Phoenix: What would you say the main theme is on Kings and Queens, and what influenced your writing for it? Did you go into the album with a theme in mind, or did you determine the overarching premise after you finished writing it?
Leah: I don’t usually write with a theme in mind for a whole album, but it does tend to happen naturally without trying to achieve that. I write songs whenever I’m able, so sometimes there are months in between one song to the next, and then several all at once. It turns out there were many intertwining themes, not unlike my first album. On this one, I had many pictures in my mind to do with royalties, kingdoms, empires, political agenda, complex relational aspects, betrayal, endurance and many other things. It seemed to sum up nicely into the album title, Kings & Queens.
Phoenix: What is your songwriting process? Do you plan a lot in advance, are you more spontaneous, a mixture of both, or something else completely different? Also, you have amazing musicians accompanying you on this album. How did you work out the songs in collaboration with Timo, Barend, and Sander?
Leah: I didn’t do a lot of planning for songwriting. I usually have a lot of half-finished ideas laying around that I’m always adding to, so there’s lots to choose from. I’d say I’m a spontaneous writer. I had pre-written most of all the songs and had their basic layout and structure, along with chord progressions and melody. Timo and I worked for a while on the demos and pre-production work so we knew what they were going to sound like before getting the other guys in the studio.
Phoenix: How do you decide what topics you want to write your songs about? Do you tend to write your lyrics first and then form the music around them, or do you write the music first and then write the lyrics to fit the melodies?
Leah: I have no rules for this, so anything can happen, but usually I come up with the music and melody simultaneously. Lyrics tend to come later after the vibe of the song is established. Sometimes I even know what the rhythm of syllables needs to be and then afterwards I find the topic and select the words carefully to match what I had in mind. Once in a while all of this happens all at once and it’s very overwhelming.
Phoenix: You have no qualms when it comes to tackling other languages in your lyrics. Aside from giving the music more variety or novelty with lyrics in Latin or Irish/Gaelic, what makes you choose another language for a certain song and how do you determine which language you will use?
Leah: I suppose I’m a bit brave because I have no training or education in other languages. It comes down to boredom, really. Sometimes the English language doesn’t roll off the tongue in a romantic way or sound mysterious enough. Singing in another language solves that problem.
Phoenix: You have an amazing voice. When/where do you first recall singing, and how did you decide you wanted to pursue singing/music professionally?
Leah: Thank you! I recall singing when I was a child, maybe at age six or seven. I remember singing in the car, the Canadian national anthem with my sister, only I broke into harmony, seeming to know intuitively how to do that. I remember my mom’s shock. It was maybe at age 11 or 12 that I would wish I could be a professional singer. When I discovered songwriting, then I knew that is what I would do.
Phoenix: You are also a multi-instrumentalist. What do you play and what other instrument(s) would you like to play if you could?
Leah: I mainly play the piano/keyboard. My first songwriting instrument was guitar. I’d like to play that again and explore writing that way. I plan on learning the Celtic harp this year.
Phoenix: You have a 3-song Christmas EP that you have released with wonderful renditions of classic carols. Do you have plans to release a full-length Christmas album in the future?
Leah: I don’t have current plans, but sure, one day I would do that.
Phoenix: I know you enjoy literature based on its many inspirations for your songs. What is your favorite book, and how did what you took away from that book affect or influence your life?
Leah: I do enjoy literature very much, although I admit I’ve hardly had time for good fiction in the past several years. Much of my reading has been limited to non-fiction and articles. The Hobbit was really a memorable read for me, since I didn’t read it until I was an adult. I think I started it three times before I finally realized I needed to stop speed-reading as I usually do, and slow down and enjoy all the detail. And I really did enjoy it!
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