Interview: Christian Leave on new songs 'Milksop' and 'Darling'.
"I woke up this morning, and I dreamt about that song and I was like, 'I love that song so much!' And so I made it!" says Christian Leave cheerfully, explaining the thought process behind his surprise release of a brand new song earlier today, whilst sitting across from me at a Los Angeles bowling alley. Such is the D.I.Y. work ethic of the 19-year-old whom last year released his heartfelt 'Trilogy' EP - which he wrote, recorded and produced entirely in his bedroom.
After declaring him one of our 2019 Must-Know Artists, Coup De Main caught up with Leave recently to discuss his new double-singles 'Milksop' and 'Darling', as well as his future plans, and the importance of individuality...
I think it's important to display both how you feel and how you present yourself. On the inside I might feel like a coward, but on the outside I am happy, cheery and upbeat.
COUP DE MAIN: What's new with you?
CHRISTIAN LEAVE: I was in Chicago for the week and went to go see some buddies. I just finished up two songs - I’ve been working for a while trying to figure out a sound and what I wanted to go for next, and then I was like, 'I wanna take a little vacation!' So I went to Chicago, and that was fun, it was a good time, and then I came home. I was super tired, I slept all day, got up yesterday and filmed a little video with one of my friends - a little short-film that he’s been working on - and then now, here I am!
CDM: Was it a deliberate decision you made to want to write, record and produce the 'Trilogy' EP entirely in your bedroom?
CHRISTIAN: I just knew what I wanted to do, and I didn’t feel like anybody else would really understand. This was me being almost narcissistic in a way, like, 'I’m gonna do myself the best.'
CDM: I don’t think that's narcissistic.
CHRISTIAN: Is it not?
CDM: Music is so personal. There’s nothing wrong with knowing what you want.
CHRISTIAN: I guess so, but I don’t know exactly how to do what I want, so that’s the problem. I’m glad that I’m doing it by myself though, because now I have complete control. But I guess it was a deliberate decision - I was like, 'This is what I want, I’ll do it, I’ll finish it.' I did it in a day. The first single, 'Never', I did in February or March of last year and it didn’t go anywhere and I didn’t do anything with it, and then when I moved to L.A. I was here for a month and then some angst happened in my life, some romantic things and some weird things, so I just had a lot of inspiration and a lot of things to draw from. So I sat down and was like, 'This is the kind of music I want to make today, so I’m just gonna make it.' And I made three songs ['You', 'Smaller' and 'Understand']. And they turned out pretty cool, so I was like, 'Yeah, those are the ones!'
CDM: Did you record and produce your new songs 'Milksop' and 'Darling' yourself? Was it fun experimenting with the production on 'Milksop’?
CHRISTIAN: Yes, I did! 'Milksop' was especially fun, it has so many different moving parts and it feels very complex to me - it really means something to me. It's very different than anything I've made this far, but I feel it's a big step in the right direction.
CDM: Is 'Milksop' written from the perspective of your own experiences?
CHRISTIAN: 'Milksop' is really about being a coward when facing life and making decisions, and being comfortable and stable, versus taking risks on things that could potentially push you into a better position.
CDM: What was it like filming the 'Milksop' music video?
CHRISTIAN: It was a whole lotta fun - me and a few friends got together, rigged a camera to a bike and emotionally rode around a neighbourhood in Chinatown!
CDM: Why did you decide on 'Darling' to accompany the release of 'Milksop’?
CHRISTIAN: I think it's important to display both how you feel and how you present yourself. On the inside I might feel like a coward, but on the outside I am happy, cheery and upbeat.
CDM: The sentiment of 'Darling' is incredibly pure and romantic. Do you think love is the strongest human emotion?
CHRISTIAN: I think hate is a pretty big competitor, but you can lead yourself blindly when you're in love, so it takes the cake.
CDM: You've described yourself as a "kid with dreams who wants to connect with the rest of the world" - what are your dreams?
