LEESUN
PRiME
(Little Music Tree)

 

The first thing you notice upon listening to the 2011 LeeSun CD, the 17 track PRiME, is how effortlessly she puts her sound together. You could swear that some of these tracks were made back in L.A. in the late ‘60s. Although of Korean lineage, LeeSun sings perfectly in English and, in fact her vocal delivery and music sounds like a blend between the spacy folk-pop vocals of Joni Mitchell with a kind of earthy Susanna Hoffs type of breathiness. You can’t discount Yoko Ono’s influence here, although Leesun is even more completely whimsical and thoroughly unique in her scope. Sounding more like L.A. in the late ‘60s (than say Leeds in 2011!) PRiME introduces a touch of lighthearted, retro style pop fun to the too often weary world of 21st century pop music. Based in the U.K., LeeSun recorded her music with some great players backing her yet, writing her own words and music, she places her unique vocals up front. You would think that if listeners could open their ears a little wider, artists as unique and special as Leesun could break through. LeeSun gets solid support from a number of players including Taz Modi (keyboards, guitars), Dan Klenner (drums, guitar) and Dan Norton (bass). Also occasionally supplanting the keyboard based sound are various musicians adding musical coloration on flute, double bass, oboe, flugelhorn, cello, tenor sax and violin. LeeSun’s music is really the reason to hear PRiME but CD collectors will enjoy the colorful artwork, excellent packaging and extensive booklet and lyrics that accompanies the silver disc edition. www.LeeSunMusic.com

mwe3.com presents an interview with
LeeSun



mwe3: How’s things in England? Freezing here tonight. Speaking of England, how long have you lived there and can you say something about where you grew up?

LS: Hi Robert! Things are all good here in England, thanks. I've been here since 2001, and the weather hasn't improved in that time, but the people are as interesting and lovely as ever.

As you know, my parents are Korean. They moved to Canada when I was just 5 months old, and that's where I grew up. Unfortunately I haven't been back to Korea, and I don't have any relatives to visit there! I can speak Korean fluently, though with the vocabulary and grammar of a 4 year old native speaker. This always amuses other Koreans.

mwe3: There must be a great story as to how the PRiME CD took shape. When did you realize that you had an album on your hands? Interesting title with the small “i”.

LS: That must be my messy handwriting! The title is supposed to be all lower case, actually. I wrote it using the ink cartridge of a fountain pen. PRiME is my first album, and it took a really long time for me to get around to recording it. The oldest song on it is the first track, “Mickey Mouse”, which is the first song I ever wrote, way back in 1995. And the newest song on it is “Missing You Already” which was written in 2007, the year I recorded the album.

Between those years, I had enough material to record an album in any given year, but it took a big push from a good friend to ultimately make it happen. That big push came in 2007, and once my friend suggested that I come to her house and record, the whole thing came together very quickly. The planning took place over a period of less than two months, and the recording took less than two weeks! That included assembling a new band, and learning and arranging all the songs. It was such an exciting time. I still think of it fondly!

mwe3: What was your early musical training like and can you say what instruments you play and how did you perfect your song writing style? Also do you practice on your instrument or spend most of the time writing music?

LS: I started piano lessons when I was 8, and eventually did a music degree at the University of British Columbia, with piano as my main instrument, and voice as my secondary instrument. I played the French horn throughout high school, and have tried the violin and guitar.

I started song writing while studying at UBC, and it was a means of processing my feelings and thoughts at a time when I was really struggling to make sense of why I was at university, doing what I was doing. Jane Coop, who I studied with at UBC was very supportive of my branching out into song writing.

These days I juggle a few things, like being a mom, running an ebay business which is my bread-and-butter for now, and working on my second album (PRiME Plus One) which I hope to release by the end of 2012. Day to day life is incredibly full, and I use my spare moments to work on songs for the new album. I've got about 8 songs written so far. The new album is going to feature mainly piano and vocal arrangements, so a really stripped back sound. I'm really excited about it!

mwe3: Can you say something about the musicians who play with you on the PRiME CD and describe the chemistry between you and the players and what was it like working with producer Pete Miko?

