Upcoming U.K. singer-songwriter, Paul Leion . . .
Takes us on a Magical Musical Journey. New Single Release, 'When You Do' by Paul Leion. Out on September 23rd 2013
M.B. - So why don't you introduce yourself to our readers?
P.L. - Hi, I'm Paul Leion. A London born, piano playing, songwriting, storytelling, singer/composer and producer with Greek DNA which explains the hair.
M.B. How did you get yourself involved in the music scene?
P.L.- I stayed behind the scenes for a long time. I had really bad stage fright so I'd work on writing music instead of performing it. So you can say I took the long route to where I am now. My first music job was composing for a Greenpeace commercial that ran in Greece. I was asked to do the music as a favour and I wasn't too interested in doing it to be honest, but they needed someone and I figured I'd help them out. Well, that advert opened a few doors and led to me working on several campaigns and even working on a short film or two which was thrilling. One of my dreams was (and is) to score a film and to sing on the soundtrack. Working on this short film gave me a little glimpse of that and it was exciting.
After working for a certain amount of time on the advertising side of things, I was getting the urge to sing. This desire began to override the fear so much so that I decided I owed it to myself to at least record an album and see what happened. By this point I'd written maybe about 100 songs and it seemed like a shame for them to never see the light of day. So I threw some demos together and approached a few producers and started work with producer Benny D in Chelsea, as well as my university friend Martin Knight.
M.B. - What are your music influences?
P.L.- Different things for different reasons, from pop, alternative, hip-hop, electro, acoustic, house to classical. Hip Hop production is fantastic. I have friends who are really into their Hip Hop, Grime, Drum & Bass, Dub Step etc and they'll educate me and introduce me to the acts and songs that inspire them. I love introducing people to the music that I'm passionate about and I think it's great when my friends do the same.
If we look back into my very early life, Bugsy Malone was my childhood obsession (at around 2 years old?). When I was very young I remember "the funny man on the boat with long hair" (Boy George - Karma Chameleon), "the scary man in the dark place who came up out of the ground and started dancing" (Michael Jackson - Thriller) - that video really scared the hell out of me. I didn't quite understand the fact that things in the TV couldn't jump out and grab me.
My mum used to play a lot of The Eurythmics, Fleetwood Mac, The Pretenders, Bruce Springsteen and Leonard Cohen etc. I loved that music then and I still love it today. When I was slightly older I discovered Elvis Costello, Tanita Tikaram, REM, Tori Amos, Tom McRae, Simon & Garfunkel, Cat Stevens, Tracy Chapman etc. I also have a great passion for classical music, especially Tchaikovsky's Winter Daydreams. If you ever listen to Winter Daydreams you can definitely hear how it's influenced certain modern day film score composers. At the other end of the spectrum I also like Knife Party, Les Rhythms Digitales, The Avalanches, Groove Armada, Chemical Brothers etc.
M.B. - What's your songwriting method?
P.L.- Songs can come in any number of ways. From dreams (very rare) to having an idea triggered by a colour, a phrase, or an emotion that has hit you in some way. There can be times when I'll sit at the piano and try to write something for hours and nothing really flows but then there'll be that occasion where I'm walking home and something will start playing in my head and I have to sing it into my phone or get to the piano quickly before I forget it.
Sometimes you get a phrase, sometimes a chorus or a rhythm, sometimes a whole song. A song called Antidote from the album was written in 10 minutes whereas another track, Upside Down, was written over several months and started out as two separate songs. Part A (the chorus) was written after I heard some gospel music and it triggered an idea, and Part B was written months before when I was reflecting on the proverb 'walk a mile in another man's shoes'. I struggled for ages to finish off these two separate songs until one day, my brain decided to make the connection and put the two parts together and I couldn't believe how well they fit.
Nile Rodgers once said that making music is a series of planned mistakes or accidents, and he's completely right.
M.B. - How did it feel getting feedback of your track from Brian May?
