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Interview With LA Singer-Songwriter Leah Capelle

This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing up-and-coming LA Singer-Songwriter Leah Capelle, who’s just released her debut album. With a stunning voice reminiscent of Sara Bareilles’s, intricate lyrics, and a very folksy but commercial sound, Leah is definitely a songwriter you’ll hearing about in the future.

MM: Where do you find inspiration for your lyrics? Your music?

LC: I’m inspired by everything! Experiences, people, friendships, personal relationships, and sometimes I’ll be inspired by a story, song, or event in the world that will touch me. In terms of the music that accompanies the lyrics, I don’t really know how to describe where it comes from… partly my brain, partly my soul? It sort of just flows and
then BAM there it is!

MM: Your voice is absolutely gorgeous—unique but also perfectly on point with what’s commercial sounding. What was your vocal training like? What kind of repertoire did you work with?

Thank you so much! I started voice lessons at the age of ten studying with Janice Pantazelos, founder and master coach of the Chicago Studio of Professional Singing. I studied mostly classical music with her, though we would branch out and work on contemporary pop tunes I liked at the time. I also would join some of her other students in the winter time (who were all adults – I was her youngest student for a while,) and go sing Christmas carols at the hospital nearby. When I moved on to Berklee, I studied with Kathleen Flynn, and we focused more on Jazz and Musical Theatre, but also continued my classical training in addition to working on original music I brought to her. Now in Los Angeles, I study with Jonathan Baker (JB Studio in Hollywood) working solely on my original material and building stronger vocal technique.

MM: How was your experience at Berklee College of Music? What are the most important things you learned there?

LC: I loved Berklee. It had been my dream school since I was thirteen, and I really cherish the time I spent there. I loved being able to focus on music at school as opposed to other subjects, and I made such amazing friends. All my professors were incredibly smart and talented, and I learned so much from them. The most important thing I took away from my experience there was that no matter how good you get, there is always more you could be doing to improve and to better yourself and your skill. Never stop pushing yourself to be the best you can be.

MM: Did majoring in the business of music alter your perspective or shape what you’re doing now?

LC: During my year at Berklee, I studied with Prof. George Howard (TuneCore) in Intro to Music Business, and I learned so much that I declared MB as my major soon after I started his course. It definitely opened my eyes to the inner workings of the industry and made me much more aware and cautious when making business related decisions. I’ve used a lot of what I learned in that course in my life since then, and am looking forward to absorbing as much as I can on my own!

MM: How was the transition from Chicago to Boston to LA? Do the music scenes differ?

LC: Each city definitely has a completely different vibe. I grew up in the north shore suburbs of Chicago, so it was a lot of riding my bike around town, all my friends living five minutes from me, and taking day trips down to the city. When I moved to Boston, I was completely immersed in school. I was constantly surrounded by people, taking the train to other parts of the city, and going exploring on foot. Now in LA, I drive everywhere. Any friends I have live at least fifteen or more minutes away, and the city is pretty sprawling. But I’ve loved living in all three cities! The music scenes are definitely different- the Chicago music scene is pretty low-key but thriving, whereas in Boston (at least at Berklee), music is all anyone talks about. That being said, you would think there would be a more active gigging scene there. Most of the gigs available are Berklee related. LA is the entertainment capital of the United States, so there’s obviously always a lot going on out here.

MM: What did you listen to growing up as a kid?

LC: Pretty much whatever my parents had on- a lot of Eric Clapton, The Beatles, Luther Vandross, and the Rolling Stones. As I started developing my own taste (probably around age ten) I listened to all the early 2000’s pop music, and then I as I discovered more and more music, I eventually figured out what I liked and developed my taste.

MM: If you were stranded on an island and could only bring one album to listen to, what would it be?

LC: August and Everything After by Counting Crows. Adam Duritz is a huge inspiration to me as a songwriter. I never get tired of their songs. Either that or the Bon Iver self-titled record. Those probably are my two favorite albums of all time! I would be happy either way, though I would miss all my other tunes.

MM: What advice do you have for young singers looking to make it in the music industry?

LC: Keep your head up, work hard, and if you really want it, you have to earn it. Yes, it is a lot of ‘who you know’ and connections will certainly help you, but you have to be dedicated. This industry is trying, and if you want to be successful in it, you have to want it more than anything! Continue improving, co-write and collaborate, go to shows, play shows, and write and experiment all the time. Build a circle of artistic people around you. There is always more that you can be doing to further your career.

MM: What are your future plans?

LC: Right now I’m working on some new material with my band. I plan to go on a few small tours in the next year, including returning to Austin to play some showcases during SXSW. We will start working on a new album soon in addition to continuing to promote the Leah Capelle EP. I have a good feeling about 2016!

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