We have the incredible opportunity to chat with artist, Leon Else about his newest single, “Dance” and the driving force behind his new EP. We highly recommend you check out his work, and learn more about his vision behind his tracks and music videos.
For those of us who are just discovering your work, can you tell me a bit about your background?
LE — At the age of 12 I wrote my first song. I then went onto drama, and then got into dance, where I left home to attend full time at dance school in London. I was born in Gibraltar as my dad was in the British army there. When my parents split my mum moved back to her hometown called Margate, a small seaside town on the South East Coast of England and that’s where I grew up. I had a really tough upbringing, but it gave me the desire to want to get out and get more. Dancing helped me escape that and was able to get me to move to London, where I studied theatre. I still wrote songs, but I just didn’t think it was possible to just become a “popstar”, or even know how to begin to do it. Therefore, I stayed in theater, expression and creative arts, which I just loved as it’s a form of escape. I’ve been involved with West End theater shows, and was casted in a film called Nine as a dancer. I got to the point where I just was longing to do my music, so I quit dance to pursue music fill time. That’s my background in a nutshell. I could go on and go into so much more detail, but I don’t want to ramble on (laughs).
You wrote you first song at the age of 12 called “My Day Dreaming Girl”, singing on a tape recorder. Do you remember what it was about? A crush, maybe?
LE — I did, indeed (laughs) I wrote it with no music just melody and lyrics, and it was about someone that didn’t exist, but you wanted them too. Again, it was for me to think outside my own life in hope that someone out there did exist that was this amazing person that could make life wonderful.
Your newest single “Dance” was released recently. You once mentioned that this song was about your depression. Music itself can be very cathartic; can you describe your personal creative process?
LE — Yes it was, and yes the song is about that— it’s about fighting your demons, and your struggles with your own mind. I feel that everyone goes through something like that at some point, and I really wanted to show how movement and music can make you feel better. Plus, speaking out loud about it as no one should be ashamed of things they struggle with. My creative process is different every time. I just try to see how I feel. Sometimes, I’m feeling an energy and I need to put that into the music, other times I have a specific subject that’s on my mind. Sometimes I don’t have a f*cking clue and shot in the dark until something ignites in me, and sometimes it’s poems, or a story. I go with the flow, but I find the one consistent thing is truth and honesty. Something I try to work on every day.
Aside from your long time love of singing, you also have a background in dance and theater. Do you feel that having that background goes hand in hand with singing? If so, how?
LE — Absolutely, creative arts all go together. I think doing theatre has given me an insight into performance, and entertaining people through live performance. That can only enhance my live shows, and I do feel I have an understanding of how powerful a show can be, and how you can enhance your music career by putting work and effort into your live show. It’s all an extension, but all fuses together to create a world, not just music, or not just dance, but everything, even fashion. I want to combine everything, and I want people to leave my show feeling great, inspired, entertained, and that they have got what they came for, which is a show. I love performing live, and I always want to make an experience, and help you escape life for that hour or so you see me. You forget all your problems, and just let go, and be free.
Your Instagram bio reads the quote “trapped by reality”, freed by imagination.” In today’s society, it is more than easy to feel the pressure to conform. The music industry is exactly that. How do you find the balance of being true to who you are, and also being commercially palatable?
LE — Reality can suck. It can suck for a lot of us and I think what makes reality bearable sometimes for a lot of us, is imagination, entertainment, and the world of make believe. I find the balance very hard; I have struggled my whole life with finding who I was, and accepting who I was, along with coming to terms with who I am. I mean I really, really struggled and still am struggling. I’m on a journey at the moment with finding acceptance in myself. It’s fucking hard, when you have surpassed yourself for your whole life. I’ve promised myself finally, that moving into 2017 I need to find peace with myself. I need to find acceptance and learn to love myself and be kind to myself. I know that sounds so cliché, but it’s the truth. So I’m hoping that I can and will look back at this point and feel that actually this had to happen for the better— just working on myself and seeing where it goes I guess.
On the topic of self-expression, tell me a bit about your personal style? From one neutral color lover to another, I notice you often go for the color black and have a knack for detailed rings and fedoras.
LE — I like black— it’s sleek, sublime and chic. I think it’s a great basic shade, and I opt for that most of the time because I want my work to be the color. I’m drawn to the darker shades, and feel powerful when in uniform. I look at it like it is kind of armor in a sense. I love to mix it up now and then. I will continue to wear color, it just has to be the right thing and at the right times. I just love clothes, and rings and hats and everything. I think it’s another form of art and expression. You can say so much with how you present yourself, while actually saying nothing at all. I think that’s powerful.
Speaking of detail, in the video for your single “Black Car”, there is a scene where the car seat comes to life. What inspired the imagery in this concept video?
LE — I love 80’s horror. I like the ways it is shot and the way they create their monsters. I think is really cool because everything nowadays is getting so real life, so I wanted to do something different. I feel I’m inspired by the 80’s a lot. So it felt right to look into that era. It was collaboration between myself and Jordan Bahat the director. We just wanted to make you feel something, whether that be a reaction of love or hate, laughing, crying or disgust. I wanted you to feel strong emotion. Those horrors back in the 80s were gory and gross, and we wanted “Black Car” to reflect that.
Your new EP will release this year. What was the driving force, behind creating this new EP?
LE — I’m not sure if it will be an EP or a LP at this point. However I can say the driving force behind it is escapism. I was making music to escape my life. I wasn’t happy. I was lost in myself and it was making me depressed. It was like I didn’t know what else to do but write. It was such a painful process, because I kind of forgot to enjoy it. I forgot to be grateful in the moment because I wasn’t living in them. I was existing and throwing myself into work to run away for my problems and issues, rather than dealing with them. Looking back, I don’t know how I coped. So I would say escaping and therapy was my driving force for this work I’ve created. I wanted to be someone else and in music I could fashion who ever I wanted to be because I was the creator. However, where I’m at now, I can look back and see it. It is very odd to me. I’m still working and processing.
What excites you most about sharing this new material on tour?
LE — To share with people my journey. I want to share who I am. I want to share my stories and let people know they aren’t alone. Although we all feel like sometimes we are. I want to help make people feel a bit better and to inspire them, even if it is just for a few hours. I want to make people smile and learn to love themselves and to be kind to themselves. I don’t know, I just want to be honest, to be myself and somehow find a way to do that. Hopefully, if I succeed, others will also feel the strength to do it too. Just let me entertain you. Forget your troubles for one night, because these moments of content, or happiness or exciting, or whatever you want to call it, are the moments we should hold onto and cherish in life. Life is hard for many of us. We all have our struggles. But these moments with the ones we love make it that bit easier. I want to be a moment and help you with that I guess, through music and visual art.
A new year, brings new opportunities. Apart from music, do you have any other endeavors you’d like to work on?
LE — Obviously, music is the most important thing for me. However, if the right opportunities came along I’d love to act. I’d also love to get more involved in fashion. In general, I’d love to do so many things and I think it is important to be open to anything. So, who knows what this year will bring.