After gigging over 250 times and writing over 100 songs, it is hard to believe that Charlie Leavy is just 19. In her songs she manages to cleverly combine the styles of acoustic pop, folk, country, funk and blues.
This UK singer-songwriter has performed at Hyde Park as a prize for winning the London Pride’s Got Talent final and has been described as a “naturally gifted singer” by Tom Robinson of BBC Music fame.
GGM: When did you first realise you wanted to be a musician?
CL: From an early age I performed without nerves in school plays and even though I messed around on various instruments, I never really thought about myself becoming a musician. It wasn’t until I wrote my first song that the thought even entered by head. But it was probably my first real gig, where I played some of my own songs to an audience and got a reaction. It was after that gig, that I remember thinking, “when is my next gig?”. It was addictive. I didn’t have any more gigs lined up, but my Dad did a great job finding me more gigs and to date, I’ve done over 250 gigs and festivals.
GGM: You’ve performed at an impressive amount of gigs for someone of your years, what age were you when you had your first gig?
CL: Obviously, I did high school concerts and open mics, but I think my “proper” gig was when I was 15 at The Mill, in Banbury. Chris Oakes, a local promoter and radio presenter, found my music on SoundCloud and contacted me, asking if I could send him some music to play on his radio show. He then put on a gig with other local musicians and asked if I wanted to be the opening act. I still remember the line-up! Small Time Hero; Punch Drunk Monkey Club; Half Decent; and Me!!!
GGM: What instruments can you play?
CL: I’ve self-taught myself keyboards, guitar, bass, and ukulele. I’m just starting to teach myself cajon and eventually, I want to learn drums. I used to play bass in a couple of bands when I was in year 10/11, but the first instrument I learned was a keyboard in my early teens. At about 14, I was given an old electric guitar and that was it – I was guitar hooked!
GGM: How have you found the inspiration to write so many of your own songs?
CL: My inspiration comes from a variety of sources. Sometimes, things happen to me, although more likely it is things that I see on TV, the Internet or things that happen to my friends and family that influence my song writing. Sometimes my songs start as poems and if they flow right, and I feel a melody, then they end up as a song. I reckon about 50% of my poems end up as songs and about 75% of my songs end up being recorded in my bedroom and probably 90% of those end up on SoundCloud as one-take acoustic recordings. Then sometimes, I’ll hear some music and that might also influence a songs constructive or feel. Sometimes, I’ll try and write a song just to try out a style that I’ve enjoyed from a song I heard.
GGM: Your covers are also proving popular; do you have a particular favourite?
CL: My most popular cover is Hero (in Spanish) by Enrique Iglesias which has had about 27k plays on SoundCloud and about 6k downloads. But the cover I perform the most and I get requests for, is “Who You” (in Korean) by G Dragon.
GGM: Which one of your own songs are you proudest of?
CL: “The Way Life Is” is the lead track of my debut (& only) EP and has had the most radio plays across local; internet; BBC regional; BBC national and BBC 6 Music, but the one I wrote recently “Never Trusting Cupid” is arguably my best and current favourite.
GGM: Which famous musicians do you admire and have they been an influence on your music?
CL: I listened to Carol King’s album Tapestry when I was about 15 and I was amazed. It sounded so simple, but I knew the construction of each song was more complex than I was capable of writing. Tapestry has been in my playlist ever since and I’ve tried to write songs that she would be proud to have written (if she ever listened to my songs).
Then you have Dave Grohl. I listened to loads of Nirvana and Foo Fighters when I was younger as my Dad was/is a massive fan. The more I heard and the more I read, the more he inspired me. He made me want to be able to play an entire band set up of instruments!
But Ed Sheeran and his clever lyrics! I’d love for my songs to be eventually compared favourably to his!
GGM: If you could sing at a dream venue, where would it be?
CL: I’d be very happy on a BBC Introducing stage at SXSW, but ultimately festival-wise, it would have to be playing somewhere like Glastonbury and headlining a tent, even a small one! I don’t see myself ever playing big arenas. I don’t see myself as that type of artist. But “smaller” more intimate venues, like The Albert Hall, would be a dream!
GGM: Is there a particular singer/band you would love to perform with?
CL: It would be a dream to perform with Ed Sheeran! But, I would especially love to write with him. I see a lot of similarities in our writing style. I tend to write a lot of stories put to music. I write in the narrative so to speak and obviously he does too.
GGM: What is next on the horizon for you?
CL: Well, apart from Uni deadlines and exams! I am teaching myself Korean and my Uni course is History with Contemporary Chinese (including Mandarin), so eventually, I’d like to be able to speak, Korean, Chinese and Japanese. But from a music perspective, I’ve got a few gigs and small festivals lined up around the country. Last year, I did 85 gigs and festivals – this year, I’ll be lucky to do 30!
GGM: When can we look forward to a full-length album?
CL: All the songs are written and I’m gigging them at the moment. The “Optimistic Weather Girl” will be a 12 track album, but any of about 30 songs could make the final cut. I mean there are tracks that as soon as I wrote them, I knew they would be 100% guaranteed to be on, probably 5 or 6 songs, but the remainder of the album will be a tough choice. Being in my first year of Uni, I can’t afford the studio time, so I am considering crowd funding it.
~ Karen Hill