L.T. Leif is an artist who has not only recently joined the Lost Map and OK Pal roster, but who has only just been with us in Scotland a short while, originally hailing from Canada. With folk influences, alongside a big life transition for Leif, their recently released debut LP, Come Back to Me, but Lightly feels delicate and yet vast, embracing life and all its natural occurrences.
Leif spoke with SNACK about their LP and performing at the Celtic Connections with a line-up of Lost Map artists they admire.
Your debut, Come Back To Me, But Lightly, was released last month, how would you describe it in a sentence for those yet to listen to it?
I think that it’s important that it was written over this period when I was going through some kind of change as a person. There was something about contending with my ego and allowing myself to change into a person, essentially, that couldn’t exist in old contexts. I was also contending with my own ego, and allowing myself to change into someone that couldn’t have existed in my old contexts. A part of my identity had to die or give way, to make space.’ It feels like there’s a lot of spaciousness or vastness to it, for me, at least. I think both sonically and conceptually that it’s about the northern landscape. I’m just thinking about that relationship to when we’re in the north, the sun is such a symbol of warmth, growth, and light, but there’s like this part of the year where it’s just kind of hanging in the sky, and you’re waiting for it to come back.
And the other thing that I think is nice to talk about with the album, is just how it’s built. It is centred around where I was, and my own process, but it’s also involving so many people who are so far away for me and contributing. Some of them I’ve known and have been working with for 20 years and some of them are brand new, like Robyn (Dawson, on violin). So, I would get people to send in parts and then spend a lot of time just making these delicate collages at home in my room. I’m sure there’s a way more concise way to talk about that. But it feels important somehow that there’s like this energy that relates this to the sun, that feeling that there are these people, these important connections, and you’re somehow in orbit with them. That was not one sentence, more like 20 sentences.
Maybe that’s a reflection of the space that exists within the album. It deserves more space than a sentence. A delicate and vulnerable LP, it’s a gorgeous listen. Being from both northern Canada and having spent some time in Finland, do these experiences creep into the music?
Yeah, for sure. There is this really like a cosmic art, astronomical theme throughout the album, as well. And the whole thing is written loosely as a love song. About the northern sun, and the relationships you have to it, as a person standing on the earth. Those songs were written over six years, so it started when I was still living in Canada, and just starting to think about the pull to do something else. And so the oldest songs that made it onto the album are kind of from that time, or that was when things were starting to come together, moving my life around and deciding to move to Finland. I was doing a school programme, which is what finally brought me away to Finland. But it being a northern country was also one of the things that drew me there as an option. And so a lot of the other songs on the album, too, are from that time and lens. I started spending more time in Scotland as well.
And what has it been like working with OK Pal and Lost Map to produce and promote this record, they seem a sound bunch of folks.
Honestly, it’s been so magical. It’s the first time working with a team of other people on anything that I’ve made – my stuff at least. I don’t feel like I’m working any less hard, it just feels so different, like a pleasure to treasure to have this whole crew of really supportive, good-hearted, generous people. A lot of it can be quite lonely work. There’s the beautiful side of being a musician where you get to be in a room with other people, making stuff together, sharing this thing. But there’s also the other side of it, where so much of it just kind of happens in the vacuum of the internet. It just feels grounding for me to have this crew of really invested people.
And you were included in a massive lineup of Lost Map artists to perform as part of their 10-year anniversary Celtic Connections gig, what was that like personally for you?
It felt, and it still actually feels surreal. I think because I admired Lost Map from afar for so long, even before I moved here and I like the way that they operate. And it just feels quite special in a lot of ways and it’s just down to earth. It’s extremely generous and they’re just so genuinely supportive of each other. All of the bands are so great. It was honestly exciting and beautiful to be part of it.
In Finland, I wasn’t really playing shows. I was, in a lot of ways, quite isolated there, working on different parts of my practice. So, in a way, it can feel like I’m emerging from something that was a bit more of a blank space into something that feels amazing; into a zone where I’m playing in such an amazing venue as part of such an amazing crew as part of this festival.
You have already launched your album at the Glad Cafe, and been playing at Celtic Connections but are there any other upcoming L.T. Leif gigs that we can look forward to?
The ones that I’m most excited about are happening in the summertime, and I can’t tell you what they are yet. The one that I can announce is that I’m gonna open for Rozi Plain in Newcastle. And then I’ll also tell you about this one, even though it’s not specifically L.T. Leif, but I’ve also been recruited to play in this Ivor Cutler cover band that’s playing on March 10th and 11th in Glasgow and Edinburgh which I’m very excited about.
Come Back To Me, But Lightly is out now via OK Pal and Lost Map