LÉON Talks Colorful Debut Album, “Want You Back,” Touring & More: Interview
It is an impressive feat to have a discography as impeccable as LÉON. Since launching with “Tired Of Talking” in 2015, the Swedish pop princess has yet to release a bad song. In the years since her debut, she graced us with three exceptional EPs. However, we waited until this year for the unveiling of her first full-length album. The self-titled collection arrived Friday (March 1) and is as predictably perfect as anything we have come to expect from the rising star. From lead single “Baby Don’t Talk” – which premiered on the 3-year anniversary of “Tired Of Talking” – to current single “You And I” and personal favorite “Come Home To Me,” there’s no shortage of high-quality music to dive into on the tracklist.
I had the opportunity to touch base with LÉON the day before the album dropped. We talked about how she was feeling ahead of the release (“very excited but nervous”) and reflected on how several songs on the tracklist came together. The 26-year-old also expanded upon why she referred to the LP as “different and bright,” speaking about how she saw the project in a rainbow of colors before bringing it to life. That’s not all, though. She also shared some insight into working with Los Angeles-based production duo Grey on her first collaboration – “Want You Back” and talked about getting back on the road for her forthcoming tour (get ticket info here).
Press play on the album below and dive into our interview to learn more about what the hitmaker has in store moving forward!
I wanted to start off by congratulating you on the album and also wishing you a happy belated birthday.
Thank you! Thank you so much! It’s a week of celebration. Birthday, album. Yeah, it’s a great week.
There’s a lot going on right now. How are you feeling right now with just a couple of hours until the album’s release?
I feel… It’s been kind of crazy with this album. Just because it’s been so hard to let go of it. To be like “OK, it’s done. Now I just need to step back and chill for a bit.” Actually, the past days have been very calm. But today, this morning and last night, I got so many nerves. I was like ”it’s coming out.” I’m trying to understand that now, and I’m like “holy shit.” People are going to hear something that I’ve been going crazy about for more than a year. I’m excited. I’m very excited but nervous too.
That makes a lot of sense. What songs are you most excited for people to hear?
I have my personal favorites that mean extra much to me, I guess. I would say “Hope Is A Heartache” is one that I’m very, very excited for people to hear. Just because it’s one of my favorites. And then I’m really excited to hear what people think about the Voice Memo because it’s such a weird thing. But I’m excited for people to hear that. When I thought about all the songs that I put on the record, I was like “Oh wait a minute, there are a few songs that people haven’t heard yet.” But I think those two…
Those are actually two that I wanted to ask you about. I saw on Twitter that you mentioned “Hope Is A Heartbreak” is one of your favorites on the album and that you had so many extra verses that didn’t get to make the final cut. Do you think we’ll hear any more of those on tour or something maybe?
I don’t know. Just writing that song, we weren’t even supposed to write a new song when we were in the studio that day. But it ended up being, I don’t know how many verses. I do have them somewhere like deep in my phone. I don’t know how many verses. Maybe I’ll share them with people. It’s just everything is very specific. I don’t know if I’d be able to put it out. I usually don’t think about it, but I don’t know if I would dare to put it out because it’s so specific. But it kind of became like, when you read all the verses, what you get is a full story.
But then I was like “I can’t put like 14 verses in the song. I need to chill a bit.” Then it just became the verses I thought could connect the dots the best without using so many. But I don’t know. We’ll see if I share any of the unreleased verses.
With “Cruel To Care,” which is the Voice Memo, it’s without a doubt the most stripped back song on the tracklist. Can you talk about how it came together?
“Cruel To Care,” I don’t know… I don’t know what I had done the night before, but I was really hungover and I remember… It’s weird. It usually doesn’t really happen where you wake up and write a song. I feel like that’s rarely a moment like that. But I did wake up super hungover one morning, and it felt like I had smoked like 40 cigarettes. I just had no voice kind of, and I was like having a bunch of hungover anxiety. I tend to get a lot of that. I was just like sitting in my bed and then I played a bit on the guitar. It sounds so corny when you say it this way. I ended up singing something and put words on it.
And I was like “hey, this sounds kind of nice.” Honestly, I just did it. I played it through one time and put on the recorder on my phone and recorded the whole thing. Then I was like maybe I should bring this to my producer tomorrow. I told him I have an idea for tomorrow. We should work on it.
But then I came to the studio and was like “I’m sorry, but I’m just going to keep it as a Voice Memo for now.” And then I never produced it or changed it. That’s the only recording I have of it. I kind of enjoy hearing music being in a Voice Memo situation. I just felt like it was a personal thing to put on an album. Yeah, that’s basically how it came about.
I really like it. It feels so different from the rest of the album but works so well in the collection.
Thank you. That’s the thing, too. When I was writing this whole album I really wanted to experiment with a lot of iconic sounds and big productions on the record. Just like explore a lot of that. But then towards the end I put “Cruel To Care” on the record. And the last song I wrote for the record was “Come Home To Me.” I felt like I needed something that was a bit more stripped down. I do enjoy making ballads. But for this record I wanted to make more upbeat songs and try new things I hadn’t really tried. So I felt like it was a nice thing to just put two songs that were really stripped down on the album.
“Come Home To Me” was one of my favorites because the sentiment was very sweet but it’s very realistic.
