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INTERVIEW: Leah Harris

Hi Leah, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi! I’ve been great, thanks!  Really pumped about my single release.  My new music has been in the works for a while, so it feels good to be getting it out there.  I can’t believe the song is actually out now!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Don’t Blame Me”?

“Don’t Blame Me” is an Amy Winehouse-inspired, piano-driven song.  The groove is inspired by some of my favourite Neo Soul artists – along with Ray Charles (my hero!)- and it has a bit of an old-school hip hop vibe.

It’s also an angry breakup song!  Music has always been an important outlet for me, and apparently breakups are no exception.  I think you can really hear the attitude, not just in the lyrics but also the music.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Well, I typically try to make breakups as calm and respectful as possible.  I like to end things on a good note… but this was just not one of those times!  For me, songwriting is about documenting a specific moment and feeling that will never come again, so I really just tried to channel everything I was feeling directly into the song.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

I have released a video of our studio session at Systems Two Recording Studio in Brooklyn.  We had so much fun recording there.  The musicians are great people, a lot of fun, and the studio is amazing!  The piano I played is a beautiful Steinway that actually used to be in Carnegie Hall!

We recorded eight songs in one day, as I had only come to New York for a short visit.  The musicians were amazing and picked up the songs up so quickly.  We had a lot of entertaining moments in the studio too – I loved working with those guys!  I thought the studio video would be a nice way of sharing the whole experience.

How was the recording and writing process?

I wrote this song the way I write all of my songs – in a single setting that goes by in a flash.  When I sit down to write, I never feel like I’m there for longer than 5 minutes, even when hours have gone by.   I can’t stop until it’s finished, because once the feeling is gone I find it hard to keep going.  That’s why most of my songs don’t have bridges!

When I was little, my dad had a rule that whenever I wrote 3 songs, we would go to a professional studio to record them.  But we didn’t have tons of money, so he would book it for about 15 minutes or so.  I always thought that studio sessions were supposed to be just one take of the song.  We recorded the 8 songs for my new album in one day, and I think it’s those experiences with my dad that taught me to work that way in the studio.  We recorded the piano, bass, and drums all at once at Systems Two, and I went back later and recorded the final vocals in my producer Adam’s studio in Harlem.  The guitarist recorded his parts in Brazil and sent them over!

I have to give a shoutout to my producer Adam Rhodes who organized the whole recording experience so well and always brings out the best in my music.

What role does Canada still play in your writing and how has your now relocation to Dublin has affected you as an artist?

I owe a lot of my musical development to my hometown of Windsor, Ontario.  It was a really cool location to be in culturally, because we were right on the border to Detroit.  I could see Detroit from my bedroom window, that’s how close we were!  So we got all of the Detroit radio stations.  I was very influenced by Motown, R&B, gospel, and blues coming from the Detroit scene.  That influence still plays a very strong part in my music.

My mom was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, and we used to visit every year.  But it wasn’t until I moved there this year that I really got involved in the music scene, and it’s amazing!  The songwriting is incredible.  I love it, not only because of the level of musicianship, but also because the lyrics and melodies of Irish musicians are generally quite dark and deep.  People seem to be open to anything, as long as you’re saying something real – and I love that.

How has your upbringing influenced your music?

The Detroit influence was huge, and I also grew up in a really musical family.  They really inspired and supported me.  My dad was a Country songwriter, and we used to put my demos on CDs and mail them out to publishing companies.  I learned so much from him.  My mom is a pianist, but actually more of an entrepreneur.  She really taught me how to strategize and be strong in the business world.  I’m very lucky to have the family that I do.  To this day, my parents and brother are still the first ones to hear my new songs, and their support is what keeps me going when things get crazy!

Does your new single mean we can expect a new album – how’s that coming along?

Yes!! The new album is on the way!  “Don’t Blame Me” is the first of 8 new songs.  I am planning to release the full album in the spring of 2018.  The recording is all done and some of the songs are fully produced.  We are now just working on some final touches.

Any tentative release date or title in mind?  Any plans to hit the road?

I am hoping to release the album in April or May of 2018.  I’m planning an indie tour for myself to travel around Europe promoting it.  A videographer friend of mine who will be joining me to document the experience.  I’m really passionate about encouraging independent artists, and I hope that this tour can help reinforce how far an indie musician can go on their own!

What else is happening next in Leah Harris’s world?

At the start of this year, I left my full-time job in Finland at a tech startup called Yousician.  They design apps to teach people music, and I was hired to design the piano program from scratch.  I loved working for them, because they truly care about making the world a more musical place with a forward-thinking approach to education.  What’s cool is that Yousician became the most popular music learning app in the world with millions of students!

While I still freelance for Yousician, I left Finland at the start of the year to focus on my music career.  I am now living as a digital nomad, travelling around and working remotely.  I think this is a powerful option for a DIY musician, as working remotely gives you the flexibility to choose your schedule and location – which makes gigging and touring possible, while also keeping a regular income.  I’m really excited to keep developing this area of my life and to see what kind of path will end up providing the best support for what I love.  Musicians deserve healthy, stable lives, just like everyone else, and I’m happy to be focusing on new ways to achieve that now as an indie artist.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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