Los Angeles-based singer and songwriter, Leah Capelle, is all about the female psyche, especially positive body image, self-acceptance, identity, and empowerment. All of these elements are prevalent in her new single, “Settle Down,” along with her new EP, Giants, produced by Grammy-winning producer, Jeff Bova. “Settle Down” is an ode to her growth as a female musician coming into her own and being comfortable in her own skin, and offering no apologies.
On the “Settle Down” video, Capelle states in a general press release: “The official video for ‘Settle Down’ was a highly creative process involving lots of different brains, and I’m so proud of how it ties into the very emotional and honest lyrical content in the song. It is by far the most vulnerable piece of art I have ever created. The visual seeks to capture the aching, helplessness, and disillusionment I felt when I wrote the song. The paint cans each wear a controlling statement that has been imposed on me, though I believe them each to be relatable across the female experience. The paint itself is a metaphor for how obscured I felt at the time – and by having both faceless figures and my own hands push the paint onto my skin, it represents the blurring and obstruction of my genuine identity in place of a person literally dripping in the expectations of others. You are not alone!”
Originally from Chicago, Capelle’s music is a blend of alternative and pop, and she has been performing her music since she a young girl. She studied music at the Chicago School of Professional Singing, The North Shore Music Institute and Berklee College of Music. After completing her studies, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her music career full-time, and is currently pursuing a B.S. in Music Business at USC Thornton School of Music.
Read on about this bright, enthusiastic, momentous musician who discusses important issues about self-reflection, influential female songwriters from the ’90s and today, her pivotal single and video for “Settle Down,” and much more.
You’re very much into body positivity and self-love. Why are these aspects most important to you, and what do they mean to you?
I absolutely am, though I too have struggled with insecurities for most of my life. It’s no secret that the beauty standards forced on women have created an unhealthy environment for young girls to grow up in. We now live in a time where social media influencers have become the new celebrities – creating unrealistic beauty standards for most people. As individuals, we have a habit of broadcasting a highlight reel of our lives – only posting things that make us look hotter, cooler, more glamorous, more successful. The “Settle Down” video is an effort to combat those standards. I am not a size 2. I do not have perfect skin. I too have been told that I should wear more skirts, that I should take up less space, that I shouldn’t be so “me” all the time. And yet, I’m on camera almost completely nude for four and a half minutes showing my most vulnerable self. I think by normalizing what real people look like, and showing that being real is beautiful, we can create a more accepting space for women (and men) to exist and be ourselves!
You’re inspired by popular female songwriters from the ’90s like Fiona Apple and Alanis Morrissette, along with today’s tastemakers, Phoebe Bridgers and Molly Burch. What about these women particularly inspire you; their writing, how they articulate themselves, etc.?
I’m constantly inspired by women in general – both those who came before me, and those who are my contemporaries. As for Fiona, Alanis, Phoebe, and Molly – these women are just unapologetically themselves. Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill was a formative album for me, and is actually one of the reasons I started playing alternative rock music in the first place. Fiona’s quirky, poetic writing on piano influenced many of my songs in high school and early college. I became particularly obsessed with her song “Werewolf” when I got to Berklee and absolutely geeked out on the modulations and chord changes she utilizes. Recently, I’ve been really inspired by both Phoebe and Molly’s confessional way of writing. Each song feels like a journal entry that is both deeply personal yet still relatable as a listener. I strive to write music that so sincerely reflects who I am, but can still reach across the page and touch my audience.
Your latest single and music video for “Settle Down,” tells an important story and message, especially for women. What does this song mean to you, and what was it like filming the video for it?
