interview | léon

Hearing Léon’s 2015 single “Tired of Talking,” it was clear that there was something entrancing — and almost magical — about the Swedish-born singer. “Tired of Talking” was a personal affair — a song dealing with an undefined relationship and coming to terms with finally saying goodbye. Léon recorded the song with producer Agrin Rahmani who, seeing her potential star-power, convinced her to self-release the song by uploading it to SoundCloud.

Most music posted to the infamous platform only accrues a few listens before getting lost in the endless stream of content. However, something about “Tired of Talking” stuck. Léon’s voice carried a depth reminiscent of classic soul and jazz performers — a perfectly pitched emotional timbre never veering too saccharine or subdued.

Overnight, the song spread, quickly catching the ears of celebrities like G-Eazy and Katy Perry, who almost immediately reposted it to their legions of followers. The former would even later contribute a verse to a remix of the song. “Tired of Talking” now has over 67 million plays on Spotify.

But that was 2015. Today, as Léon celebrates the release of her self-titled debut album on her very own record label, she still finds the lessons learned from that time difficult to parse. “I feel like a lot has changed, and yet nothing in a way,” she says matter-of-factly. “I don’t know if my approach has changed drastically in these four years when it comes to making the music. It’s more that my view on the industry and how I want to work has changed.”

Léon, whose real name is Lotta Lindgren, is wrapping up a successful European tour — a brief hurrah on her home continent before a long stretch across North America. While this may tire most, she’s held her own through a gruelling tour schedule. How does she do it? “Don’t party too hard,” she admits jokingly. “At least for me. I am so sensitive and need my sleep and some alone time. But trying not to be stressed out all the time and just having fun is so important. I think not taking myself too seriously makes me feel less tense.”

Her nonchalant disposition is a contrast to her music, which radiates care and concern. It’s one of the reasons why the album-making process has been so long and tiresome — as evidenced by the nearly four-year gap between her first single and the album’s eventual release. Even with this time to develop and perfect her debut, Lindgren confesses she still had difficulty acknowledging it was ready for the world to hear. “I think it was at the end of last year right before Christmas when we sent all the songs to get mixed and mastered. I had a really hard time letting go, so I couldn’t really take it all in,” she admits. “It was the biggest relief, but it also made me nervous in a way, thinking about the fact that people would be hearing all the songs… They had been my own for so long!”

Now those songs belong to the people, including the many who will populate her North American concerts. Léon’s always had luck in North America – previous tours had her playing smaller shows across the US and Canada, and with every return has come more success. She took the coveted stage at Coachella last year, and this year, she’ll be returning for bigger shows across the country. One of those places is Salt Lake City, where she had one of her most memorable gigs to date. “It was basically in a shed with a tree coming through the roof,” she recounts. It was a small venue, but Léon carried the evening with her trademark spirit, drawing the audience in for a diverse set. “It was so cold and people were standing both inside and outside staring in through the windows… I loved it.”

While Lindgren enjoys the studio life, there’s something about performing she finds endlessly invigorating. “Being onstage is a different kind of beast – everything can happen, which I both love and hate… There is nothing like being in a room with an audience that gives you the greatest energy. That’s the best feeling.”

Ensuring that North American audiences will get the best show possible is a big part of her current downtime. Past tours had her only playing songs off her previously released EPs. Now, with a full album out, Lindgren is practising again — feeling the pressure of delivering brand-new material to audiences. “Falling,” one of the album’s singles, “has been one of my favourites to do in rehearsal,” says Lindgren. “And ‘Cruel to Care’! It’s the first time we do a ballad with a guitar and not a piano in the set, so I’m excited for people to hear that one.”

On the album, “Cruel to Care” is recorded as a smartphone voice memo, giving it an all-too-familiar sonic quality. The line between classic influence and contemporary pop is one Léon has always been comfortable toeing, and this track, which blends the simplicity of a pop guitar ballad with lo-fi production and lyrics concerning digital-age love, perfectly illustrates her uncanny ability to keep listeners emotionally invested. “I tried to picture how it would sound if it was produced, but I didn’t really like the idea of putting a bunch of things on top of it,” Lindgren says. “It felt special the way it was and I didn’t want to mess with the feeling of it.”

North American audiences will experience her live show soon enough. For now, Lindgren is focused on performing and, potentially, new music on her brand new record label. “Being able to release music on my terms, whenever I want, was why I started [the label]. Being in the hands of somebody else when it comes to every decision would stress me out and would kill my creativity,” she asserts. At the moment, the label will just be a venue for her own music. “But who knows, maybe it will become something different in the future,” she notes. “We’ll see what the future holds.”

Léon’s self-titled debut album is out now. Listen to it here

photography. Sandra Thorsson
talent. Léon
words. Braden Bjella


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