Don't Sugarcoat It: An Interview with L E A

by - February 21, 2023

Photo courtesy of Marina Hunter

Between her family’s love for classic rock and her self-discovery of alternative, L E A knew music was her destiny.

Her 2021 EP, Jersey Boy, gave her the freedom to experiment with her sound while trying to land on one that best suited her. While her producer in Los Angeles went a more pop route with her music, she knew she wanted to dig deeper into the sounds that defined her childhood. When one of her musical inspirations, Chase Coy, reached out to work with her, she knew she had to make it to Nashville to work together.

Along with several collaborators, the beginning of her next EP began to take shape. Mixing engineer Carl Bahner, co-writer Michael Grubbs, The Wonder Years’ guitarist Casey Cavalier, pop-punk artist Bemo Rogue and Sleeping with Sirens frontman Kellin Quinn all made their mark on her next release, Happy Never Ending.

“This felt like the most natural genre to be a part of,” she said. “I grew up listening to classic rock and jazz so I always had a rock ‘n’ roll bone in my body. Some of the first bands I discovered myself, like Secondhand Serenade and Mayday Parade, were traditionally pop-punk and that was a thing that I am very influenced by.”

The more she immersed herself in the sounds of pop-punk, the more she felt like she belonged. Despite mostly writing on the piano, she was easily able to convert a ballad into an anthem. A booming drum beat and a signature gang vocal transformed her lyrics into everything she loves about the genre.

Everything about the writing and recording process solidified her move to the pop-punk side of music. She found collaborators that understood and respected her. She felt instant gratification upon the completion of a song. She watched in real time as the singles found their ways onto playlists and live performances at Emo Night events.

In spite of all the rewarding moments of creating Happy Never Ending, the real challenge for her is to share those moments in her everyday life. A topic that never seems to make its way to the surface is the financial struggle that comes with being an independent artist. Barriers have been broken in terms of having the capability to share music without the backing of a major label, but that means having to fund the entirety of a project alone.

“When I graduated college and was going into the real world as an adult, the transition of doing [music] as a hobby to doing it full time quite literally shocked me and my wallet,” she said. “With my financial situation, things were doing well enough to where I couldn’t focus on a full-time job but I wasn’t getting paid enough from my side gigs to be able to focus on music full-time. It was a lot of back and forth and tears and stress.”

Especially in a world where social media and the image of success dominate lives, it’s challenging to post the not-so-good moments. Some days she’s just a “regular working gal trying to make money” and some days she’s L E A. Some days she’s traveling to a different state to perform her new music. Those same days she’s sleeping for only a few hours on a friend’s couch.

“We need to talk about it more but it’s hard to always be that forward about it,” she said. “I’m trying really hard, after releasing [“FTS (Sick of This)”] especially, to be more transparent, especially online. When people ask for advice, just tell them how it is; don’t sugarcoat it.”

The songs on Happy Never Ending express so much of the real L E A and her outlook on the world. She is still working on finding a happy balance between everyday life and the life of a musician, but she is at a place where she is happy with both of those lives.

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