Leah Dou may not be an artist you’d expect to see featured in emo-laden Stars and Scars. She’s definitely more Radiohead than My Chem! However, when a stream of Leah’s new album, Kids Only, came to my inbox, I couldn’t ignore this hip, accomplished songstress. In our exclusive interview, Leah shares her path of musical maturity as the talented daughter of two megastars.
S&S: Congratulations on the release of Kids Only! How would you say your experience with this album differs from Stone Cafe? Where did you draw inspiration from this time around?
Leah: I think technically there is a larger element of exploration in the arrangements of the songs on the new record, but mainly Kids Only differs from Stone Cafe in the same way I differ from myself two years ago. Trying to see a bigger picture spiritually has directly affected my music.
S&S: “Cherry Blossom Tree” was the first song I listened to off the new album, and it’s quite a haunting opus. It’s very cinematic; I felt like I could see a movie in my mind as I listened. I sensed a bit of Lana Del Rey influence, as that how her music makes me feel, too. When writing songs, do you ever consider imagery, which I would describe as what the music looks like, not just sounds like? “Whistler’s Riddle” actually made me think of an old Western movie with a great big sky and tumbleweeds and gunslingers. The abstract video for “Wu” is a perfect match for the music.
Leah: I am a very big fan of Lana Del Rey’s music. She was all I wanted to listen to in my junior year of high school. For me, when I make music, a lot of the times [I’m] creating an image or a certain feeling. Music is just the medium to do that. I like to keep things vague when it comes to lyrics because I don’t want to tell people what to think or feel when they hear the music by being specific with words. Frankly, sometimes I don’t have much to tell; I’m just trying to document say a picture I had in my mind with music. With that said, I have deep respect for the amazing songwriters or even poets that are able to put their thoughts in such precise and beautiful words. I was just never great at that. I enjoy knowing that people connect with my music in their own personal way and that different images come to their minds such as yours with “Whistler’s Riddle.”
S&S: Last year, you won big at the QQ Music Awards as New Female Artist of the Year and Most Searched Artist of the Year. How does it feel to be recognized in the Chinese music industry in this way?
Leah: It is an honor to be recognized. The feeling of approval and recognition amongst your own kind definitely is a reassurance especially given what my upbringing was like. That I cannot deny. However, this only lasts for a very short moment. The hype, the adrenaline. None of it is real after all. It doesn’t bring any actual change to my everyday life of making music or just life in general. Therefore I appreciate it, but it’s definitely not something I strive for.
S&S: I always find it interesting when musicians are honored as new artists when their debut record comes out. In most cases, they’ve been creating music for years prior to that, such is your case. You formed your first band in 2011. Does that feel like a long time ago or just yesterday? How have you grown as an artist since then?
Leah: Music has been around ever since I could remember. It’s just like breathing, I think of my music as myself. Therefore, trying to explain my growth as an artist is as difficult as trying to explain my growth as a person. In simpler terms, my growth is the gradual change of my views of this world and how that shapes my experience in it.
S&S: This is no news to you, but your parents are incredible artists as well. How did their journeys influence you when growing up to choose the path you’re on today? Did you ever think, “I’ll never do music”? Or was it always a given for you?
Leah: My parents are a very big part of the reason why I chose this path if there even was a choice. It just seemed so evidently clear to me that music is what I wanted to do and what I could do thanks to the environment my parents created for me. Of course, there were other directions that I was considering and still am, but I never saw why they couldn’t all happen simultaneously. It was a matter of prioritizing and choosing a career that will support me and that I can be happy with.
S&S: What are some artists you’re listening to right now?
Leah: I’m always listening to a lot of Nirvana. I am really loving the new Paradis album Recto Verso. Plantasia by Mort Garson and An Empty Bliss Beyond This World by The Caretaker.
S&S: Have you gotten any new tattoos recently?
Leah: I have gotten a few new ones.
S&S: Your birthday is coming up on January 3. The big 2-1. How will you celebrate?
Leah: I don’t have any plans, I’m sure it’ll be a great time though.
S&S: What are you looking forward to in 2018?
Leah: I’m looking forward to a few projects that I can’t let everyone in on just yet. I’m mostly just looking forward to another year of spending time with the ones I care for, making lots of music, traveling and learning more about the world we live in!