Each week we will be posting exclusive 60 second interviews with our 2018 Festival bands and artists. This week we are in conversation with We Are Leif, to find out when We Are Leif are playing mjf 2018 click here.
Name: Louise Victoria
Name of the Band (if you’re in a band): We Are Leif
Where are you/the band from? Bristol & Bath
How did you get into music?
I’ve been singing and playing music my whole life! Vocally, I was classically trained at school and college, then switched to Jazz in my final year at Southampton University and never looked back. My parents fondly remember my first live performance at 4 years old, singing Whitney Houston at the top of my voice in the middle of the local pub – seems I was destined for music all along!
*Why did you form the band?
Mark Whitlam (drums) and I met on a gig back when I was thinking of moving to Bristol in 2015 and found we shared many of the same influences and similar ideas about what we would write if we set up an original project. I moved to Bristol a couple of months later and we started writing together. Around 6 months in, we had a handful of songs we were keen to start gigging with and so began to look around for musicians with a jazz/soul vibe and an interest in getting involved in a new, original project. Dale Hambridge is a long-standing friend of Mark’s and by that point, a very good friend of mine, so getting in a stunning keyboard player was no trouble! Chris Jones (bass) was reasonably new to the Bristol scene back then but I had seen him play on a few occasions and was keen to have him as part of the outfit – Mark then got booked onto a jazz gig with Chris and discovered they had great musical chemistry which sealed the deal!
What are the most enjoyable aspects of being a musician?
Oh man, there are so many. Obviously, as with every job, it ebbs and flows – you can’t always be doing the thing you want to focus on all the time – but I definitely feel lucky that I am able to make a living from music. I get a real sense of freedom from doing what I do – I have a billion things going on at once, which might drive some people mad, but I’ve never been one for a routine. I feel like I am always able to change and develop myself and my situation. Maybe it’s a cliche, but I absolutely believe being a musician is a lifestyle, and for me, that’s the best thing about it.
What is the least enjoyable part of being a musician?
The uncertainty, the insecurity. I think it’s uncommon for musicians to work with money as their end game, and I am definitely not money-motivated, yet I’m always having to think about it because I’m almost always on some kind of budget. I also get tired of the constant self-promotion – there’s that feeling of needing to be on top form for every social event, gig, lesson, email, text, phone call, because if you make the right impression, it could all lead to more work down the line. It definitely requires management – I know so many musicians and everyone manages it in different ways, so as long as you know you’re doing what you want to do and you can handle the negatives, you’re golden. The negatives have never won out over the positives for me.
Who is your favourite band or artist?
I’m in love with Becca Stevens – she is such an inspirational songwriter and lyricist. I also have a long-standing love for Gretchen Parlato, whose music got me into a lot of people on that kind of scene – Robert Glasper, Taylor Eigsti, Becca, Mark Guiliana. I’m also really into Moses Sumney at the moment – his music is breathtaking.
What’s the best piece of musical advice you’ve ever been given?
Well, it wasn’t advice per se, but my decision to move over to Jazz for my final year was hugely influenced by a couple of jazz musicians I’d gotten to know on the course, so I credit them for helping me make that leap into the style of music I was always meant to be singing.
What does it mean to you to play at manchester jazz festival?
Oh, it’s SUCH a great honour to have been picked as part of this year’s roster! I believe so much in We Are Leif and where we could go with this band, so getting onto one of the UK’s most prestigious jazz festivals is such an amazing opportunity. It feels like a little nod – someone saying ‘yes, I’m behind that.’ So thanks!
What advice would you give to the new generation of musicians that would like to follow in your steps?
Ha, I’m still figuring it out! For original projects, you really have to believe in the product and be relentless. Since our first gig when we realised we had something special, I don’t think there’s been a single day where I haven’t thought about or worked on stuff to do with the band. I reckon it’s important to realise that there is ALWAYS something you can be doing to make your band better, whether that’s working on interpersonal relationships, rehearsing, writing, promoting, marketing.. whatever!
What has been the most notable highlight of your career so far?
Not to suck up, but Manchester Jazz is a really great milestone for us! We also had our first overseas gig in November 2017 as part of So What’s Next? fest in Eindhoven (sister festival to North Sea Jazz) which was EPIC.
Other than yourself, who are you looking forward to seeing at mjf 2018?
We’re billed together with Mali Hayes who sounds ace, so really looking forward to that gig, plus the Binker & Moses set should be amazing! Sara Colman is a fellow Bristolian and a wonderful singer so we’ll be catching her set too – her guitarist, Steve Banks, appears on our new album!
Would you like to add anything?
Thanks so much MJF for including us for 2018!!
For the full Festival Programme click here.