At the age of 12, Leon Else was writing songs purely for the fun and love of it. They were unfiltered and uninterrupted.
Born in Gibraltar, he moved with his family to Kent to live out his teenage years. Self-recording songs on a cassette player in his room, music provided an escape and planted the seed of the musical dream.
Speaking to him, I learn that he quickly discovered that, “reality and life is fucking tough.” Though that didn’t stop the passion for sound that burns deep inside his heart.
Writing and recording “takes me away and helps me to forget”, Leon reiterates often. Having locked himself away in the studio for the past couple of years, the forthcoming debut record is “about my journey over the last two years, my ups and downs and downs.”
His thrilling back catalogue is thick with songs about alcohol and drugs (River Full of Liquor), and the truths about living with mental illness, ADHD (Messed Up). Describing himself as, “someone that finds it hard to accept himself, someone who struggles with mental disabilities, someone who wants to be loved and wants to be wanted” he tells me, “the list goes on. It’s just real life and we all go through it.
“We are all looking for those moments in life to feel alive, to feel happy and to feel loved. Something that makes us feel like we aren’t alone.”
Washed with a layer of melancholy, a Leon Else song is adorned in glamorous, silky vocals and rich instrumentals. A subtle hint of RnB weaves its way and touches the laced edge of bluesy tones.
Latest single, ‘Black Car’ was the first song written for the album, and naturally became the introduction to it. “It has a mysteriousness to it, it’s still dark and moody like music I have done before, but I think it’s more grown up” Full of sensuality, it moves like a creature of the night. Whispered vocals ask ‘can you feel my heart beat?’ whilst beats replicate your own pulse. Slow to frenzy within seconds. Wonderfully weird, Leon Else is alluring.
The brooding sense of darkness in the sexual nature hasn’t been done on purpose, nothing ever is. “It just is what it is.” He says, “I am a very sexual person, yes, so that’s obviously coming through in the music, but naturally I guess.”
“I just love my songs to be real; real extensions and stories and vibes of who I am. Or what I’m going through in that moment.”
Unafraid of honesty, he isn’t scared to present himself as the villain.
Providing a different point of view to what we’re normally exposed to in song stories, fan favourite, ‘Cheap Hotel’, tells the story of our narrator committing adultery on the love of his life whilst she sits at home going out of her mind. Sung almost as a lullaby, the brutal web of lies in the lyrics slash through the lovely melody.
“I’m not here to pretend to you, or to make you feel like everything is perfect because it isn’t.” Leon explains, “I’m telling you my struggles in myself, because I know that you all go through them too.”
Despite the beauty of the songs, he doesn’t “want to filter my life like an Instagram picture, and make it seem what it’s not.” You won’t catch him romanticising situations. Explaining that everything he writes derives from real experiences or views, he explains, “it’s important to write real things, because then you’re writing truth and no one can argue it… I don’t want a pretend or filtered record.”
Explaining how he wants to put himself into music form, and not just as another pop song, he says, “I have a lot to say, I have strong views and see the world in my own way.” He wants to show us this, and “to effect people on a deeper level” in doing so.
Taking inspiration from his own life; where he mucked out at a friend’s stable in exchange for horse riding lessons and is heavily involved in the fashion world.
Thrilled by the challenges he’s overcome in his life; from saving enough money to train as a professional dancer, the intuition that comes with hard work flows into knowing which music makes him feel good when moving. He teases that we should keep an eye out for the next video.
With a want to talk about his own experiences, Leon wants “to reach out to people and let them know they aren’t alone.” Admitting to feeling that way for so long, he hopes that his music will give a platform to help, and the album is an extension of this.
Aware that everybody will take different things from the music, he hints that there’s many more sides for us to discover. Having faith that his hard work and authenticity will in the end prevail, Leon exclaims “I live for this. I love the fact that I don’t know what the fuck is going to happen. I love that it’s all unwritten and there is not a definitive way this is going to end.
“I thrive under pressure, and I love that everything changes and can change. I love working hard, I love creating things and putting them out into the world and to be able to touch people and connect is a beautiful thing that can bring a lot of us together.”
Finding solace in darker moments, Leon Else is determined to live out his dreams and is willing to be scared in order to be successful.
Words by Tanyel Gumushan