This song marks the end of a very important chapter in my life. It’s fitting that the closing track on the giants EP, which I worked on for nearly two years, was written during a period of personal awakening and rebellion against the situation I was in. “Settle Down” is an intimate song for me to share – it’s a letter to myself, as I worked through the disillusionment I felt with my art – and myself – at the time. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t live up to the expectations placed on me, whether by other people or by myself. The video is a metaphorical representation of that feeling – with the paint representing the expectations, and the reverse motion of the video meant to show that those expectations were originally imposed by other people, but that I ultimately promulgated my own discomfort. Filming the video was terrifying, but I’m so proud of the way it came out. When I saw the first cut, I cried! It was risky to be so exposed and so emotionally raw on camera. I was worried that the nudity would be interpreted in a sexual connotation, but I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that the video has been received the way I intended and that people all across the world are connecting to it (smiles)
How would you describe your songwriting process? Do the music or lyrics come first, vice versa, or does it vary?
My songwriting process is very spontaneous. Sometimes I’ll pick up a guitar or sit down at the piano and noodle around until my hands find a part, and write the rest from there. Sometimes I’ll stream-of-consciously write a poem or set of lyrics into a journal and come back to the idea much later. Most often, I’ll have a concept or emotion that I want to play with, and the melody, lyrics, and instrumental parts will all come together simultaneously. Lyrics definitely come the easiest to me out of all three elements – sometimes I find myself writing 6 or 7-minute songs because I have so much to say about a particular experience or feeling, that end up becoming two or three different pieces!
Do you play any instruments other than guitar, or are there instruments you want to learn how to play?
I’ve played both guitar and piano since I was very young. I would love to learn how to play drums and saxophone!! I also would love to become more proficient on bass. I can stumble my way through a song on bass, but having the dexterity and rhythmic knowledge of a bass player or drummer would be really fun.
Is an EP or album in the works? What’s next for you in 2019?
I’m currently in production on my first full-length album set to drop in late August/ early September, so keep an eye out for that (smiles) There will be a series of singles beginning to drop at the top of the Summer! In the meantime, I have a series of shows booked for the next few months – April 17th at The Moroccan Lounge in Los Angeles; I’m co-headlining with some of my favorite fellow female artists. There will be five acts, and all of our sets will be intercut together as one seamless show, instead of openers and headliners. I will also be playing guitar in the band for many of the other acts! Super cool night sponsored by Play Like A Girl. I’m performing at Summerfest Music Festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the end of June and am booking a midwest tour for the beginning of July. Follow my socials (@leahcapelle) for more info on those shows as they are announced!
Who was your first concert, and who has been your overall favorite so far?
I believe my first concert was either The Backstreet Boys or Donny Osmond when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old. I can’t say I remember much about either show, but I know I went with my mom! This is a very hard question for me – seeing live music is what gives me life! One of the best shows I’ve seen in the last year was this Americana/Rock super-group called Glorietta. They sold out The Troubadour last fall and put on the most raucous, fun show I’ve seen in a long time.
What was your first album on cassette, CD and/or vinyl?
My first vinyl was handed down to me by my mother and was CSNY’s greatest hits album titled So Far. The delicate nature of their harmonies with the political message of the music blew my 14-year-old mind, and I still get lost in that album every few months. The first CD that seriously meant anything to me was Counting Crows’ record Films About Ghosts (which is also a greatest hits album.) That record was the soundtrack to my high school experience and featured a number of my favorite songs of all time.
Which five albums and/or artists would you not want to live without?
Ooooh, tough question… Top five desert island albums are probably:
22, A Million – Bon Iver
White Noise – Noah Gundersen
Choose Your Weapon – Hiatus Kaiyote
Lavender – Half Waif
Currents – Tame Impala
Which female artist(s) would you most like to collaborate with?
Oh gosh, there are so many!! A few would be St. Vincent, Mitski, Phoebe Bridgers, The Japanese House, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Sara Bareilles, Brittany Howard (from Alabama Shakes) … I could go on forever!
Do you have a guilty music or entertainment pleasure?
I’m a sucker for some well-made Top 40 pop music. I can’t get enough of Ariana Grande’s new album “Thank U, Next,” Dua Lipa’s self-titled record, or Taylor Swift’s “Reputation.”