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Almost A Dirty Dozen with LEO SAWIKIN – November 2023

| 16 November 2023 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “New York City singer / songwriter Leo Sawikin is set to release “New York I’m Coming Home” November 14, the fourth single off his upcoming summer 2024 album release recorded at Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard’s Studio Litho in Seattle with producer Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, Modest Mouse, The Shins). Sawikin released his debut album Row Me Away in 2021 during Covid. American Songwriter said of the album’s first single, “Golden Days,” “We’re in contemplative times, and ‘old soul’ Leo Sawikin followed the path paved by pop music’s classic songwriters, effectively capturing the longing for the simplicity of the past on his debut single…” He released two other tracks, “A Whole World Waiting” and “Born Too Late,” that scored indie radio spins in the U.S. and the UK.” We get Leo to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

“New York I’m Coming Home” is very different from the other songs on my upcoming record out in 2024. This song was my attempt at writing a country song. I wanted it to be as simple as possible and not overthink any of the chords or the melody. I just went with the very first harmonic and melodic instincts that came to mind and then just focused on making the lyrics the main driver of the song. I’d say there aren’t many easter eggs with this song. The two things about it that affect the vibe of the song that people may not notice at first is that the song is in Open G. I’m using a lot of the same open G inversions that people may be familiar with from Joni Mitchell songs like Both Sides Now or The Circle Game or Led Zeppelin songs like That’s The Way. Also, Phil Ek who produced it, and I felt like it would be really cool to go for an acoustic electric blend similar to “If It Makes You Happy” by Sheryl Crow. We did this by layering up my Telecaster, my acoustic Taylor and a Nashville Strung Acoustic Gibson.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I always loved music growing up. I started singing around the time I started talking and it became a constant thing for me. I think the moment that I realized I wanted to be a musician was seeing School of Rock when I was nine. My friend called me on our landline and told me he wanted to start a band with me singing and that was what kickstarted the delusions of grandeur that motivated me to learn guitar and start writing songs.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

There have been many artists who have transformed me over the years. I’d say the big three for me have been Radiohead, Brian Wilson, and Joni Mitchell. My upcoming record, which will be out in 2024, is probably more inspired by Joni Mitchell than anything else even if it doesn’t have that kind of sound at all. The concept of writing songs in open tunings was incredibly inspiring to me. It’s allowed me to be very prolific musically because I’m able to write very simply while keeping the chords I use really interesting. If I ever run out of ideas I just use a new tuning. I usually keep the E A D and G strings in the same tuning and just adjust the B and E strings. This allows me to reuse the same fingerings for chords, but by changing the two high strings I can make those chords sound incredibly different from each other. That has been my concept for this entire record.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

If I could collaborate with anyone right now it would probably be Phoebe Bridgers. She is in my opinion one of the greatest lyricists ever and I’d love to have her write lyrics for one of my pieces of music. I think that’d be amazing!

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

Eating and cooking definitely. I love exploring new places and discovering new food. My perfect day off would probably consist of smoking weed, watching a documentary, and ordering fried chicken wings with fried rice or something like that.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

That’s always very tough to do since all of my songs are different, but I usually say it’s like shoegaze, britpop, or indie folk. People used to tell me my music was like Lewis Capaldi’s, which I never understood at all. Nothing against him, he’s an amazing singer, but I could never understand what made people draw  that comparison.

7. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

I met Seth Gilliam from The Wire at Toad Hall in Soho a while back. I was incredibly starstruck cause I didn’t realize it was him until after we had started interacting.

8. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The best part of being a musician for me is arranging a song and the validation of having ideas for certain parts working out. And of course, the validation of people telling you they are into your recordings or that they were into your performance. I just love validation more than anything, it’s such a treat!! If I couldn’t be a musician I’d probably want to be a chef or restaurateur. I just want people to tell me I’m doing a good job!!

9. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I love when I am asked about my songwriting process, my influences, and questions about my craft. One question that I’m really tired of answering is what my genre is as I feel like it’s impossible to answer properly.

10. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Yeah there are several, but they got me to where I am now, which I feel is a good place. I don’t know if I’d want to change the past, but I’d say I would make the majority of the decisions in my career differently if I had to make them again today.

11. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Hmmm I don’t know if there’s one record that stands above the others, but it would be amazing to be a part of the recording sessions of a number of records in the late 60s/early 70s. Being around for the sessions of a record like Abbey Road or Let It Be with all sorts of icons dropping in to record or hang out would be unbelievable.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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