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AAA Music | 21 August 2018

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AAA Music Approved: J.J. Leone

| On 04, Oct 2017

JJ Leone - Interview

Who are you and where are you from?

My name is J.J. Leone, I’m a singer-songwriter based in Norwich, UK. I make a sound called ‘Dark Soul’. I’m completely independent – no manager, no agent, no writing partners, no funding, and I write, produce and record everything on my records. I first picked up the guitar when I was 12, but I’ve never had any lessons and I still can’t read music, I picked everything up by ear and watching my older brother.

What inspired you to get into music?

My main influences are Stevie Wonder, Prince and Cody Chesnutt, though the sound I create is nothing similar to those guys! ‘Dark Soul’ is a guitar driven soul-pop fusion with ambience and dark undertones, I’ve always found it so much easier writing songs about direct issues that effect me and people around me, rather than writing songs about how the sun is shining all the time and how life is one big party, because it isn’t! I’m influenced by the sounds of guys like Massive Attack and Ben Howard, I really dig how they use ambience to create a big impact in their songs and the mood around it. But to be honest, everything is pretty unconcious when I write, it just comes out that way!

What have you done?

The biggest surprise for me was seeing my last EP ‘The Rebuild’ become a Top 20 record in the UK. I recorded that project in my bathroom as I was coming out the other end of a tough period in my life and couldn’t afford to take everything in the studio. Guys like BBC Introducing picked it up and things have gone from there! Selling out Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club and playing at Sundown Festival have also been highlights! I’m now starting to see reviews that are calling me a ‘prodigy’ and stuff like that – it’s all kind of surreal to me. I’m just trying to keep it real and follow what I’ve wanted to do as a kid!

What are you like live?

I think I’m OK live! I started out with just myself and a guitar, but as the stages have got bigger, the sound has needed to be bigger too, so now I tour with a bass player, another guitarist and a drummer. I will always remember the tour in Barcelona a few years ago, that whole thing was really sick, but more recently I’ve done gigs alongside Rag N Bone Man, Razorlight and Craig David. Performing live is what it’s all about!

What makes you different?

I think my sound is just honest. I really think the terms ‘independent musician’ and ‘singer-songwriter’ are thrown about a lot these days that they’re almost pretty meaningless. I handle EVERY part of my career, there is no gimmick and there is no side-show, its all about the music for me. People have given me some great feedback about my sound ‘Dark Soul’ though, they tell me its different to most things out there at the moment, which I’m grateful for!

Physical vs Downloading vs Streaming…How do you listen to music?

I will always prefer to buy CDs, just because there’s that physical element of having it. But online my main source of listening is on YouTube. I think that iTunes and Spotify are great in the sense of musicians now have the power to make their music available globally without a label and someone on the other side of the world can discover your entire back catalogue overnight, but the other side of the internet is that I’m big on musicians getting paid what they’re owed. Illegal download sites have had a massive detremental effect on the industry, it’s really difficult to make a living out of it now.

What have you been listening to?

I’m heavy into Cody Chesnutt’s new album ‘My Love Divine Degree’, I just think he’s a phenonemal singer-songwriter! I don’t really listen to mainstream charts to be honest, it all sounds very similar to me, but J. Cole’s ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ is taking over my playlist right now, as well as Rag N Bone Man!

What are your aspirations for the future?

‘Reload’ comes out on October 6th, then I will release another single before Christmas, one at the start of 2018 and then the next EP will drop very soon after! Of course, there will be shows in the meantime as well, so its going to be a busy couple of months!

Questions answered by: J.J. Leone…