1883 Magazine
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His success in the EDM world and his impressive collaborations have made singer/songwriter Leo Napier one to watch over the last 12 month.

With his decision on going solo we thought we would have a chat with Leo over Skype at one of the last lower Manhattan studios in New York to find out who he dedicated his first single ‘Dime’ to, plus we chat about new track ‘Bad Girl’.

How did you get into music? What inspires you to make music?

I have started doing music when I was around 20 and that’s when I really started to learn how to sing, how to play but I didn’t really have faith in my self as a musician or have seen it as a opportunity for a serious career until just recently, in the last couple of years.

I feel like women are more pressured to do something in their early twenties, it’s a bit tough around women I got to say. Especially when you’re in the performing arts that’s even tougher, because if you’re like a 30 year old woman trying to make it as a singer you have so much less of chance than a 30 year old man. We have a lot more leeway, which is not fair at all, because it should be just about the quality of the music or the performer.

You have been hanging out in New York lately contributing to the Electronic Music Scene (EDM) there with producers and DJ’s like Griz and Gramatik. Tell me more about your time in New York. Which kind of projects did you enjoy?

The first EDM artist I worked with was Gramatik, who I got introduced to by a friend of mine here in New York. We immediately recorded a song together called Faraway. Through him I met other guys like Griz through him I met Beat Fatigue and this guy ProbCause, a rapper in the EDM too. All that started 3-4 years ago and before than I wasn’t doing much music just a few gigs here and there but I wasn’t very serious about music until EDM. I realized I could do something with music, make a career out if it potentially. That all add up signing a deal with Instant Records and the last year I have been on Instant, we’ve been grinding away and recorded at least 30 songs. Now we are in the process of choosing, which is the though part.

So your singles ‘Dime’ and ‘Bad Girl’ are the ones you chose so far?

Dime was the first choice and since then we actually kind of pivoted, the upcoming stuff that we are going with is more soul RnB in its classic form think Marvin Gaye, James Brown but then if you want to use a more modern reference Pharell and Jamiroquai. Its got a lot of EDM feel to it, its funked up with quite a lot of electronic influence. One song is produced by Griz, and the other songs by the Noisy Freaks.

You were featured on Gramatik’s ‘NativeSon’ alongside Wutan Clan member Raekwon, which was a massive success. Did that open up more doors for you?

I suppose. It gave me notoriety for a moment or two. But just like everything, exposure and notoriety are fleeing things so you need to hop on and ride the train while its still in the station. Those tunes are one of the best collaborations I did in the EDM and it was great fun to perform at Coachella. That was a fantastic experience for someone with barely any experience in the music industry. It was great and a whole lot of fun. Would love to do more of that. Native son is one of my most favorite tunes. Originally it was a piano acoustic song and I didn’t know its going to be a EDM song. Gramatik added his production magic to it and it became this electronic tune, which is fine by me as long as the original soul and the song doesn’t get left behind.

Do you enjoy more solo or collaborations?

I like writing songs with other people but I’m probably better just sitting there and grinding songs up by myself. The reason I like the EDM collaboration are, that they send me fantastic beats fully orchestrated, super funky stuff and all I have to do is lend my voice to it. It lifts a huge weight off my shoulders in that way. Building a song completely from scratch is not something I cant do, but if someone sends me something that is already kind of half way done, I can add my voice and lyrics to it. It changes my style of writing, the cadence of the way that I am singing the song and it forces me to write in a total different way. Because otherwise you get stuck in the same pattern of writing. Sometimes you need someone to throw ranch up in the mix so you totally pivot and you go on a completely different style than you normally would. It really helps to work in a different genre, it’s a great way to change your direction as a songwriter.

Your first single is called ‘Dime’, what inspired you to write this song, what story does it tell and what does it mean to you?

I wrote the song ‘Dime’ about this girl I had a crush on four years ago. She was working at this pizza shop and was really beautiful I don’t know what she was doing working at that pizza shop.

Did you ever tell her?

I don’t think she knows I exist still, I talked to her a few times when I was there. Even though I didn’t really like their pizza, I would order a meat ball sub or something like that, eat two bites and leave basically just so I could talk to her for a little bit.

So I wrote a song about what I considered to be a perfect girl at that time, but ironically in the end the music video shows a sarcastic version of the perfect girl aka Pandemonia. This latex covered woman slash man, which is funny because the whole concept got skewed over time. It was written by a little boy who had a big crush and finally when it was recorded and put into a video it had this whole layer of cynicism.

Pandemonia well known in London especially in the Fashion Scene. How did that come about? And why her?

It came about through Dan, the director, who pulled up an image of her online and all of a sudden she was the focal point. Before her we were actually thinking about using an inflatable sex doll and we had a completely different concept. When we found Pandemonia we came up with a whole new concept to fit Pandemonia. We got rid of all the sex toys and basically made up a relationship between us, well more of a hallucination of a relationship between Pandemonia and me.

In the end you go with the other girl..

