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:: Spotlight :: Interview with Leena

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Singer, guitarist, pianist and songwriter Leena has been a constant traveller throughout her life. I was first made aware of Leena about three years ago when she was busy promoting her EP and her regular gigs around Western Australia. She played many live shows, to hone her live performance skills and to connect with people through her melodic and insightful songs.

Leena‘s 'Mean Old Clock’ EP is her latest recording, and it has a unique pop/folk combination of sounds. She gained the services of leading Australian singer Josh Pyke and producers like Mike Daly. Opening number ‘Family Tree’ is gentle and delicate, and ‘Knife's Edge’ has a clever melody. It's a strong collection for just a few numbers that showcases an artist growing in confidence. I asked Leena about her songwriting craft. “I grew up with music around me constantly, and realised I could do the same thing by writing songs. I want to play songs that people can relate to, that inspires them.”

I read that you've lived in Hobart, Marseilles, Cork, Fremantle, Los Angeles, and now Melbourne. Are you planning on settling down here? She laughs, “It's hard to know what the future will bring. Travelling for me is about observing the way people live in other cultures. I've enjoyed meeting new people here in Melbourne, for instance. It took a little while to get to know the Melbourne music network and felt a little uncomfortable playing in small venues when you didn't know many people. But I'm very happy here and have great support around me.”

Leena has co-written with successful people and teamed up with well-regarded producers. Of this experience Leena said, "I have learnt so much from creating music with other people, after writing on my own for so many years. I'm thankful for the opportunities I've had to work with these talented people. I have a particular taste in melodies and arrangements and I chose the appropriate producers. Rather than influencing my sound, they helped me to translate what I heard in my head into something tangible for people to hear.

Who are your musical influences? The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen and Crowded House are amongst my favourite. The things that draw them together are great melodies and great songs. That's what it's all about for me.

It's interesting to note the busy schedules that Leena has encountered, touring Western Australia with her band, either headlining or supporting many other acts. She has played at several festivals, including the Southern Arts and Soul Festival, the Wave Rock Weekender and An Evening on the Green with Pete Murray and Tim Finn. It was then time for Leena to reach out further in her career and move to Melbourne. I went to see her perform at the Empress Hotel a few months ago and she appeared a little unsure in front of an intimate audience. She appeared a little shy and not with a confident stage persona. But she has grown markedly as a performer in recent months and scored some great support slots, with Paul Dempsey and Ed Kowalcyzk (from Live). There is much more personality and confidence in her performance.

I asked Leena about the effect of touring with such experienced artists. "As the opening act, you are always feeling a little alone and understated. Paul and Ed went out of their way to make me feel welcome. It's something you never forget. I remember seeing Rufus Wainwright warm up for two hours every night, when I supported him. Even people in his position have to work hard and practice to be the best they can for their audience. I try to create a real connection with the audience, to thank them for giving me this chance. I really enjoy the challenge. Songs are intensely personal things that the audience needs to feel a part of. That means telling a story and being completely honest to them.

Leena's Mean Old Clock EP is in stores now through EMI Music.

You can see her live in two special shows alongside Tim Finn & Andy Bull:
November 6, 2009 - The Enmore, Sydney
November 7, 2009 - The Athaneum Theatre, Melbourne

For more information, visit

www.leena.com.au