first thing you notice upon listening to the 2011 LeeSun CD, the 17
track PRiME, is how effortlessly she puts her sound together.
You could swear that some of these tracks were made back in L.A. in
the late 60s. Although of Korean lineage, LeeSun sings perfectly
in English and, in fact her vocal delivery and music sounds like a
blend between the spacy folk-pop vocals of Joni Mitchell with a kind
of earthy Susanna Hoffs type of breathiness. You cant discount
Yoko Onos influence here, although Leesun is even more completely
whimsical and thoroughly unique in her scope. Sounding more like L.A.
in the late 60s (than say Leeds in 2011!) PRiME introduces
a touch of lighthearted, retro style pop fun to the too often weary
world of 21st century pop music. Based in the U.K., LeeSun recorded
her music with some great players backing her yet, writing her own
words and music, she places her unique vocals up front. You would
think that if listeners could open their ears a little wider, artists
as unique and special as Leesun could break through. LeeSun gets solid
support from a number of players including Taz Modi (keyboards,
guitars), Dan Klenner (drums, guitar) and Dan Norton
(bass). Also occasionally supplanting the keyboard based sound
are various musicians adding musical coloration on flute, double bass,
oboe, flugelhorn, cello, tenor sax and violin. LeeSuns music
is really the reason to hear PRiME but CD collectors will enjoy
the colorful artwork, excellent packaging and extensive booklet and
lyrics that accompanies the silver disc edition. www.LeeSunMusic.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
mwe3: Hows things in England? Freezing here tonight. Speaking
of England, how long have you lived there and can you say something
about where you grew up?
LS: Hi Robert! Things are all good here in England, thanks. I've been
here since 2001, and the weather hasn't improved in that time, but
the people are as interesting and lovely as ever.
As you know, my parents are Korean. They moved to Canada when I was
just 5 months old, and that's where I grew up. Unfortunately I haven't
been back to Korea, and I don't have any relatives to visit there!
I can speak Korean fluently, though with the vocabulary and grammar
of a 4 year old native speaker. This always amuses other Koreans.
There must be a great story as to how the PRiME CD took shape.
When did you realize that you had an album on your hands? Interesting
title with the small i.
LS: That must be my messy handwriting! The title is supposed to be
all lower case, actually. I wrote it using the ink cartridge of a
fountain pen. PRiME is my first album, and it took a really
long time for me to get around to recording it. The oldest song on
it is the first track, Mickey Mouse, which is the first
song I ever wrote, way back in 1995. And the newest song on it is
Missing You Already which was written in 2007, the year
I recorded the album.
Between those years, I had enough material to record an album in any
given year, but it took a big push from a good friend to ultimately
make it happen. That big push came in 2007, and once my friend suggested
that I come to her house and record, the whole thing came together
very quickly. The planning took place over a period of less than two
months, and the recording took less than two weeks! That included
assembling a new band, and learning and arranging all the songs. It
was such an exciting time. I still think of it fondly!
mwe3: What was your early musical training like and can you say what
instruments you play and how did you perfect your song writing style?
Also do you practice on your instrument or spend most of the time
LS: I started piano lessons when I was 8, and eventually did a music
degree at the University of British Columbia, with piano as my main
instrument, and voice as my secondary instrument. I played the French
horn throughout high school, and have tried the violin and guitar.
I started song writing while studying at UBC, and it was a means of
processing my feelings and thoughts at a time when I was really struggling
to make sense of why I was at university, doing what I was doing.
Jane Coop, who I studied with at UBC was very supportive of my branching
out into song writing.
These days I juggle a few things, like being a mom, running an ebay
business which is my bread-and-butter for now, and working on my second
album (PRiME Plus One) which I hope to release by the end of
2012. Day to day life is incredibly full, and I use my spare moments
to work on songs for the new album. I've got about 8 songs written
so far. The new album is going to feature mainly piano and vocal arrangements,
so a really stripped back sound. I'm really excited about it!
mwe3: Can you say something about the musicians who play with you
on the PRiME CD and describe the chemistry between you and
the players and what was it like working with producer Pete Miko?
