When Leona Naess sings, you listen. Her lyrics are deep as the oceans floor, her singing is warm like a bowl of soup. Naess was born in New York City but raised in London, grew up in the Chelsea neighborhood of London. Unlike many artists who are showcased by the label Leona has a true personality, you can see it in her video clips, you can read it in her lyrics that everything is coming from the heart, with pure love, and pure emotion.
Naess first started playing at the age of 14, she claims it was a gift from her mother. She found inspiration in the contemporary singer/songwriters Tracy Chapman, Sinéad O’Connor, and Edie Brickell and her musical influences are too many for us to list but you can simply read her own list on her Myspace page
At the age of 18, Naess moved out to New York City to study music at NYU, she later switched her major, receiving a degree in anthropology. A resident of Greenwich Village, she began performing with her guitar at open mikes and was soon performing regularly in coffeehouses, bars and clubs like The Bitter End around Lower Manhattan, even busking at times. A friend, who was an intern at Sony Records, invited an executive to see Naess perform. Soon, a number of record companies were interested in signing her. She signed with producer Scott Litt’s record label, Outpost Records, at the age of 22, shortly after graduating from NYU.
Five years after Leona Naess gave it one more shot at the big time with an Ethan Johns-produced eponymous album, she returns with Thirteens, a subdued album that feels a bit like a rebuke to the splashy, hyped records she made at the turn of the millennium.
Ness’ downshift into a quieter gear came from the combined blow of losing her major-label contract and then losing her father, two events that helped her re-evaluate life. It’s an exhausted cliche that turmoil produces great art, but in Ness’ case there may be some germ of a truth there because the prolonged wood shedding she spent in the middle of the decade, when she wrote and recorded at home never releasing the material, has given way to this delicate, subtle album for Verve Forecast.
Thirteens has slight passing echoes of such similar singer/songwriters as Dido, but Naess has a deeper warmth to her music, giving this the feel of a warm, gentle bath. And for music largely born in the wake of pain, there’s a lot of lightness here, and not just in the openly jaunty “Leave Your Boyfriend Behind.” The entire album has a lithe feel, driven as much by melody and mood as it is lyrics, and that’s a plus: the album gels as a sustained piece of music. The whole thing rolls easy, never feeling as labored or constructed as her worthy big-budget hyped records, which is ironic, as this is the one album she’s done that perhaps justifies all that commotion.
Daniel: In an interview with LAist you’ve mentioned that your album title, Thirteens, had multiple meaning. Tell us about it.
Leona: Its really a secret but the main reason is that it is a compilation of 13 records worth of song I had recorded over the four years.
Daniel: How has it been going for you with the new label Verve Forcast?
Leona: Its early days but they let me do my thing and have not asked me to do any stupid shit so that’s good.
Daniel: iTunes has been offering your album with an exclusive bonus track featuring Ryan Adams, how did this relation come across?
Leona: Well we are old friends and i had the song already recorded but have always wanted to do a duet and i was recording in mid town and he was recording around the corner. i called him, he came over and nailed it in 10 mins..
Daniel: So has your music career progressed between your first album to your second album, Thirteens?
Leona: Well i think my voice is stronger and my lyric have more substance but who knows.
Daniel: I noticed you’ve done a little viral campaign with a limited edition vinyl copy of “Heavy Like Sunday” (P.S one of my favorites) single will get one of the “500 exclusive Polaroids” taken by you. How did you come up with this creative idea?
Leona: Thanks! And yes this is true and not sure whose idea it was. one of us.. after having to take 500 pictures i was happy to never see a Polaroid again.
Daniel: In which locations, and how much time did it take you to shoot 500 polaroids? Take us through the journey of taking those photos..
Leona: I had a camera and Zakee ( who did the art work) had one and we had a week to take 250 pic’s each. it started with us being very picky and creative but by the last day i was taking pictures of gum on the street.
Daniel: How have you been able to maintain the closeness with your fans as your career has blossomed and your fan-base have increased?
Leona: Always very surprised if anyone knows who I am or comes to see me play.
Daniel: Most people have moments that they just wish they could go back in time and once again, experience them. With so many places you’ve been and seen, which part of your life would be yours?
Leona: “The tour i just did with Ray was pretty wonderful. I loved my band and also the rooms were perfect to sing in. Sound checking in Radio City was a head trip. If only you could see what that room looks like in the light.