You may know Mike Leon best as the drummer in his brother Mattie Leon‘s band. But it turns out that the singer-songwriter gene is strong in the Leon family, and now Mike has just released his fantastic debut single, “Bright Side”. We caught up with Mike to chat about the song, how it feels to release his own music, and his musical influences.
From The Strait: Tell us about the new single, “Bright Side”.
Mike Leon: My new single ‘Bright Side’ is a Folk-Rock stomp & clap about hanging onto optimism amidst life’s many hurdles. Being involved in music for quite some time you’re constantly going through ups and downs from one performance to the next and from one release to the next. There’s not always tangible evidence that things are improving. Also, this was written a couple years back, prior to getting married. So, there’s a little bit of that pre-engagement pressure intertwined into some of the writing. I think just about everyone ends up struggling with some underachievement, not meeting their own goals and expectations. But you just keep moving forward.
FTS: You’ve been a longtime drummer for your brother, Mattie Leon. What has it been like to start writing, recording, and now releasing material of your own?
Mike Leon: It’s very exciting. I’m enjoying the process/puzzle of trying to tie together lyrics and melodies so that they tell somewhat of a clear story or mood. It’s helped immensely to have Mattie’s expertise in writing. especially with guitar chord progressions to help build tension within songs. Over the last couple years because of all the “Mattie Leon” recording experience with both Gavin Brown and Mark Howard I’ve gotten to be a bit of a fly on the wall as to useful writing/recording tips. I’ve tried to take some of the lessons that Matties worked on as a writer and include them in my songs. (At a much much lower proficiency lol) Recording was relatively quick and relaxed because we did everything in the studio at Mattie’s place. I’m really happy with the sounds we got out of the space and I’m looking forward to getting everything out. The only thing I’m a little bit worried about is the time and commitment to promotion with each new release. I’ve done a pretty good job over the years letting Mattie do all the social media stressing, so I guess I’m due.
FTS: There’s something special about hearing a song live a few times and getting to know and love it, hoping it might be released someday. You’ve been playing “Bright Side” at shows for a while now, so a lot of us have already been fans of the song. Do you remember what it was like to play it for the first time to an audience at a Mattie Leon show?
Mike Leon: I’ve been lucky enough to be on drums most of the time while playing it, so I’ve at least been in the comfort of “backstage behind a kit”. Unfortunately I don’t remember the exact first show. I do remember playing it for the first time on guitar though. It was on one of the livestream specials we did. It felt super awkward, a different kind of nerves playing to an audience behind screens not seeing or feeling any human interaction. I don’t recommend lol.
FTS: If you could only choose one, would you rather play drums or sing & play guitar?
Mike Leon: Tough one. I think if we take into account drum setup and teardown time then playing guitar and singing gets the nod. Also I like the writing and creation process a bit too much now to turn back to just the beats.
FTS: Who were your musical influences growing up, and how do they differ from your current ones?
Mike Leon: I was into Oasis, Green Day, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, 54-40 back in late elementary/high school. I leaned a bit more into classic rock compared to a lot of my buddies who were more entangled in the pop/punk while we were growing up. I still enjoy a lot of those same sounds, but I’m finding myself listening to more folk/americana style music now. Maybe because those have been the playlists we’ve been trying to get attention from. ( I’ve been studying the algorithm’s lol)
FTS: What are some of your non-musical hobbies?
Mike Leon: I’ve always been a sports guy. Lots of hockey and golf growing up and I’ve managed to keep playing a bit of both through the years. I like a bit of cooking, not so much following recipes but the freestyle approach. Have to work on reading more books…..big fan of movies and movie theatre popcorn!
Check out “Bright Side”, the debut single from Mike Leon!
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