LS: When we lay down the initial tracks for the album, in Calgary,
there was just myself, Taz Modi on keys, and Dan Klenner on percussion.
The chemistry was amazing. Taz and Dan met for the first time in Calgary,
and they got on so well. They both are passionate about playing music,
and when we weren't rehearsing or recording, they were still jamming!
They're also both very gentle spirits, like Pete Miko, so working
with them was a heartwarming, encouraging experience.
the producer, is a perfectionist, and was very particular about all
the production aspects of the album. He's a behind-the-scenes kind
of guy, and thinks everything through very thoroughly. Before we arrived,
he listened to rough versions of all the songs, and thought through
all the details of the studio set up, to get the sound he and I wanted.
So in a way, he was hardly noticeable when we were recording, but
he made sure the rooms were beautiful and atmospheric, conducive to
being inspired and relaxed, and of course he made sure that the actual
audio captured was warm and well produced. It was a pleasure working
with Pete Miko, and I hope to work with him again some day!
mwe3: Do you have any favorite songs on the new album? Is there a
single that youre recommending to radio? Im just getting
into the track Missing You Already but so far my favorite
is I Wonder.
LS: I think my absolute fave is Away From Me. I always
feel such longing and hope when I sing that song. And for lyrics,
my favorites are Always That Way, Want2be
It's funny, so many people tell me that Missing You Already
is their favorite. I do really like that song, of course, but it doesn't
really touch me deep down, the way lots of my other songs do.
Wonder is a song about how confusing it can be to start
a new relationship. It's fun to sing, and often makes me dance. When
I wrote it, I was feeling a bit cheeky, a bit confused, somewhat elated,
and a little bit scared, about a new relationship which had grown
out of a good friendship.
mwe3: The artwork for the booklet and the entire packaging, lyrics
book is great. Is there a story behind how packaging and artwork?
LS: All the main artwork was done by Benny Smith, who was just 18
at the time. His mum lives two doors away from me! When I was planning
out the album artwork, I saw some of Benny's photos and thought they
were really beautiful. So we had a chat about the album. And then
I saw an advert for a Christian Dior perfume which featured a beautiful
girl holding some balloons, and it really captured my imagination.
So Benny and I planned a photo shoot using balloons.
wanted something that captured the dreamy spirit of the album, and
also the beauty and quirkiness. I think Benny really delivered! The
booklet was a different story. I used quite a lot of random photos
in the booklet, taken over the years. Some of the photos were taken
during the recording of the album. Lots of the photos aren't very
professional as I just snapped them on a low-end digicam. But that
seemed to fit in with the way the songs on the album were gathered
from over the years, from different life experiences.
mwe3: Who were your big musical influences growing up? I was thinking
maybe its time for an international singer-songwriter of Korean
heritage to become a mega-star. Are you ready for stardom?
LS: The first album I ever bought was by Weird Al Yankovic. I didn't
listen to pop music back then, though I'd heard of quite a few of
the original songs just because they were so ubiquitous. I loved Weird
Al, his cleverness, his humor. Aside from that, I mainly listened
to classical music. In university, a boyfriend introduced me to all
sorts of bands and artists, such as Suzanne Vega, Simon & Garfunkel,
U2, Daniel Lanois, and Ella Fitzgerald. And that was a wonderful and
challenging introduction to pop music!
It would be great to see an artist of Korean heritage become internationally
successful, and of course, I would love to be that person! I suppose
that growing up in Canada, I was always quite aware that though I
felt Canadian through and through, I was part of a minority group,
and my appearance was different from the people in the mainstream
media, characters in TV shows and movies. The heroine of mainstream
stories didn't ever look like me. I think lots of creative people
feel like outsiders anyway, and adding the element of being very obviously
part of a minority intensified that feeling for me.
But skin color aside, I think I have a unique voice and things to
say that connect with people, universally. Hopefully it's just a matter
of time and working hard to find those people who want to hear my
music. I'm excited about 2012 and will be working for a breakthrough
with my music, this year. I don't know what the future holds, but
stardom is definitely a part of my plans! We'll see ...
Thanks to Leesun @ www.LeesunMusic.com