24-year-old Leith Ross may have just released their debut album, but they have a grip on Gen Z already with their honest, vulnerable and relatable music.
“I’m just starting to get my footing now,” says Leith somewhere on the dusty roads of Southern California amidst various Zoom connectivity issues.
Thrown in the deep end with 2022 track ‘We’ll Never Have Sex’ blowing up on the internet, Leith describes their social media success as being “really strange”, and a new landscape for people to navigate. “It’s just such an interesting thing to not have any experience with being observed to go to being very observed by the public, and it happening in a day or two, or a week. It’s definitely a fascinating experience. And I’ve really enjoyed talking to Katie Gregson-MacLeod who had a similar experience.“
Leith’s recently released debut record, ‘To Learn’, was recorded over a year, and written over two. “I’ve definitely preferred it this way. I need it to be a bit more chill.”
Given their rapid rise in the indie world, Leith feels more balanced nowadays, but acknowledges that the industry constantly brings new challenges with it.
“It feels like there’s constantly new things coming in that I haven’t dealt with, or that I haven’t quite figured out yet. But that’s okay. To be honest, there’s a part of me that suspects that will just be happening for all of my life. I do feel a little bit more solid on my feet than I did when I was first starting out – less timid and scared.”
A newfound sense of balance and a calmer album process is what Leith needed after studying an intense course at music school, which they found restrictive.
“You run into an issue anytime that you try to institutionalise an art form in in that way. It feels almost philosophically wrong. To say that something that someone creates in an art form is good or bad, and to grade it? Mentally, it was something I had to get through being at school. But I’m also very grateful for it. And I met a lot of musicians that I still work with today. It’s a definitely a double-edged sword.”
Music school brings struggles with it, as does working in the industry itself – something which Leith Ross has had to learn from scratch themselves upon graduating.
“I didn’t know much about how to do a show or much about how the industry works. There were times where you just feel a bit talked down to or like you’re outside of some exclusive thing that you can’t quite break into. But I was very lucky to have some people around me who were very strong the industry that I’ve leaned on to help me figure out what the norms are and the status quo of each thing that we were doing. And now I feel more confident to break those norms, if I want to.”
Breaking norms has led them to gain a global fanbase, as they are currently on a headline tour. “It blew my mind how many people want to come to the shows and are coming to the shows. It’s pretty special.”
Leith’s lyrical vulnerability has been a key factor in them garnering such a strong fanbase, with tracks such as ‘Guts’ tackling tough, traumatic experiences. Revealing their innermost thoughts is something they’re still getting used to.
“I’m definitely someone who writes about my own life. And I’m usually not too specific. But sometimes, I will have a little moment, seeing how much people like a song, and I do feel kind of crazy about the fact that I wrote it about some specific, highly vulnerable situation that I’ve personally been through. it does feel a bit weird on occasion. But it’s also very comforting to realise it’s like more of a universal human experience. And that’s really relieving because it’s a good reminder that you’re never alone.”
To avoid burnout, which they describe as a “really hard” thing to do, Leith Ross has found solace in collaging. “I’m trying to get into it more because I know that a lot of musicians have a different artistic outlet that they use to express themselves with when they are making music. And that is helpful because it can be a way to reconnect with making art.” Leith hasn’t let burnout diminish their love for music, as they have one confident goal for the distant future – to “live somewhere with my friends, and maybe have a little recording studio.”
For those looking to start out in music, Leith has one piece of advice – don’t rush.
“Honestly, it’s a tough industry. And it’s a tough thing to do this very vulnerable thing. It’s really easy in this industry to feel like you have to do everything when you’re 18 years old. But if this stuff had started happening for me any younger, I think I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. Age is a wonderful thing – the older you get, it’s true that you become wiser and more knowledgeable about yourself in the world, and that makes it easier to navigate such a tricky thing.”
Leith Ross’ debut album ‘To Learn’, is out now.
Words: Amrit Virdi
Photo Credit: Meredith Truax