CHRISTIAN: Oh god, I don’t know! I wanna make a movie eventually.
CDM: What kind of movie?
CHRISTIAN: I think it would be good to start off with a coming-of-age movie. Have you even seen ‘Punch-Drunk Love’? It’s not a coming-of-age movie, but in a way it is because he’s this 40-year-old dude who’s been looking for some kind of certainty in his life because everything else is chaotic. And then he finds it and he’s like, 'Oh my god! I'm learning so much about myself and I’d do anything for this girl that I’m in love with.' I think that’s really cool. Write what you know, and I’m in that moment of my life where I am coming of age and figuring everything out and starting to learn things about myself. So, I think start off with that and then move on to a horror or something.
CDM: Would you want to act in it?
CHRISTIAN: I wouldn’t make myself the lead, but if there was a role that I didn’t think anybody else could fill, then maybe.
CDM: And obviously you’d do the music for it, right?
CDM: Any other dreams?
CHRISTIAN: I wanna buy my parents a house!
CDM: That’s a great dream. You’re a good human, you can stay!
CHRISTIAN: Thank you!
CDM: Do you ever miss where you're from in Texas?
CHRISTIAN: Yeah. It’s a small town and I dropped out of high school in freshman year, so I miss the friends I had and I miss my family. But I moved around a lot as a kid, we moved 25 or 26 times or something like that, so I didn’t really get attached to too many places or attached to living there. I was always kind of aware that maybe we might move again, so I don’t really miss the place, but I do miss my family. I miss home.
CDM: Do you feel like your life in Los Angeles is different?
CHRISTIAN: It’s way different! It’s a lot more fast-paced and there’s not really a moment to breathe and I gotta figure it all out on my own and it’s just scary. It’s super exciting, I'm just not used to it - I'm not adjusted. They say it takes five years to get adjusted in L.A. and I’m not there at all yet.
CDM: You got one out of five down.
CHRISTIAN: We’re almost there! Four more to go.
CDM: What’s your very first earliest musical memory?
CHRISTIAN: You know that song 'Smoke On The Water' [by Deep Purple]? It’s like, <sings the bass-line> - that was the first time I’d ever picked up an instrument; the first thing I ever held was a bass. I was nine, maybe ten. This kid who was much older than me was like, "You wanna learn how to play the bass?" And I was like, "Yeah sure, oh fun!" I played drums for a year and I was very bad at it. It just didn’t work and I was twelve at that point, and you’re not really good at things when you’re twelve! So it was a few years later that I really started honing in and trying to figure everything out. But I wasn’t much of a player when I was young. I guess piano was the only thing I kind of understood, but everything was so hard at the beginning.
CDM: Also sometimes if you are that young, if you get into it too early, you just grow out of it.
CHRISTIAN: Yeah, you almost resent it in a way because it’s like, 'My parents want me to do it.' I’m not classically trained by any means, but it’s fun for me, because then I can learn and I figure things out and I’m like, 'That’s so cool, I didn’t even know I could do this, I didn’t know how to do this but now I do.'
CDM: Do you think that makes your songwriting process different?
CHRISTIAN: Yeah, I think it makes it harder sometimes too, because I can hear what I want to do but I don’t know necessarily know how to communicate it. But I think more than ever, lately, I’ve been able to do that.
CDM: And it’s more fulfilling?
CHRISTIAN: 100% it is. Once you start to hear the full sound and you’re like, 'I'm making a specific type of music and it’s very independent to who I am,' it’s really cool and it’s really exciting.
CDM: When did you know you wanted to pursue music as a career?
