An Interview With The Canadian Singer-Songwriter, LEAH HARRIS!
Posted On 09 May 2019
Meet the Canadian singer-songwriter, Leah Harris.
Next week on May 15th, she will be releasing her second EP, Treat Me Good. Comprised of 5 original soul/jazz songs by Harris, the EP explores love and the raw emotions we experience through it. She has already released the first single off the EP, and title track “Treat Me Good”, on March 8th. Treat Me Good was one of the last records recorded at Brooklyn’s renowned Systems Two Studio, home to jazz music and generating records like Grammy-winning Jazz album The Mosaic Project by Terri Lyne Carrington, Jazz instrumental album Jungle-Provocative in Blue, and Tango Record of the Year Solo Buenos Aires-Fernando Otero.
Leah Harris released her first EP in 2014 called I Don’t Believe in Love, produced by Adam Rhodes. She has amassed a loyal following of over 100k Instagram followers after her two-year 15 countries tour from 2016-2018 and is the designer behind the wildly successful ‘Yousician Piano’. This app is the world’s most popular piano learning app and used by over a million students.
Learn more about Leah Harris in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you?
Hi! Thank you for the interview. I’m in NYC!
Now that we are into the 5th month of the new year, how has 2019 been treating you so far? What are some goals that you have for yourself this year? How are those New Years Resolutions going?
2019 has been great. Most of my resolutions were centered around settling into my new life in the city (I moved here about 6 months ago), releasing my EP, and getting a healthy lifestyle going again after two years of touring. They’re going well; NYC feels much more like home now.
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician? Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?
Music has been an essential part of me for as long as I can remember. I think it was apparent to others first that I would do music before I was old enough to really think about it. Going into music was the easy choice. Deciding which aspects of the music industry to say no to has always been the harder part. Loving something this much isn’t always easy and can certainly be blinding at times!
Was there ever a time when you thought about doing something else? If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing? Would you be as fulfilled in life?
I actually have worked in multiple other careers, and I think this has really helped to shape me as a musician. I worked as an app designer at Yousician (a Helsinki-based music education company), started my own remote digital marketing business (to support my touring) and I recently took on a full-time role in Corporate Communications.
You ask this question at the perfect time, as this was one of the biggest decisions I had to make in my new life here. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and I like to be able to plan and see my business grow. I got tired of the grey area that often comes with being a musician, always waiting for someone else to approve or handle the next steps. I decided to take on a full-time day job that I like so that I can really focus on growing my music career independently. It sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but there’s so much that can be done with digital advertising, social media, branding and overall growth when a steady budget is there. I find it very exciting.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
I always thought that it would be some kind of negative experience or rejection that would make me want to stop or change my goals if that ever happened. The truth is that I care too much about my own health and happiness to go down some of the roads I pictured when I was little before I understood exactly what they would entail. I also believe, on principle, that musicians should be able to live more empowered lives than is usually the case. I’ve turned down a lot of experiences that I would have killed for earlier in life because they just don’t fit in with my mission statement. I’m quite surprised (and relieved) that my passion for redefining musician/entrepreneur life has outweighed my interest in “making it big.”
Let’s talk about your forthcoming second EP, “Treat Me Good.” What was it like putting this collection together?
Fun, and long! I love the musicians I worked with on this, and it’s always a pleasure to work with my producer Adam Rhodes. The Brooklyn studio, Systems Two, was amazing, and I had so much fun recording this. I ended up spontaneously planning my own indie tour 6 months after, with the goal of seeing how long I could last on the road. Surprisingly, it went on for two years! The only downside was that my production and release schedules got a bit delayed during that time. Excited to finally release the tracks now!
How would you say that you first released the song, “Treat Me Good” prepares listeners for the rest of the EP?
My main influences are Ray Charles (keys), Whitney Houston (voice) and Fiona Apple (songwriting). I think “Treat Me Good” combines all of these. The groove is quite jazzy, the songwriting is sarcastic and playful, and there are almost ironic soulful vocal riffs followed by the line “treat me good.” This song gets some of the best reactions when played live, and I hope people enjoy the recorded version (including some awesome horns arranged by Andrae Murchison).
