Leo Sawikin is an old soul who composes beautiful ballads in rooms with open windows on West 28th Street in New York City. His upcoming fourth album, Row Me Away was produced by Grammy-winning producer Marc Swersky and largely mixed by Tony Black, himself a Grammy winner as the recording engineer for The Diary of Alicia Keys. With the release of “Golden Days,” Leo hopes to bring comfort and consolation to listeners as we all witness the unfolding of a new world.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I wrote my first song when I was 12 as a way to vent when I found out my first crush didn’t like me back. It was such a cathartic experience, and it was a decent song for someone my age who had never written anything before. I got hooked on the feeling of making something that made me proud.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
Once while on the road back from Cape May with my drummer at the time and good friend, we went off-roading in our Lexus SUV. We drove on a road our car was probably not fully equipped for and almost got stuck in a deep puddle, but thanks to my friend’s amazing driving we were able to get through unscathed. At one point our car was actually floating on the water, but the wheels were able to push it through.
What has been the high point of your music path?
Probably getting featured in "High-Times".
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
When I’m writing songs I will usually start with a chord progression. I work through a progression I feel, and then I will usually let that sink in for a few days. Generally, if I play through a progression enough I’ll start to hear a melody. Sometimes I’ll change some of the chords or the feel to fit the melody better. Once I know exactly what the melody is going to be, I start on lyrics. I always write the lyrics to fit the melody, never the other way around. Once the song is done lyrically and melodically, I’ll show it to my producer Marc and get his opinion on the structure, and he helps me make the songs more concise.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
Pandemic aside, I think the biggest issue that musicians face these days is that there is just way too much noise. There are so many talented artists out there; it’s more difficult to keep a listener’s attention than it ever has been before. Also there’s the fact that music streaming companies reprehensibly underpay songwriters. When you combine that with covid and not being able to play live shows, it puts musicians in an absolutely terrible position to make any sort of money. If I could change one thing, I would change the way streaming companies compensate artists for their music.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
A dream show for me would be playing a set of my songs with a band like the Daptones or the Roots, or even a band like My Morning Jacket or Tame Impala. I’ve always dreamed about playing my songs with a really talented band that has a specific music style noticeably different from my own. I also would love to hear someone like Lady Gaga or Adele sing one of my songs.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
We haven’t had any rehearsals in a long time. I have a space in my house so when I need to rehearse with a band we usually rehearse there. For the livestreams I’ve done recently, I’ve just played through my songs on my own.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
The most challenging song I’ve ever written was probably "Born Too Late." It took me a while to figure out what the chorus was going to be. The song has a very specific energy so it was a challenge to add complexity to the song while keeping that vibe intact. It also took me a bit to write the bridge. The song felt like it naturally wanted to change keys after the second chorus, but it needed to do so in a way that brought the song back down into the original key. I decided the best way to go about that was to sing the chorus melody over the pre-chorus progression, which starts on the relative minor of the first chorus chord. That combination of modulating back to the original key of the song and landing the relative minor instead of the normal major chord felt incredibly explosive. In addition, this song has been a real challenge to sing because there’s no rest time until after the bridge. I always try to build that in, but with this song there was no room.
What's coming up in the future?
I have my first solo album Row Me Away releasing in 2021 and I am in the midst of doing some live video's of the new songs.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
For more information, visit my website.
Connect on Facebook.
Stream on Spotify.