Interview: Leo Lore Talks Craft, Melody And Music

Based in Peckham, the artist known for his expressive vocals and intricate guitar-work releases new single ‘Billie‘ today.

Following on from the success of his breakout song ‘Sorrow’s Golden‘, Leo Lore lets loose a new sail into the wind of artistic expression as he releases a new single ‘Billie‘ described as “uplifting and beautifully raw” by BBC’s Kitty Perrin. The Peckham-based singer/songwriter has created plenty of buzz and now his work is beginning to take form, that buzz is evolving into higher vibrations with applause from across the spectrum.

Speaking about his new song, Leo says: “I wrote ‘Billie’ after I’d binged on Billie Holiday pretty much exclusively (she got me through some shit!!) so I named the track after her as a kind of homage to her. It’s basically about my journey of finding contentment in myself, feeling good in my skin, and learning to feel comfortable with other people again.” 

The following interview took place early March

What should listeners understand about your music?

I suppose it’s a kind of new take on old-skool soul, jazz, motown, and blues. 

Guitar work is integral to your portfolio, what came first, strings or vocals and how do they influence each other when writing a song?

It totally depends, to be honest! Sometimes a melody will pop into my head and I’ll try and figure out the chords on my guitar around that. But more often than not, I’ll just be fiddling around on my guitar, and start writing lyrics and melody once I find a chord progression I like. I’m completely self-taught on the guitar, so I don’t actually know what I’m playing most of the time.. just whatever sounds good! 

Your sound is fluid. Is a lot of your work improvised or do you sit down to work on it?

If I’m working on a new track, then I normally try and sit down every few days to work on it, but over the years I’ve found that forcing it can be pretty unhelpful; I normally just end up with a load of stuff that I’m not happy with. So I’ve definitely become a bit more relaxed when it comes to finishing tunes – sometimes there will be a verse that I’ve written months ago that happens to fit with something new I’m writing, which is handy!! So yeah, I try to just take it as it comes really. 

Having such a distinct sound, how has your music evolved over time and how did it sound say, 5 years ago?

Thank you!! Yeah, it’s definitely changed a lot in the last few years. Just over 5 years ago I was writing and playing in a dub/jungle band called The Piratones, and I was basically just writing party music but with a kind of social commentary theme. It’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve written from a much more personal and open perspective, and this sound has come pretty naturally along with that. For me, when writing, I think it’s important that I don’t set out like “okay, I’m gonna write this soul/afrobeat track now” or “I’m gonna write about this certain situation,” I think the development of the music over time is the beauty of it! 

Your sister, Maya Law is also a guitarist and singer/songwriter, does it run in the family?

Yes, she’s got her EP coming out soon which I’m buzzing for!

There aren’t many musicians in the family, to be honest… my grandad used to play in a jazz cover band when he was a youth, and I’m pretty sure my mum played the clarinet as a kid… but music has always been a massive part of our lives, with records being played at home by our parents and older siblings, so we always had an eclectic range of music to soak up, from soul, hip-hop, folk, reggae, ska, afrobeat, and R&B. I feel like that’s definitely played a role in shaping both me and my sister as musicians and I feel really grateful that we had so much exposure to it! 

You grew up in Norfolk, what was the music scene like there, and do you think it nurtured your sound in any way?

When I was in my early 20’s, the music scene was banging! Even though it’s a small city, there was heaps of bands and DJ’s playing most nights of the week, and it definitely has a community vibe about it, which I think definitely helped nurture my musicianship in the sense that opportunities were rife and people really supported each other. Sadly though, due to the local council, many of those amazing venues have closed down which completely ruined the music scene in my opinion, and is a part of the reason I moved to London. 

Your latest release ‘Sorrow’s Golden’ dropped not long ago, can you tell us what it’s about and how it came to be?

So that was my first release as a solo artist, I recorded it over lockdown (part 1) with my producer, Mikey Shaw, and my friend and guitarist, Freya Roy (all safely and remotely of course!) It’s a kind of introduction to the music I’m releasing over the next few months, all of which was born of a break-up with my ex-boy, and me kind of exploring and overcoming shame in my sexuality and identity which I didn’t realise I was carrying. So the whole thing has been really therapeutic for me, and I feel really lucky that I have an outlet to get all that bad shit out!  

How have you kept positive during the lockdown and has it inspired new music?

That’s a good question.. ha! I think its been coming in waves, to be honest, I feel that every time I think of the future I become completely overwhelmed by all of the uncertainty, so I’ve just been trying to take it a day at a time, trying to exercise when I have the motivation and making sure I’m speaking to my friends on the phone as much as I can! Luckily I’ve had uni work to preoccupy my boredom a lot of the time. But yeah, it’s definitely inspired lots of new tracks and once my next project is out of the way, then I’ll be back in the studio to get it all out of me over the summer! 

What is most important to you that you feel helps sustain your craft?

I think it just boils down to not forcing anything but to keep practicing. I’ll sit and play my guitar and sing most days, whether that’s my own tunes or learning a tune I like, and I think that’s really important to me as it’s a way of not getting frustrated at myself for not churning out new material…sometimes I’ll go months without writing anything, but I think that’s all a part of the process!

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Are there any plans for an album/EP?

Yeah! My debut EP ‘Blue Print‘ will be out in the spring which I cannot wait for – it’s been a long time coming! But before that, I have my next single ‘Billie‘ which is coming out on March 26th which I’m really looking forward to getting out there. 

Photography: Ty Faruki