What are some of your other favorite songs on this EP that you are excited to share with people?
My personal favorite is “If I Never.” It was written after spending almost 5 years in cultures where I just couldn’t click enough with anyone to really date. I was also asking myself a lot of questions about how necessary relationships really are. Musically, this song is very inspired by Amel Larrieux and the way she builds her acoustic songs up so much with background vocals. Overall, I guess this song feels very genuine and representative of my songwriting style. I also love the last song, “I’ve Lived,” because it highlights the Motown influence I had growing up on the border to Detroit.
How do you think you have grown as a musician since you first started singing and writing songs?
I suppose this is common among musicians and writers, but I feel like so much has changed since writing those songs. That’s always the funny challenge: by the time you are ready to release something, you’ve already moved onto the next thing in your personal life. This collection really documents the excitement, adventure, and oftentimes loneliness that came along with living abroad and touring. My new music focuses more on the excitements and challenges that come with my more settled life in New York City.
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all of the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all? What would you say is your favorite way to connect with your fans now?
Jesus, it is insane! Haha. A few years ago I considered deleting Instagram because I didn’t really know what I was doing. I decided to first research best practices, get better content, and give it a proper try. It grew to over 100,000 followers in less than a year, which was completely unexpected. It is fun and I love being able to connect directly with my audience. With that said, it is virtually impossible to keep up with DM’s, and I feel like I’m never thanking my followers enough for their support. Lately, I have really come to understand why musicians need a team to help keep them moving forward! Instagram is still my favorite way to connect, and I’m also planning to release new vlog-style content on YouTube.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely still love to work within the future?
Hozier is amazing, and I would love to write and record with him. My mom was born and raised in Dublin, and, even though I don’t play any Irish music myself, I can hear elements of it in his music that I really appreciate. The fact that he has combined that with Soul music makes for such an interesting style that I’d love to be a part of. Also a huge fan of Amos Lee, Lianne La Havas, and Vulfpeck, and would love to work with any of them. Don’t even get me started on my old-school inspirations!
Where can people see you perform live next?
My EP release party is coming up on May 15th at Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar. I love this venue and have wanted to release my music there from day one. The history of both the venue and Ashford & Simpson (writers of some of my favorite Soul and Motown hits) is mind-blowing to me, and I’m honored to be performing there. I encourage anyone in NYC to come out!
If you had an unlimited budget and your schedule was free, what would your dream music video look like?
Great question. I would love to fly in the different musicians I have worked with over the years around the world and have them be a part of it. I would also love to do some kind of big Motown-inspired production. My hometown, Windsor, Ontario, Canada is really special to me, as it has completely unique energy with the influence of Detroit next-door. It would be amazing to record a video there with the Detroit skyline in the background.
If your music was going to be featured on any TV show that is currently on right now, which would you love it to be on? Or if you prefer, what is a movie that you love that you wish your music was featured in?
Another great question. I would do anything for Brooklyn 99, but I guess my music wouldn’t fit into it that well. I suppose most of my songs would go best with some kind of darker sultry theme, like Moulin Rouge or James Bond, or some kind of light-hearted dating drama. I think Johnny Depp would handle the whole spectrum of my music perfectly, haha. Obviously, any involvement with Game of Thrones would bring my value as a human being to the next level.
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
For me, it really is about the music. My songs come from the soul; they are not written formulaically to get people to respond in a certain way. If people want to feel something honest and real, I hope that comes across in my music. My tracks were recorded with a live feel, and my piano style encompasses the mix of Motown, blues and jazz styles I’ve come across in different places of the world. I hope it resonates with something deep and offers some kind of inspiration to listeners.
Would you like to share anything else with our readers about your music?
If you listen to my music, please let me know what you think! You can DM me on IG (@leahharrisofficial) or email me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be great to hear from you, and I hope you stop by the release party if you’re in NYC. Thanks to everyone who has shown me support as an indie artist!