LS: When we lay down the initial tracks for the album, in Calgary, there was just myself, Taz Modi on keys, and Dan Klenner on percussion. The chemistry was amazing. Taz and Dan met for the first time in Calgary, and they got on so well. They both are passionate about playing music, and when we weren't rehearsing or recording, they were still jamming! They're also both very gentle spirits, like Pete Miko, so working with them was a heartwarming, encouraging experience.

Pete the producer, is a perfectionist, and was very particular about all the production aspects of the album. He's a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, and thinks everything through very thoroughly. Before we arrived, he listened to rough versions of all the songs, and thought through all the details of the studio set up, to get the sound he and I wanted. So in a way, he was hardly noticeable when we were recording, but he made sure the rooms were beautiful and atmospheric, conducive to being inspired and relaxed, and of course he made sure that the actual audio captured was warm and well produced. It was a pleasure working with Pete Miko, and I hope to work with him again some day!

mwe3: Do you have any favorite songs on the new album? Is there a single that you’re recommending to radio? I’m just getting into the track “Missing You Already” but so far my favorite is “I Wonder”.

LS: I think my absolute fave is “Away From Me”. I always feel such longing and hope when I sing that song. And for lyrics, my favorites are “Always That Way”, “Want2be” and “Wise”.

It's funny, so many people tell me that “Missing You Already” is their favorite. I do really like that song, of course, but it doesn't really touch me deep down, the way lots of my other songs do.

“Wonder” is a song about how confusing it can be to start a new relationship. It's fun to sing, and often makes me dance. When I wrote it, I was feeling a bit cheeky, a bit confused, somewhat elated, and a little bit scared, about a new relationship which had grown out of a good friendship.

mwe3: The artwork for the booklet and the entire packaging, lyrics book is great. Is there a story behind how packaging and artwork?

LS: All the main artwork was done by Benny Smith, who was just 18 at the time. His mum lives two doors away from me! When I was planning out the album artwork, I saw some of Benny's photos and thought they were really beautiful. So we had a chat about the album. And then I saw an advert for a Christian Dior perfume which featured a beautiful girl holding some balloons, and it really captured my imagination. So Benny and I planned a photo shoot using balloons.

I wanted something that captured the dreamy spirit of the album, and also the beauty and quirkiness. I think Benny really delivered! The booklet was a different story. I used quite a lot of random photos in the booklet, taken over the years. Some of the photos were taken during the recording of the album. Lots of the photos aren't very professional as I just snapped them on a low-end digicam. But that seemed to fit in with the way the songs on the album were gathered from over the years, from different life experiences.

mwe3: Who were your big musical influences growing up? I was thinking maybe it’s time for an international singer-songwriter of Korean heritage to become a mega-star. Are you ready for stardom?

LS: The first album I ever bought was by Weird Al Yankovic. I didn't listen to pop music back then, though I'd heard of quite a few of the original songs just because they were so ubiquitous. I loved Weird Al, his cleverness, his humor. Aside from that, I mainly listened to classical music. In university, a boyfriend introduced me to all sorts of bands and artists, such as Suzanne Vega, Simon & Garfunkel, U2, Daniel Lanois, and Ella Fitzgerald. And that was a wonderful and challenging introduction to pop music!

It would be great to see an artist of Korean heritage become internationally successful, and of course, I would love to be that person! I suppose that growing up in Canada, I was always quite aware that though I felt Canadian through and through, I was part of a minority group, and my appearance was different from the people in the mainstream media, characters in TV shows and movies. The heroine of mainstream stories didn't ever look like me. I think lots of creative people feel like outsiders anyway, and adding the element of being very obviously part of a minority intensified that feeling for me.

But skin color aside, I think I have a unique voice and things to say that connect with people, universally. Hopefully it's just a matter of time and working hard to find those people who want to hear my music. I'm excited about 2012 and will be working for a breakthrough with my music, this year. I don't know what the future holds, but stardom is definitely a part of my plans! We'll see ...


Thanks to Leesun @ www.LeesunMusic.com

 

 
   
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