For those of you who follow the more obscure, self-made artists of the world, the name Leah may already be familiar. If you’ve not heard, then we’re here to correct that. This Canadian solo artist has been steadily gaining fame in both the atmospheric and metal scenes for her Celtic-infused fantasy music that often includes a hint of heavy metal. We recently sent her some questions about her origins, her famed family life, her various inspirations, and of course, her plans for the future.
First of all, why did you decide to use the singular artist name, “Leah”?
Well it was slightly a lazy decision, because I didn’t have an official band and I’m a solo artist and it’s my first name.
If I understood correctly, you’ve chosen to do music from home, as opposed to pursuing music in the more traditional sense. What made you decide to do things this way?
Yes I’ve chosen to be a recording artist for the time being, since my five kids were very young when I released my first album in 2012 and are still quite young, so I try to keep my family priorities first. Now that they are getting older I can start to visualize a tour one day and maybe bringing them along since they love to travel.
How do you manage to balance making music with so many “hobbits” running around?
It’s my normal. I balance my music and the rest of my life by working in seasons. I’m not always writing music or singing. I am pretty intentional with my time.
How involved is your family in this part of your life?
They aren’t so much involved in my songwriting, but they are always surrounded by music and my kids have their own interests and musical talents.
Do your children listen to your music?
Yes, especially my three girls. They are probably my biggest fans!
Talking about the music, do you write all of your music 100% by yourself, or does anyone help you (excluding, of course, some of the artists you’ve worked with)?
I always write the essence of the song – the melody, the lyrics, the main chord progressions, and structures. I have worked closely with Oliver Philipps as a producer and he’s really brought my songwriting to life the past few years.
Do you have any prior vocal or musical training, or are you all self-taught?
Mainly self taught but have come a long way with my good friend Brett Manning’s program called Singing Success. I still have so much to learn.
Regarding the instruments, do you play any/many yourself, or do you do them all digitally?
I can play a little guitar, I’m still learning the Celtic harp, and I play keys. I’m not a super talented player, I really just learn enough to be able to write what I want.
What is the hardest instrument to write?
My weakness is writing percussion and drums. It’s just not my forté. I am much better at melody and keys.
What are some of your biggest fantasy influences?
In music? I really like a few albums by EQUILIBRIUM. I know they aren’t exactly fantasy music, but it gets me in the mood for fantasy. I listen to a lot of instrumental music, like relaxing Celtic meditation music and that type of thing.
Do your albums tell stories or is each song its own entity?
Yes, I haven’t done much conceptual work where each song leads into another chapter, but I could see that happening one day.
You’ve worked with some really interesting artists, like Eric Peterson and Troy Donockley. How did you get in touch and get the opportunity to work with them?
In my case I’m not meeting them in person or have a funny story to share. It’s more like I’m thinking about who I’d love to work with on a particular project and I think of the best person for the part and then I’ve simply reached out and asked. With Troy, I was connected to him through my friend Martijn Westerholt of DELAIN, who thought he would be perfect on my last two albums.
What was it that drew you to fantasy music in particular? What do you think defines the “fantasy” sound?
I’ve been drawn to folk music since I was very young and felt much closer to it knowing my Celtic heritage. For the sound, to me, it’s definitely the atmosphere, mainly found in the particular synthesizers and folk instruments such as the harp, fiddle, and whistles or flutes.
What was it that drew you to Celtic music in particular?
I love all aspects of Celtic culture and so much of the mystery, history, romance, and ancient civilizations. It’s all so fascinating and there’s much to learn. I really go off of a feeling. If I was drawn to a different culture of music, I would feel equally the same way.
You’ve also got a heavy metal aspect to your music. Canada isn’t exactly known for our metal bands, so how did you get into metal music?
I was drawn to the darker side of things as a teen, but it wasn’t until I heard “real” metal that I fell in love. My first exposure to metal was SYMPHONY X, NIGHTWISH, DREAM THEATER, and then a host of European metal, which I was even more drawn to.
What type of music do you like to listen to yourself?
On any given day you’d find me listening to a lot of relaxing music. I tend to be very high energy and I have to calm myself down and try to chill. Lots of harp and folk music, atmospheric, and game soundtracks are my favorite.
You have an extremely popular song on YouTube from Skyrim – did you do the arrangement, mixing “The Dragonborn Comes” with the theme, yourself?
Yes I did, and Oliver Philipps did the mix and master on that.
Have you ever considered doing more videos like that?
Sure, if the right song comes along I could see myself doing more!
Are there any other fantasy (or otherwise) games that you’re as interested in as Skyrim?
Right now I’m playing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and loving it!
Are there any other independent artists like yourself, YouTubers, Patreon bands, etc. that you support or are a fan of?
There are so many and I also have many students through my music marketing academy (Savvy Musician Academy) that I’m a huge fan of as well! Lindsay Schoolcraft is one – both a friend and a student who is doing amazing things as an independent artist.
You have a YouTube channel as well, though they are mostly lyric videos. Have you ever considered doing more full music videos for any of your songs?
Oh yes I definitely have. That is my goal. Music videos are expensive and when I think about what I want to actually do in my videos I don’t want them to be underwhelming, so I tend to not do it at all, but it’s definitely a desire.
How about live shows? Have you ever done any live performances of your own music? Do you think you might ever do a tour, or would it be too hard to be away from your family?
I used to do a lot of performing when I was younger and a part of me was born for the stage. It’s all been a matter of the right timing and the right opportunity, as well as demand. I want to tour if and when I have enough fans around the world who want a tour.
Any last words, or topics I may have missed?
That was a lot of questions, so I can’t think of anything. Thanks for the great interview!
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!
Interview by Bear Wiseman