I’m happy that you like it. It just felt like something that the album needed. And It just happened out of nowhere. I wasn’t even supposed to write for the album anymore. I was like “Now I’m quitting. I’m done with the album because I’ve been driving myself nuts.” And then it just ended up getting written when I was working with two other women. It was my first ever all-women session which I find to be crazy now. It was just a great moment of hanging out with two girls that I’d never met before. We really got along well. The whole thing about how “Come Home To Me” came about was really just nice.
Another song I wanted to talk about is “Want You Back” with Grey. I think that’s been one of my favorite songs of 2019 so far.
Yeah! It’s so good! Last month I got to ask Grey some questions about it. But I wanted to get your perspective on what it was like working with them.
Well, I’d never done a feature or a collaboration before. I had tried to do collabs before Grey, and I didn’t really feel like… I didn’t really connect with the song or what came out of the other collaborations. So when this song came about, I actually really liked the song. I’d never been a part of a song that I hadn’t written before, and I think that kind of meant that I’d really liked it. Even if I didn’t write it, I could still connect to it. It was kind of nice to dive into somebody else’s world. Because we are so different in aesthetic and sound and in artistry. But I think that’s what made it kind of interesting.
Because we are so different. It was a really fun collab to make. And they’re so sweet. They’re really fun guys. I’m really excited to do it live. I’m going to put it in my live set for the tour.
Speaking of the tour, it starts late this month then you’re in North America in April, right?
Yes. I’m starting the European tour March 30. Then I’m doing I think 24 or 23 cities in America April to May. I’m really excited. It’s been a while since I was on tour. I’m really looking forward to getting the whole set going. Can’t wait!
What’s your favorite thing about being on the road?
I think it’s a great way to see… Everybody doesn’t come to shows. But it’s a great way to see the people who listen to your music. And it gives me a chance to explore more with songs that are already recorded and produced. It just makes me feel like I can do more. And also I come from a live background so… I don’t know. Performing is the best part of it all. Writing the songs too of course. But touring, there’s nothing like it.
It seems like it brings everything together. It’s a chance to play everything you’ve been working on for so long.
Yes. And it’s fun to do old songs. It kind of makes me get reminded. Like “Oh wow. I kind of forgot about this song.” Now we’re putting up the setlist, it’s hard to make everything fit together. But it’s so fun. It’s a mix of so many different times.
Speaking of your older material, “Baby Don’t Talk” dropped on the 3-year anniversary of “Tired Of Talking.” Was that an intentional choice on your part?
Well, I talked to my manager, and we thought that it would be a fun thing to do. Just because it was the first song on the record. I’d never put out a full album before. Even though it kinds of feels like I’d put out an album because I have the 3 EPs, you know, 12 songs. It felt like a nice way to put out the first song from the album to just be like “it was three years ago.” And it was almost funny to be like it was “Baby Don’t Talk” and “Tired of Talking.” It was a bit ironic but not on purpose. We just talked about how it would be fun to have an anniversary. Not anniversary but yeah.
Looking back, if you could talk to the you of three years ago, what advice would you have for yourself now?
I haven’t been in the business super long. I haven’t done this for a super long time. But I still feel like I have a lot of maturity to myself. In 2015, maybe just relax a bit and not be as scared or nervous. I was just very intimated about everything when I started traveling and doing this whole artist thing. And I felt like there was a lot of new experiences at once for me. And also, yeah. I think that’s what I would say to myself. It sounds like I was super scared. Not like that. But just being, not listening too much to what other people say and just take everything with a grain of salt.
I feel like honestly, I’d share something similar with myself. We always need to remember not to be nervous and to trust our instincts more. One last question: In the press release, you described the album as “different and bright.” Can you explain a little more about what you meant by that?
Well, I thought about that actually. Because I was like maybe people don’t see it as being very bright. Maybe I’m just the one who thinks it’s a bit more bright. I just saw a bunch of colors for the entire album. And not because I planned on it. But I saw all the songs in different colors. And I really wanted to explore it with a lot of color. Everything was a little more upbeat on this record, I had mentioned. I don’t know. I saw “In The Dark” as being green. And “Falling” as blue and “Lost Time” as like purplish grey.
For some reason everything just had a color in my head. I think that’s why I felt like it was colorful. And also, to me, it feels a bit different from what I’ve done before. But also I kind of feel like I’ve went back a bit to my first EP in a way. I think that’s what I meant. But Idon’t know if people will find it to be colorful. Maybe people will think it’s super depressing. I think it’s colorful. Maybe it’s hard to say.
I definitely hear what you’re saying. And I was thinking about the single covers too because they are so vibrant. And it is interesting to hear you associating each song with a color. I thought it was interesting. And some of the subject material is a little more intimate.
I just pictured a lot of the material to be, if it a futuristic ‘70s teenage movie. It was not a concept album at all. That’s not what I’m trying to say. But I did really like picture a bunch of teenagers in the ‘70s jumping into a pool at night and making out under the water. It’s just very specific. And then I see “Falling” as being very teenagers dancing around in their own room. And “You And I” driving around in the taxi after being out on the club. I just had these ideas in my head about it. I don’t know what I was going to try to say about that. I just felt like sharing it.
Thank you! I wish you so much luck with the album release and the tour!
Thank you and thanks for taking the time!