Leah Capelle is fearless. Her songs recent songs "Docs" and "Settle Down" show that she isn't worried about putting feminism into her music, and that's something we can get behind. Leah is honest with her experience and there's nothing holding her back.
How did you get started in music?
I was raised by a retired classical soprano who serenaded me with John Denver and The Beatles on her beat-up guitar, and a tone-deaf man who shamelessly loved Luther Vandross. Music was in my blood. I started on classical piano when I was in kindergarten, then classical voice, and then rebelled to play rock n' roll. I joined a cover band in eighth grade and started dating the drummer – like a real little rock star, right? – before really starting to play my own music live. I began performing in bars around the Chicagoland area and up in Northern Wisconsin, where I lived over the summer. I had these crazy three hour gigs where I would switch back and forth between my piano and acoustic guitar playing covers and originals to locals and tourists alike. There was never a doubt in my mind that I wanted to pursue music professionally. Nothing has ever brought me as much joy and writing and performing my music, and as long as that continues to be the case, I will continue to grow, to write and to perform.
I love the feminist messages in your music, why is that so important to you?
As cliche as this expression is, I think it's vitally important to 'speak your truth.' To be your most authentic self. And my most authentic self is a woman who doesn't fit into any one stereotypical box, and who will fight to be seen as I really am. This is not to say that all of my songs have a feminist message – I also write about love, loss, mental health, relationships, etc – but as a woman in music, my message is equality, always. My songs "Docs" and "Settle Down" both grapple with the societal expectations imposed on me by others. For example, around the time I wrote Docs, many men in my life had told me that "men don't like short hair." I was obviously frustrated by that, because long hair didn't feel genuine to me. So I spontaneously chopped it off one day and immediately felt more like myself. With "Settle Down", the impositions were more nuanced. Male figures in my life who were supposed to be my mentors continually put me down, or pushed me to become a "brand" that was sexualized and entirely falsified. Once I realized the situation I was in, I rebelled again. Situational rebellion against societal standards is how I speak my truth.
What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
I think my biggest challenge is one that I'm continually overcoming. As an artist and songwriter, it's so easy to get caught up in comparisons. I'm fortunate to be surrounded by creative people who are all incredible and unique. It takes a lot of strength to not be tainted by jealousy, and I am not always very strong. However, as soon as I allow those feelings to pass, I realize that my friends and peers in this industry are the people who are going to continue to push through to the top and grow alongside me, which is a beautiful thing.
Tell me about the video for “Settle Down” what was the process?
My team and I knew we wanted the video to be artistic and interpretive. We sifted through a few different storyboard ideas before my director, the indelible Robyn August, pitched the idea of a video opening with me alone, covered in paint, reversing all the way through my meltdown to being completely clean at the end. At first, he thought Settle Down was about love – a fair assumption, since the chorus opens with the lyric, "How do I fall in love, when everyone is only hooking up?" – but once I explained to my team that the song was about failing to live up to the societal expectations I felt were pushed onto me, the paint idea became a lot more interesting. We decided to label all the paint cans with controlling statements that had actually been said to me, and decided that I should be nude to emphasize the vulnerability of the message. Releasing this video is one of the scariest choices I've ever made, but I'm so proud of the way it turned out and overwhelmed by the positive response I've been receiving.
What else has been inspiring you lately?
I'm SO INSPIRED by the women in my life. I can't even say enough kind things about them. Each are powerfully delicate in their love, compassion, creativity, and support. They push me to be a better writer, better musician, and better person. I wouldn't be even an inch of the person I am today if I hadn't discovered such a wonderful bouquet of wildflowers out here in the desert.
What’s your best piece of advice for young women?
Ask yourself the following questions: What is important to you? What do you stand for? What do you want to say? Try to find ways in your daily life to nurture those things, and to stand up for the things you believe in. And then remember that it's okay to be soft. To feel deeply. To love too hard. To fail. It only by accepting the chaos that you can find balance.