The hook of her debut song may claim that she’s “Tired of Talking,” and she may also be running on two hours of sleep, but LÉON has plenty to say and laugh about on the set of her Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini photo shoot at The Invisible Dog in Brooklyn earlier this month. The Swedish singer is cheerful and chatty with the entire crew on set, discussing everything from the strangest middle-American towns she visited during her radio promo tour to the allure of lace up over-the-knee boots. But by the time the shoot wraps, the fatigue is settling in. “Forgive me,” she laughs after speaking Swedish when she meant to speak English. “I’m starting to feel like mashed potatoes in my head!”
If she’s a little tired we don’t blame her: The past 12 months have been quite a ride for LÉON, born Lotta Lindgren, after a song that she posted to Soundcloud went viral turning her world upside-down. Since then, she’s released an E.P. on Spotify, got signed by Columbia Records, been Tweeted at by Katy Perry, and had her first U.S. tour. “I decided to release Tired of Talking on Soundcloud after getting restless and stressed when nothing was happening with any of the labels I was shopping around,” she explains. “That first day it had like 500 plays. Then all of a sudden, it exploded, and I was getting all these emails, people reaching out on Facebook. Everything has been very unexpected and crazy!”
The daughter of a composer father and symphony orchestra cello-playing mother, LÉON’s musical journey started when she was a very young girl growing up in Stockholm. “My parents have been feeding us music since we were babies. My dad introduced me to Motown when I was six, and that was a real eye-opener,” she says of her early influences. Before she was 10-years old she was playing cello and writing songs in English, and by high school she’d formed a hip-hop soul band with her friends and was performing around the city.
Growing tired of feeling like “the mom of the group,” LÉON eventually left the band and headed up north to music school. It was there that she met her now producer Agrin Rahmani. Together they crafted her first E.P., Treasure, and over the last year a debut album that will be released next year. “Before I started working with Agrin, I wrote down my lyrics first as a way to try and find out what I wanted to say. I’d be on my way home from a night out and writing in my diary from the train. With him, it felt like something new. I enjoyed sitting in a room and creating something together.”
One of the things her growing fan base responds to is the honesty in her lyrics, which are delivered through her sultry, soulful, and powerful voice. “It’s in actually performing the songs that I realize how personal they are. When I’m on stage singing the words, it brings me back to certain emotions and experiences,” she explains.
A few days after the Philosophy photo shoot, we get to experience this firsthand as we watch LÉON perform an acoustic set at New York’s Ludlow House. Ever the talker, she chats humorously between songs, offering tidbits like, “this one was written after a lot of wine and cigarettes with a girlfriend.” Laughter from the crowd is quickly hushed as the intensity of the song fills the room.
At just 23, the singer possesses an alluring mix of girlish enthusiasm and wise soulfulness [that’s all over the music of her forthcoming album] all of which she puts into her music. “I was worried maybe I had gotten it all out of my system, but it’s amazing how over the last few months of new experiences, the inspiration—it’s back.”