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”, and that was sooooo fun! I got the audience participating in that, and they were totally excited about it. But I’d say I really felt “Ex Cathedra,” which we opened with.

Robin:  I saw that LEAH recorded a free three-track Christmas album. What is the draw of Christmas songs for you?

LEAH:  The draw is that I haven’t heard the Christmas music that I would like to hear, so I thought: “Why not make it?” Some of the old, Medieval Christmas carols are so dark and mysterious, and I thought why not do something a little bit different…

Robin:  With four small kids, what is Christmas like in the LEAH household?

LEAH:  Oh, it is such a blast! It makes Christmas more meaningful, and takes your eyes off yourself and onto others. We are making lots of good memories, and it’s just so much fun.

Robin:  Random trivia -- what is the very first song you remember hearing?

LEAH:  That would probably be my mother singing in a choir!

Robin:  Ah, so you come from a musical family?

LEAH:  Yeah, I do, especially on my mom’s side.

Robin:  Have your folks been to your shows?

LEAH:  Yes, they have. They were both there at the CD release show, and had a good time!

Robin:  If I were to pick up your iPod now, and scroll through it, which would be the most embarrassing album on there?

LEAH:  Oh my goodness, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you! (deep breath) Okay, I have Ace of Base on my iPod. (laughs) Their second album from the ‘90s; that would be the most embarrassing.

Robin:  (laughs) Don’t tell anyone, but I have The Sign on my iPod too.

LEAH:  You know what? Their chord progressions are actually kind of dark, if you listen for it. I just think: “If they put distortion in there, instead of dance beats, it would be so cool!”


Robin:  Other randomness … Hobbit fan? I figured you might be, with a kitty named Bilbo Baggins.

LEAH:  Yeah, I am! Our orange-haired cat Bilbo has been around for six years now.

Robin:  What’s coming up next for LEAH?

LEAH:  Right now, I am trying to establish a permanent band line-up. For my album and CD release, I had guest musicians for the most part, because it’s been hard to say where my career is heading. It has been a very interesting year, and now I am building momentum. We have been planning what is happening next. The next step is a solid, permanent line-up for my band, and I’m going through the audition process now.

After that, my plan is to make more music, because there is a lot more where that came from. I have stuff that I’m writing right now, and I can’t wait to take it to the next level. My vision is to go deeper into what I’ve already done, but I would like to go a little bit heavier and more mystical. I have already embraced some of those elements, and I’d like to take it further. So those are my near-future plans. Besides that, I do have a side-project in the works with Eric Peterson from Testament and DragonLord. We are planning on starting our writing sessions for that in the very near future, so I can’t wait to get started on that as well!

Robin:  You’ve got kids, whom you home-school, and (as you describe it) you spend most of your day cutting up spaghetti, putting on Buzz Lightyear Band-Aids and wiping drippy noses. At the end of the day, how do you find the time and energy to create music?

LEAH:  It is really like anything else -- where there’s a will, there’s a way. Some mothers scrapbook; I write symphonic metal. (laughs) It really is a time management issue. Of course, I have a supportive family, and they’re absolutely supportive of my doing this. That allows me to make the time to do this. Evenings and weekends are usually when I get the chance to do that.

Robin:  What is the strangest place or thing that you do to find inspiration?

LEAH:  Often songs come to me as I’m falling asleep, unfortunately. It is the most inconvenient time! (laughs) It is that state between when you’re awake and asleep … you’re really, really relaxed, and you’re so tired that you are right about to drift off. Sometimes, I get the most incredible songs that come to me. Of course, I always tell myself that I’ll remember it in the morning, and that is never what happens. Ever. So, now I’m trying to use my iPhone, and just record the melody or something if I can manage to do that, because I’ve had so many good ideas that are just GONE.

Robin:  I saw a recent post on your Facebook page that LEAH has an upcoming show in one of the suburbs of Vancouver, with Celestial Ruin and The Mighty One. Would you tell us a little about that?

LEAH:  That’s going to be a really fun show! The details are just coming together now. I am really looking forward to playing with them, and developing a symphonic metal community where we are, because there is not really very much of a scene here in Vancouver. So, I think the answer for that is to create the scene, and get more people out to the shows so they can experience symphonic metal. I think they’ll love it.

Robin:  What is the music scene like in Vancouver?

LEAH:  To be honest, I’m pretty out of the loop, because I don’t go out very often. But from my understanding, the other brands of metal are happening, and there is a range of different bands.

Robin:  Speaking directly to Sonic Cathedral readers, what would you like to tell them?

LEAH:  I would like to say that I am really grateful for all the positive feedback I’ve gotten and that they’ve taken the time to listen to my music and respond on Facebook and YouTube. It has been very amazing, and I am very grateful. So, thank you! Also – if you liked what you’ve heard from me thus far, stick around because there’s a lot more where that came from! I believe my best is yet to come!

Robin:  One last question: Is there any thought of filming a music video for Of Earth & Angels?

LEAH:  Yes, that is another thing that will probably be in the works for this year as well.

Robin:  Thank you so much for talking with Sonic Cathedral, LEAH!

LEAH:  It was my pleasure. Thank you for having me!

Many thanks to Jay Martens for setting up the interview. You’re awesome, Jay!


LEAH official site

LEAH on Facebook

LEAH on bandcamp