This week, Jade Milburn chatted to Lea Beiley, a versatile, edgy American singer/songwriter, who caught the eyes and ears of the Nitelife team. 

J.M: “Who inspires you, musically, and also generally?”

L.B: “Sonically, Bon Iver and Daughter have been my biggest inspirations lately, as far as finding the perfect ambience and soundscape for songs; I love that sad, achy, haunting vibe. You can definitely hear the influence on my EP. It also surprises most people that Drake is a huge influence of mine when it comes to crafting lyrics. I really respect how fearlessly honest he can be, especially in a genre that isn’t very accepting of vulnerability.”

J.M: “When did you start expressing yourself musically and know that this was what you wanted to do?”

L.B: “I think I always knew guitar was my thing, I’ve been really strongly drawn to it for as long as I can remember. My parents called me “The Mouth” because I was constantly making noises growing up. When I didn’t have an instrument, I just made musical noises with my mouth. I still do. Anyways, I begged them for a guitar for what felt like forever, before they finally decided I was old enough to appreciate one, at the age of nine – haven’t  put it down since. As far as singing goes, I was kind of a late bloomer. I’ve always had a pretty good understanding of pitch, but I had trouble hitting the notes comfortably with my voice, or having enough breath to finish a phrase. I took a voice class in college (how I got up the courage to do that at that time I still don’t know) that gave me a completely different perspective on how to use my voice. I used to be really shy and terrified to sing in front of people but understanding how to use my voice helped me find my natural tone, which gave me a lot more confidence to get out there and play for crowds.”

J.M: “What is the process of song-writing like for you? Do you have a special place you go to/ do you write about life experiences, or do the words just flow to you?”

L.B: “I was having a conversation with someone recently about tattoos, I think they’re beautiful, but I don’t think I could ever get one because I’m always afraid I’ll change my mind, and then have something stuck on me forever. Her response to that was, “Tattoos are memorials, not promises for the future”. That line really won’t leave my head. I feel like it also perfectly describes songs. I write to capture a moment, or a feeling, so I can always go back to it and know it was real once. I also write as a way to communicate because, sometimes, we’re too scared, or shy, or ashamed to say the things we mean the most, you know? I rarely sit down with the intention of writing a song. Usually, I’m at the piano or sitting with my guitar and I’ll find a chord progression that fits the mood I’m in. From there, words start to pop into my head, usually one or two lines at a time. It’s really rare to write an entire song in one sitting on the first try, but when that does happen, it is pure magic.”

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J.M: “What would you recommend to some-one starting out?”

LB: “Play from your heart, write from your gut, and don’t worry about who’s going to hear it, or what they’ll think – as long as you’re playing/saying something you believe in. People connect with vulnerability and honesty, and more importantly, if no one ever hears them you’ll still have it for yourself.”

J.M: “What are your goals musically?”

L.B: “I used to have a lot of music related goals. It stressed me out and music stopped being fun for a while because I was taking myself too seriously. Now, I just have one goal: enjoy it or quit. It’s working out pretty great so far.”

JM: “Can you describe a time when you really felt lifted by your music/gigging/the audience; one time where it all went really well, and you were connected with everyone there?”

LB: “I played a show at the House of Blues in LA before they closed it down, where they overbooked the 3rd floor of the venue and had acoustic acts in one room while full bands were playing in the bar, one wall over. Waka Flocka Flame was also playing the main stage on the first floor that night. I had to play my solo acoustic set while the sound of cymbals and electric guitars bled through the walls and Waka Flocka’s bass vibrated through the floor boards. I was pretty embarrassed initially about the situation and was really regretting inviting people out to the show. I felt like it would make people take me less seriously as an artist (this was during that time I mentioned where I had a lot of goals and shit). In between songs, I bantered about all the commotion because it was really distracting and conspicuous. The crowd was cracking up and surprisingly responded really well to the few small comments I made about it. For the rest of my set people were extremely engaged, the mixing engineer even added ten minutes onto my set time. The thing I realized later was that we were all having the same experience, and by talking about the elephant in the room I had unintentionally created a conversational atmosphere, rather than one where I was trying to compete with the noise. Now I make it a point to involve the audience as much as possible in my set and really talk to them rather than just running through a list of songs and getting off stage.”

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