CHRISTIAN: When it was presented to me, I guess. I’ve always wanted to do some kind of art. I’ve always wanted to make a movie, like all of my entire life I’ve been like, 'I want to make a movie.' I hadn’t written any songs really, and then I got this guitar from a thrift store and I was like, 'I know how to play guitar.' I was fourteen, maybe five years ago, and I had this acoustic guitar that I’d learnt to play. I’d learnt to play bass relatively well for my church because they needed a bass-player and I was like, 'I’ll do it and then I’ll learn it.' So I kind of started to understand how music works, and then I picked up a guitar and at first I would just learn covers of songs and try to figure out how to switch chords and everything. And then I started writing a little bit of music, and I slowly started actually communicating things though them, like actual emotions and ways that I felt and things I saw. And then I was on a social media tour, so I would perform the songs and people would be like, 'Oh, I want to listen to your songs.' I’d be like, 'That's so cool! I didn’t think anyone would want to listen to them!’ And then I was like, 'You know what? I can do it. Let’s just go for it, like while I have the opportunity - I’m a kid.'
CDM: You've got such a hard-working DIY work ethic. Why is it so important to you to be captain of your own ship?
CHRISTIAN: It’s good to have individuality, and when it comes to music for me it’s just a really personal thing. I don’t want there to be any loss of understanding. It’s hard to wrangle three people together, or four people, or five people, however many are producing on a song or writing on a song - it’s hard to get everyone on the same exact page. Especially when you talk about things like emotions, people have different experiences so they feel different ways.
CDM: It’s really personal.
CHRISTIAN: Yeah, it’s very personal, so I just feel like it would confuse me and the audience if I wasn’t captaining my own ship.
CDM: Do you want to collaborate with other people at some point?
CHRISTIAN: I'd love to, I’m not against it at all, it’s just that when I started I was by myself, so it’s just what I know to do.
CDM: I read an old 2015 Rolling Stone interview with you - your life at 14 seems quite different to how you now present yourself online. I'm only familiar with you from the first time I listened to your 'Trilogy' EP so it kind of seems to me like an entirely different person. How do you feel when you think back on your teenage years?
CHRISTIAN: I was a kid! I was such a child! I’m still a kid now, obviously, but I was irresponsible. It was all so weird, because I had some kind of following and I was a kid, and that’s a lot of pressure. It was odd.
CDM: R.I.P. Vine.
CHRISTIAN: Yeah, R.I.P. Vine. It’s weird because as a kid you’re not thinking about what you do, or how you say things, or how that will affect people. But I think that it helped me grow into who I am now, and I like who I am now, and I feel like I’m pretty comfortable with myself at this point and I know how I feel about specific things and I know who I am... I just know a lot more than I did, because of age or whatever. I feel better as a person than I did. I just feel older! I feel like I have some hair on my chin now!
CDM: In that same interview you mentioned how you found the online bullying and negativity of Twitter really hard. Is that why you've sort of withdrawn from social media aside from irregular updates?
CHRISTIAN: Oh no, honestly, when I said that, I was just a coward. Not a coward, that’s a really harsh word to use, but I was a kid and I didn’t like people making fun of me. Now I understand that everybody is gonna make fun of everybody, and it doesn't matter. I don’t mean to be drawn away, I just wanna present myself... I don’t know how I want to present myself yet.
CDM: You don’t want to overshare?
CHRISTIAN: Yeah I don’t wanna overshare, and I want to become an artist, but to the public, I wanna be like this image of an artist that I wanna create. So if I don’t know how to do that yet, I don’t wanna... I was a Vine kid, so it was like, 'That’s a Vine kid.' When you think about me, it’s like, 'Oh he does Vine,' so I don’t wanna just rush into being put into something that I haven’t decided what it is yet. It’s more of that I think. There’s not much negativity anymore, people are very nice online. I think I was just a kid and I was afraid of people being mean to me.
CDM: And when are you going to come visit us in New Zealand?
CHRISTIAN: I’m trying to come in August! I’m trying to. But my management is saying late this year, or early next year.
CDM: Sometime this year we’ll go play mini-golf!
CHRISTIAN: Okay! Great! August? Let’s shake our hands on it - my hands are sweaty, sorry!
Christian Leave's new double-singles ‘Milksop’ and ‘Darling’ are out now - click here to listen via Spotify.
Watch the 'Milksop' music video below...