P.L.- This was quite a few years back. A family friend used to be a makeup artist and she worked with Anita Dobson at some point and she asked me if I'd like her to ask Anita if Brian would have a listen to my demo. I'm glad to say he heard it and gave some great feedback and advice. The letter he sent is still one of my prized possessions.
M.B. - What was it like being tutored by the infamous Pip Williams?
P.L.- That was great. I was so in awe of his work and the people he'd worked with. So many great names from The Walker Brothers, The Moody Blues, Ringo Starr and Barbara Dickson. What struck me the most was that he was one of the most down to earth people you'd ever meet; a really nice guy and a really successful musician/producer/arranger was tutoring us on this course and it made it (the music business) seem less out of reach somehow. He was very enthusiastic about his subject and he was very encouraging and supportive of my work. He definitely helped bring me out of my shell.
M.B. - ‘WHEN YOU DO’ Why don’t you tell us more about the writing and recording process?
P.L.- This was a song that was about remembering the fun side of music and songwriting. A lot of my material was written about the darker side of the human psyche - poison, betrayal, alienation, the afterlife, and so on. I still really engage with that music but during this particular period I really needed to work with something a bit more uplifting So my friend Rebecca and I put on some old songs - The Monkees, The (early) Beatles, Billy Fury etc, and the music was quite energising. The 60s must have been an exciting time to have grown up with music. There was a freshness and an great vibe that comes across on the records of that time. Anyway, we entered that headspace for a few hours and came up with When You Do. The first demo was a very 60s pop/rock sounding song and if I'm honest, it was a bit out of our comfort zone . It was a lot more innocent than anything else we'd usually write. However, so many of our friends and family liked it so much, I figured I’d record it.
One day I'll make the original demo available to show how the song has evolved from version to version. The latest version however, the single version, I produced with Martin Knight and I felt I wanted acknowledge the Motown genre. This particular interpretation has a darker edge to it, but is by no means depressing. As I was rehearsing the song on the piano, I started to hear another melody in my head during certain gaps of the track and I thought of the 90s song, 'these sounds fall into my mind' (at least that's what I thought the lyric was). So I remembered it was by The Bucketheads and the song was called The Bomb. I thought it would be really cool to get permission to use the sample so I started researching it and to my surprise, The Bucketheads themselves had sampled it from a song called Street Player by the band Chicago. The lyric is actually, 'Street sounds swirling through my mind'.
M.B. - Why the title?
P.L.- When You Do - it's really a simple way of saying, 'you treat me like dirt, but then again, I let you do it'. Negative aspects of relationships may not always be visible, but when they do
surface…they really do.
M.B. - What’s been one of the most hilarious moments you have been while touring or playing a gig?
P.L.- The only hilarious thing that’s happened to me on stage was when I was a kid, at around 8 years old. It was during a play where there was a section with a puppet show. I was doing the voice of the king and some prince was on a quest so he could have my daughter’s hand in marriage. When it came the end, my line was meant to be, ‘good good, now you can marry my daughter’. What I said? ‘good good, now you can marry my wife!’.
The audience burst into laugher and I had no idea what was going on. In my head, I’d said the correct word. I think the mayor was attending that performance and I know they were taping it but I’ve never watched it back! I’d quite easily make the same mistake again today.
M.B. - Do you have a burning desire to tell us something else?
P.L.- I see dead people (no seriously, I do).
M.B. - So what's next ?
P.L.- Finishing off the album (Bipolar) which is out on the 4th November, some promotion followed by a mini tour of some kind. In my head I know how I want my next 2 albums to sound so I envisage a lot of recording and collaborating.
Breaking news is that Pink Panda have just done an amazing remix of When you Do!
I have strong visual ideas which I want to execute on a larger scale but I don't want to give too much away just yet.
M.B. - Where can we find more about your music?
P.L. You can head on over to my website www.paulleion.com and listen to some music. I also write a blog about songwriting and how certain songs came about and I also talk bout dealing with anxiety and overcoming depression. It’s all part of the story.
August 15, 2013 6:17am ET by Matchbox Recordings Ltd