Interviews

[Interview] Leah Raquel Talks About her Songwriting Process and Her Inspirations

We sat down with New York singer/songwriter Leah Raquel and got to know her a bit. She has a new single out called 'LA' that you should definitely check out.

Fresh off the release of her first single ‘LA’, New York singer-songwriter, Leah Raquel, sat down with us so we could get to know a little about her.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself? How did you get into music?
My name is Leah. I’m from New York. I got into Music from my grandma on my mom’s side. On my dad’s side of the family are all amazing gospel singers. They’re really great. My grandma on my dad’s side, my dad, my aunts. And my grandma on my mom’s side really pushed me to pursue that because she knew that my whole family was all about that.

My mom’s side of the family not so much musical, but she put me in music lessons from when I was like three or four. I remember my first recorded song was ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from Les Mis. It’s on a cassette tape somewhere in my house. She really pushed me into that. I did dance classes my whole life. And when I was in Elementary school, I was always in choir Always in the plays.

It was always a part of my life. I don’t remember a time where I was like “Hmm, I think I’ll do music now.” It’s always just been there.

Which musicians or bands inspire you most?
That changes constantly. I would say to start from the very beginning of when I wanted to be a performer, definitely Britney. Britney Spears. And Mandy Moore. I know that people don’t really hear that that often, but I had their CDs. When I was really young, I used to put them in my little radio and pretend like I was singing their songs. Like I would reenact the ‘Lucky’ music video from Britney Spears. And I still do that today, but a little less in public.

And as I got older, definitely Harry Styles. He definitely inspired me to start writing. It was like “Oh he’s a pop singer, but he writes his own stuff—that’s a thing?!” And I was like “I’m gonna do that.”

Then I got into Fleetwood Mac because of Harry Styles. And I watched an Eagles documentary that I absolutely fell in love with. Don Henley and Glenn Frey, I was like “This is amazing.” That was really the turning point where I was like ‘I’m gonna do this.”

And then I got into Dua Lipa, who is my heart and soul. I look up to her so much. And Ariana Grande. Those are my pop inspirations right now.

How do you personally describe your sound, is it different from how others describe it?
I would personally describe it as ‘dark pop’ and I’m taking that term from Dua Lipa. It’s not my term, I didn’t make it up. But it’s definitely not bubblegum pop, not the pop you hear on the radio. But with a more R&B and harmonic twist.

So I love dark bass sounds—the heavy bass. And I also love the layers of harmonies. Which I adore from Ariana Grande. That’s something that everytime I hear it, I’m like “oh my gosh”. So definitely like a pop mixed with an alternative R&B. It’s very funk / pop mixed with classic R&B like Usher, stuff like that.

So that’s how I would describe it. How other people would describe it? I’m not really sure. They definitely describe me more as like a Top 40 artist. It’s hard to hear how other people describe my music because they don’t really go up to me like “Here’s how I hear your sound.” You know?

Do you have a set process/formula when it comes to creating a song? Or is it organic and different every time?
My best songs usually come from when I’m driving in the car. Sometimes I do sit down and I say I’m gonna write or I compile an idea for a song. I did that with ‘LA’ and that was at a time when I didn’t really experience much in life, so I did have to sit down and kind of force it out in a way.
But now, I’ll be in the car—like this morning, I wrote a song on the way here—and I’ll hear something, I’ll just hear a line and I’m like “I’m gonna follow that.” I have hundreds of voice memos of snippets of songs that I’ve started. That’s what I do I just kind of sit there, hit record and whatever comes out comes out. And then i’ll go back and sit down at a piano. Piano is my best friend.

That’s how I write most of my stuff, it all starts at a piano. Then I’ll build the chords around it. And then I usually have an idea of how I want the song to sound when I’m writing it. So I always make a list of the things I want in the recording once it’s produced. I don’t have a lot of music fully produced, which I’m working on now.

And I’m starting to really get a hang of doing it myself. That was my downfall because I don’t really know exactly how to use Logic Pro, Pro Tools or anything like that. I’m really just starting to get a hang of that. But yeah, it starts in the car usually!

What’s your favorite part of the song-creating process?
I think it’s different every time. If I like where the song is going, the best part is finishing. Because it’s like…I finished. Starting a song is easy. Getting through the whole song is not easy. That’s my writing process.

With producing, my favorite part was definitely once you had all of the elements that really made the song come to life. That’s my favorite part. You have the tracking with the bass, the drums, the kick and snare. You have all of that and you add in the vocals
And then you add that one thing. And it’s like that just ties the whole thing together. That’s my favorite part. Just finding that one sound. Finding that one sound that just makes everything come together.

What is your favorite concert experience?
That’s hard. Definitely my favorite is Dua Lipa. I saw her 2017 Irving Plaza before she was big. I’ve been a fan for that long. So before she was big. I was smack in the middle of the crowd, right in front of her. And it was just like…ethereal. It was just amazing. Definitely my favorite.

If you could have any actress play you in a biopic of your life, who would it be?
[Immediately] Halle Berry. I’ve had this conversation with people before. And my mom always tells me, “If I could pick an actress to play you, I’d pick Halle Berry” Or my grandma would always say that to me. And I think it’s just because she’s not reserved. when she has an idea she’ll speak it. When she has a passion, she’ll follow it. But she’s not one of those crazy jumping around actresses. She’s very put together.

And I think that’s how I am. I’m not too outgoing. Sometimes it’s hard for me to jump into a conversation. I’m very quiet in my own way. But if I have something to say, I’ll say it. And I think she’s very good at that. I loved her speech awhile ago about ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Me Too’ it was really powerful and you don’t expect that sometimes from actresses and singers. But that really inspired me. And I think she, as a whole, is very similar to me.

And I think we look kind of similar.

What is the most important thing you want people to know about you?
My definition of success. Because some people think “Oh, they’re only doing it to become famous and to make money. And have all this clout.” And that’s not me. My definition for success in the music industry is to be able to sustain myself on just making music.

To have people feel my music the way I feel it. Not to become superstar famous–of course that would be great if it happened! But that’s not my end goal. My end goal is just to be able to travel and play my music. To make music. To make other people feel my music. All while sustaining life.

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