“It’s always been music,” LÉON tells me. Even her soft, husky lilt sounds musical, so it’s no wonder she’s felt destined to create it for as long as she can remember.
The Swedish singer-songwriter is known for her crooning tunes about love, loss and longing. With soulful, contemporary pop melodies and endlessly relatable lyrics, LÉON has amassed herself a loyal following across the globe and more than 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone.
We unpicked the autobiographical stories behind her debut album, her love of crime podcasts, and her “go with the flow” creative process.
You’ve got a USA tour supporting Louis The Child coming up this November. Life on the road can be pretty intense sometimes. What keeps you grounded? I always travel with people that know me really well. I always have one of my best friends with me. She travels with me everywhere. I tend to grab every chance I can to run off on my own and walk a lot, not just stay on the bus.
Your visual style is quite vintage. Would you say it’s 70s? Yeah, especially for the stage outfits I like to have a bit of a 70s vibe going on. I love combining a brand with a vintage blouse.
Both your parents are musicians. Has their work influenced your personal taste in music or your artistic direction? There’s a lot of musicians in my family and sometimes you just wanna have something for yourself. They love the fact that I’m in music. They would have been worried if I didn’t make music [she laughs]. I think the only time my parents have collaborated on anything is my mom. She and my uncle play strings on a few songs I’ve recorded.
Has music always been your dream? When I was 10, I was like, “I’m gonna work in crime!” [she laughs]. Other than that, it was always music. It was just a matter of what kind of music I would make. I always loved writing for myself. I was also into playing the cello and singing different types of music like jazz. It’s always been the only thing I can see myself doing.
Do you still have an interest in crime, beyond the parameters of a career? I listen to a lot of podcasts and watch a lot of shows and documentaries. It’s kind of creepy. I get kinda excited about serial killers [she laughs].
Which podcasts are your favorite? There’s a bunch in Sweden that I love. People keep reminding me that I should listen to Serial.
You released your debut album earlier this year. My personal favourites are “Hope Is A Heartache” and “You And I.” That makes me so happy to hear! “Hope Is A Heartache” was the only song on the record that my manager and I didn’t agree on. Usually we’re on the same page about everything. I asked him: “Is there any song you don’t like.” He said: “Well, I’m not a fan of ‘Hope Is A Heartache.’ I just don’t get it.” I thought, OK, I’m gonna put it on anyway!
Are all the tracks inspired by your personal experiences or are some of them fictional? Everything is autobiographical. Some are more specific, like “Hope Is A Heartache,” “Come Home to Me,” and “Pink.” I know who every song is about. There are some songs [where] you go back to the memory. Some are about situations I’ve found myself in many, many times with different people. We’ve all been there but everything’s very personal.
Would you say the majority of songs are about one particular person? I’d say most of the songs are about one person. I did write a bunch of new songs during a pretty short timeframe. Most of it was written last year so it’s from that time. The rest is me singing about stuff I went through.
Which song would you say is your favourite on the record? I think “Hope Is A Heartache.” I like “You and I” too, but I’m a bit fed up of “You And I.” I’ve performed [it] more than I’ve performed “Hope Is A Heartache.” “Cruel To Care” maybe.
Which is the crowd favourite at gigs? Of the new ones, “Come Home to Me” and then maybe “You And I” and “Hope Is A Heartache.” Of the old ones, it’s “I Believe in Us” and “Surround Me.” It’s fun, that’s why I like touring. You get to see what people are truly into.
How would you describe your creative process when you’re making new music? I love working with people that I feel comfortable with. [Sometimes] I only work with one producer and it’s just us in the room. Sometimes I like to have a song ready before I come to the studio. Recently, I write a lot with female writers that are old friends. We haven’t really hung out and now we’re writing music together. Talking shit for hours and then we will write something. That’s not always the best way to be productive [she laughs]. I just enjoy writing with people when it doesn’t feel forced and I can talk about what’s going on and be honest. I find it hard not to be honest when I’m writing.
How would you say your sound has developed since you began releasing in 2015? I think I’m still writing about being sad all the time [she laughs]. Sound-wise, I’ve been exploring more of an electronic sound on this record. Honestly, I don’t really know. I’ve just been following what feels right at the moment. In the beginning, I wanted to do everything. I wanted to do a folk song, then I wanted to do a proper electronic-y song than one that was proper Motown-y. I wanted to try everything. I think on this record, I decided to hone in more on the electronic-ish sound. I’m just going with the flow. I love a lot of synths. I love colourful sounds. I love incorporating a lot of acoustic and organic sounding instruments.