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ABOUT LEONY

In the small country town where Leony grew up, farming was more likely than fame. It was, she remembers, a “pretty normal” place where “nothing special happened” and she was happy with that.

Yet even before she could walk, long before legendary songwriter Billy Steinberg declared her “beautiful inside and out … an outstanding singer and writer”, Leony was headed somewhere else and music was going to take her there.

“There are videos of me where I could barely talk but I was singing things,” she says now, laughing at the memory of the free-spirit channelling this new love. “I never really had anything else in my life that I wanted to be. Other people wanted to be doctors or whatever; I never had that, I just wanted to do music.”

That’s why though Leony has only just turned 20, this is a life that’s been building to something. That something isn’t fame for its own sake; they just don’t do that in her hometown where barely 2000 people keep things humble and sensible.

No, this is a chance to make sense of the one constant in her life, connecting to others with music. There’s been the piano and then guitar lessons. Local groups and small gigs. Watching her heroes Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera and knowing straight away “wow, I want to be like them”. A talent show to give her a taste for what more could be done with this ability. And then singing lessons to build on that passion.

“I was like, ‘I don’t need vocal coaching’,” Leony says, a little embarrassed at even this small show of over-confidence, even though Johan Gustafson of the all-conquering Trinity Music production team raved about how her unique voice means “she stands out from the rest” in a crowded field.

“And then when you have it you realise it makes such a big difference.”

The truth of that is in an already impressive and flexible voice, And that’s the thing, Leony isn’t trying to convince you to buy a car or buy a lie; she just wants you to get to know her and what music means to her.

“When you play a song to people, that you’ve written, and they say ‘I’m getting goosebumps’ or whatever, I can totally relate to that. It’s the best feeling because you’ve reached out to people and what you do is making people feel something. That’s why we do it: to make people feel something, or to make them feel what we feel with music.”

Music has already sent her from rural Germany to urban America and Australia, the UK, Norway and Sweden, songwriting and recording with The Kennel crew, who have written for Chainsmokers and The Veronicas, Billy Steinberg (whose hits go back to Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ and up to Demi Lovato’s ‘Give Your Heart A Break’), and Shelly Peiken, cementing Leony’s link with Christina Aguilera.

And that’s just a few of the writers she’s worked with in writing, so far, some 120 songs. That she’s developed relationships with teams at UMP, WMP, BMG and Peermusic goes deeper than business with writer Will Simms not the only one to declare, “I love Leony, she’s like my little sister now”.

Songwriter, singer, and someone who knows about what it takes to break out of talent show expectations, Gavin Jones, called Leony “a magnet to writers” because “once you write with her you want to do more sessions”.

All this has created a drive to write more, sing more, do better. It’s all about the passion and energy now.

“In the studio you can be yourself. It gets me every time: you start from zero, there’s nothing there, and at the end of the day you’ve made a completely new song. There are so many opportunities to make something new out of nothing.

“I feel that as a songwriter you can never learn enough: there’s always something new. And every year, music changes and you have to move on and make something better and better and better.”

The singer-turned-songwriter will do whatever it takes to get things right. Even pizza. Her first release, ‘Surrender,’ took less than an hour to come together, springing from a guitar part Leony was trying out in the studio. But there were four hours of bonding and connecting over beers and food with her co-writers beforehand.

Now Leony thinks of the stripped back song as “timeless but with a new, modern feel to it”, as while it doesn’t have the big chorus of some of her other material, she’s glad that it sounds like it could be a 2017 song but maybe also something from 2012 and 2022.

“People can see who I am as a person. It’s not too much, you don’t feel like ‘she’s showing off here’. It’s not over-produced.”

Clearly the songs she’s begun writing aren’t going to stick to a formula, and she’s got more on her mind than taking the obvious routes.

“It’s clearly pop music but I want to make pop music that is not just easy pop that doesn’t get you. I feel like the lyrics I wrote with people they are more than ‘let’s go out and party and have 100 shots and get wasted’. It’s a combination of something that’s really pop but indie-ish, feelings wise. I want to combine those two worlds.”

But wait, at 20 it’s not like Leony could really have lived enough to fill all the songs to come. She admits she hasn’t necessarily felt or experienced all the things she sings about – “and that’s a good thing,” she laughs, thinking of some of the messier parts of heartbreak - but “if you’re going to write songs accessible to everybody you can’t just write about [yourself]”.

The answer is to take in what’s happening around her, absorbing life through observation, including her friends’ lives, other people’s contributions and a lifetime of taking in music and its stories.

If that’s familiar it’s because that’s how most 17-year-olds, 20-year-olds and for that matter 25-year-olds get to know about life too. No wonder her audience feel like she’s one of them.

“I think a lot of people my age go through a lot of things with love and heartbreak so if people my age are listening to it they are like, I’ve been through that or I know somebody who has been through that. So maybe they’ll feel better hearing this song.”

Why not? It’s worked for Leony. Music was there from the start for her, and it’s going to stay right at the heart of this life.

“It’s like something that just gets you, just grabs you,” she says. “And you can’t ever imagine doing something else.”

“When you play a song to people, that you’ve written, and they say ‘I’m getting goosebumps’ or whatever, I can totally relate to that. It’s the best feeling because you’ve reached out to people and what you do is making people feel something. That’s why we do it: to make people feel something, or to make them feel what we feel with music.”

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