Offering New Music that Provides
Sound Advice to Creative People
Story by Matthew St. Amand
Photography by Drew Bordeaux
Life for Windsor-born singer/songwriter, Leah Harris is a whirlwind but you wouldn’t know that from the relaxed manner in which she conversed with Windsor Life Magazine about her life and her work.
Having returned from her honeymoon in Dublin, Ireland only the day before, it’s hard to tell if the “om” of her demeanor is Zen or jetlag. It doesn’t matter.
In the midst of conversation about her move to New York City four years ago, Leah says: Sometimes the everyday is the craziest.” That might be a good title for her next album.
As it stands right now, Leah has a new song set for release.
“It’s called ‘Shine,’” she says. “Songs usually come to me out of desperation. When something isn’t right in my life and I ignore it but can’t ignore it forever, it usually comes out in a song which is how ‘Shine’ was born.”
She continues: “When I moved to New York, it was all very exciting. I was working multiple jobs and at one point it hit me—I wasn’t doing music. The point of the jobs was to fund the music and I was neglecting it because work was taking so much of my time. That didn’t work for me.”
Leah’s song “Shine” is about a person who wakes up one day and realizes that the face staring back at her in the mirror wasn’t hers.
Part of the song’s lyric goes: “So, I grab my keys / And I walk into the city streets / I’ll blindly follow my feet into the night / Til I shine…”
“That’s me chucking it for a night and going out into the city to do an open mic,” Leah says. “I should have been sleeping and preparing for my job but I went into Manhattan instead, to sing, to perform. If life doesn’t make space for music, I’ll make the space for it.”
Leah recorded a second song titled “New Man” during the sessions which will be released later this year.
“‘New Man’ is a more playful song, written for my husband Dan,” she says. “It’s a joking song, a girl talking to an ex who didn’t treat her well and finally saying to him: ‘Have you seen my new man?’” Leah laughs. “The point is to highlight the people who treat us very well. The song is about looking back on harder times and being happy that things have turned out. We all go in many different directions but it’s so great when you find your home.”
Leah knows something about going in several different directions. Born and raised in Windsor, a graduate of Walkerville Collegiate Institute, she moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 2008 to study music at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. There she met her producer, Adam Rhodes with whom she worked on her first album, “I Don’t Believe in Love.” It was recorded in New York’s famous Systems Two Studios and released in 2014. In the summer of 2017, Leah worked once again with Rhodes in New York on her single “Don’t Blame Me.”
“In 2013, I moved to Sweden to check out the European music scene,” Leah says. “To fund my life in Stockholm, I also worked teaching science.”
Leah’s next move was to Finland where she worked for a tech startup company called Yousician, developing a new gamified piano learning app from scratch. The app soon became the world’s most successful piano learning app.
Following her time in Finland, Leah moved to Ireland, her mother’s home country. Settling in Dublin, Leah focused on creating a new kind of path for professional musicians—being self-sufficient—which led to developing remote work skills and experiences such as networking and communicating online.
“Artists should be able to have a happy, healthy life like people in other professions,” Leah said in a 2017 interview with Windsor Life Magazine. “People prioritize music in their lives and they should do the same for the musicians who create it.”
She has remained true to that vision with her new release, “Shine.”
Leah recalls fondly the early days when she was propelled solely by her love of music.
“My first gig was at Chapters bookstore in the Devonshire Mall when I was fourteen years old,” she says. “I remember singing a Whitney Houston song and going for one of the high notes and totally missing it. It didn’t matter. My friends were there and we had fun.”
Leah learned classical piano from her mother, beginning at age four. As the years went by, Leah’s father—an aspiring country music songwriter—showed her how to chord on the piano. This opened Leah to the idea of creating her own compositions.
“I wrote my first song when I was around nine years old,” she says. “Whenever I wrote three songs, my dad booked time at a professional recording studio to record the demos. That made my efforts feel more official. When I was thirteen or fourteen years old, the songs started to feel more real and I made those demo recordings more with a thought toward ‘What am I going to do with those from here?’”
She sent them around to music publishing companies.
Although those initial forays into the music business were met with limited success, Leah made a habit of learning from every experience which is something that continues to this day.
“I’ve taken inspiration from each place where I’ve lived,” she says. “My love of music began in Windsor. If I wasn’t born there, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.”
She goes on: “In Stockholm, audiences are very attentive so I paid more attention to every detail of my performances. In Finland, I approached music as an entrepreneur, taking the tech start-up mindset into my career. Ireland is a storytelling culture, so there, songwriting became very important—saying something in my music that is real. Ireland had the greatest impact on my writing. And in New York, I’ve honed my business side more than my creative side.”
Leah offers advice to anyone thinking of moving to “the big city” to pursue their dreams.
“The challenge here is the energy level—your energy just disappears,” she says. “There is just so much going on—commuting, you can’t stop for five seconds in the subway to figure out where you’re going. It’s a very extroverted city. In Sweden, for instance, nobody gets in the way of your
energy. In New York, it’s hard to get through the day without a lot of crazy things happening.”
Leah is taking her own advice from “Shine” and ensuring there is always room for creativity in her life. To listen to her music or view some of her music videos, visit www.linktr.ee/LeahHarrisMusic.