Yea we don’t really know who she is, could be my girlfriend or wife whatever she is, she is real. By the way the girl is played by my manager Kelly, who is quite pretty so it worked out.

How was it to work with Pandemonia?

He is very interesting actually, we talked a lot. How difficult it must be, he is wearing a 100 percent latex from head to toe plus inflatable elements plus a latex dress and it was a hot day in the sun, around 90 degrees, hot for England. He is very talkative and great to work with, very intelligent. Like most artist he is quite shy, but towards the end of the day he became a lot more outgoing.

Who is your second new single ‘Bad Girl’ referring to?

Talking about a lot of different girls I have dealt with over the years. I’m talking about the good bad girls and the bad bad girls. The good bad girls being the ones that stay in your heart and memory for the rest of your life and the bad bad girls being the ones that you want to erase from your memory and yet probably will remain there for the rest of your life, because you’ve been so tormented by them. It changes. When I sing the song I’d think of someone different every time I sing it, which is fine because it is a soul tune and you don’t want to sing it the same way every time.

Are you co deciding the art direction of your videos, who comes up with the ideas?

So far the two ideas are so vastly different I don’t think we found a pattern yet but I think eventually we will. I think right now what we’re doing is with each release we’re testing the waters all together to see how people respond to each song, each style. The next video we’re going to do is going to be vastly different again. We’re going to start with a squeaky clean pop soul production style over to more of a funk soul infused rhythm and blues type of feel. I think that’s going to allow me to stand out above the white noise that is out there and the style of the videos will hopefully reflect that change. The video for ‘Dime’ is as colorful as it gets and the ‘Bad Girl’ video is in black and white, but I like that, it has kind of a classy feel to it. ‘Bad Girl’ was shot fairly easily we just basically walked around London.

It was great that you had these little girls on the pavement passing you, it seemed like the perfect moment.

Yes can you believe that, that was totally unplanned but such a great moment. My favorite part of the video. At some point in the video, though I found myself in a meat locker surrounded by hanging cow and pig corpuses but we didn’t end up using them cause they didn’t really match the concept of the bad girl laughs .

The amount of footage that we had was insane, just from walking around on the streets sneaking up rooftops, into restaurants doing weird stuff or drunk people photo bombing in the background, women pulling their shirts off, but we didn’t use any of that stuff.

Who are you aiming your music at?

Everyone. My music covers a wide demographic. Everyone from the teeny boppers to people in their seventies and eighties are going to dig it and they always have. Ever since I started playing, there has been older people in the audience and young people, because soul music defies age.

The plan is to release the music as a London based performer, even though the label is based in New York. Songs are recorded in New York but the plan is to first release it in London and then Europe.

Why London?

I have always liked London, I have always liked the idea of being a musician in Europe, because I feel like they respond better to soul, classic rhythm and blues, and on all of the shows that I played in London that’s been confirmed, because I had a great response. There has been an undeniable energy that is not something you don’t get in the States, but there is that little bit more tension, electricity in the room when it comes to London based performances. We decided to put the music out in London, plus I have a nice place to stay, I’ve always liked London and had a little bit enough of the states, so why not. Both my folks are English so I got a UK citizenship. They both live in Mallorca now so I am closer to them when I stay in London too.

In your opinion what are the differences in music taste or music style between the US and the UK?

I think the folks in England are more open to classic soul and classic rhythm and blues and dig cats like Jamie Cullum.

You have British parents, but you grew up between LA and London. How would you say being brought up in two different cultures has perhaps given you a different perspective to music?

I grew up in LA and moved to London when I was 8 but then back to LA again when I was 12. So I had to switch accents a lot, to avoid getting in fist fights. I have got a UK citizenship so I am able to work around Europe which is lucky, but we’ll se for how long now after Brexit. I have been very lucky to experience the European and the American culture to their extremes throughout my life and it’s definitely affected the way I write and the way I perform.

Where would you want to live/settle down in the future.

I think eventually I will end up in Mallorca, Spain. It’s where both of my parents are currently living. My dad just retired and moved there and my mom’s already been living there for many years. So I think, without a doubt, that’s where I’m going to end up. I just got to work on my Spanish, but with any luck I’ll take my last breath underneath a twisted beautiful olive tree overlooking the Mediterranean on a nice day, with a warm breeze. Maybe I’ll be choking on an olive pit.

Sounds like a great plan, what are your plans for the near future, will you focus on your debut career or are there any plans for collaborations with other artists?

More collaborations in the EDM world for sure. Now after ‘Bad Girl’ we are planning to release another single followed by my first EP on Instant Records in March 2017.

I don’t think it’s going to include the first two single releases, but it might ‘Bad Girl’ actually. The EP will include five tracks, but we are still choosing. The songs I am recording and listening to in the studio at the moment are going into the right direction now, it feels like the right direction

 

Leo’s new track ’Bad Girl’ is out noew via this link.
For all his latest news head to www.leonapier.com

Interview Aylin Delemen
@aylindelemen 

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