Chances are that you went to see either of the artists who made last year their year; Mika or Amy Winehouse. Well, if you did, there is a good chance that your appetite for those acts was warmed by a flighty and funky set of R N’ B gelled indie from the unassuming and genuine East Londoner, Mr Leon Jean-Marie.
Leon's ability to convey with rhythm and bite, his concerns about the serious topic of teenage violence is unleashed in his new single 'Bed of Nails'. This is released as a download on the 31/03/08 and those who like a collectible CD with art work can get their hands on it on the 7/04/08. It is sure to bolster Leon's reputation as a thinking musician who gives equal consideration to all aspects of the song-writing process.
His vibrant sets and personable nature has won him many friends, as he stoically attempts to make his brand of R N’ B/Funk palatable to as wide ranging an audience as possible. Leon kindly takes time out from his hectic recording/touring schedule to open out his thoughtful and funky world:
1. How did you find the experience of opening for MIKA and Amy Winehouse last year? Did you change your set at all to fit in with the demands of the MIKA and Winehouse fans?
I found both tours incredible, for many reasons. Mika, his band and crew were so kind, his tour gave me the opportunities to play in front of the biggest crowds I have ever played for. I'd say my set for that tour was constructed to be very lively and energetic.
Supporting Amy was also special, because I already knew some of the band members, and having met her before in New York it was like a little reunion, my set for her was a little toned down and more soulful.
2. Your stand out song for me so far, is the slow building, yearning ballad of ‘Beg’. That sees you put in a polished, soaring vocal performance. What is the story behind this and is it difficult to perform live due to its personal nature?
'Beg' is my most personal song, it’s a song for the men that lose their way in a relationship basically. It is hard to perform live, because the song can grab me, and cause me to lose myself. The last thing I want is to break down on stage.
3. Your funky side is investigated through East End Blues? Is this more indicative of your current mood and defiant streak, as you include a lash out at pigeon holers in it?
Oh yes! I have never liked to be pigeon holed or stereotyped. It was definitely created from a mood and a deep feeling I have always had.
4. What does the term R'N’B mean to you these days and has it changed over the years?
Rhythm'n'Blues! Yes it has changed a lot, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I do feel that old skool R'n'B was much more about the song and less about the production and the complex vocal performance.
5. Are attempts to combat ticket touting such as those deployed by the Glastonbury organisers merely stabbing the honest punter in the front instead of in the back? Increasing booking fees and hidden changes are just making ticket touting a corporate business – or do you disagree?
No! I agree. Now I'm gonna sound like a moany old man, but I find it’s the way of the world now, to overprice everything. Everything is just about money, driven by greed which is such a shame.
6. Describe the East London scene that you have blossomed out of, did you fit in with it? Is the cyber-world of Youtube and Myspace threatening to destroy geographical scenes as we know and love them?
I live right on the border of East London and Essex, so i grew up in a very diverse little world. Suffering minor cases of racial abuse growing up I would still say I fit in, all that stuff I just think of it as a not a big deal.
I had a lot of white friends on one side from Woodford/Loughton and on the other lots of black friends from Leyton/Waltamstow, and always appreciated their musical tastes.
The Youtube and Myspace age has its positives and negatives, the negatives are the way these sites have the ability to waste away your day, it’s so easy to lose time browsing these sites. The positive side I feel is how small it’s made the world, and how you can touch people on the other side of the world.
7. Which of your songs sums up your current mood and why?
Definitely the new single 'Bed of Nails'. You just can't get away from at the moment in the news, about kids killing kids.
8. If you could get any established artist or band to cover one your numbers which one and who would it be?
I would love to hear Prince sing 'You Must Know', but you and I know that will never happen if it was the last song on earth! lol