In a male dominated industry it’s always tight to see a female make major moves. We were blessed with the opportunity to catch up with a lady who has been absolutely crushing as of late, Leah Culver. In this exclusive interview the IRIS Presents veteran reveals all, from album talks all the way down to how her and Big K.R.I.T. became close. It’s pretty lengthy but well worth the read; what a down to earth and over all awesome individual. See what Leah is all about below!
You just recently dropped the moniker MK Ultra and are doing your thing using your actual name, what sparked this?
Yeah! I had a lot of fun with that name but I felt I just wanted to be me now. The main reasons were because I felt my own name could be more universal to different sounds and genres I wanted to play with this year but there were a few other reasons too. I felt MK Ultra and what it stood for as a project in the 60’s wasn’t really a good representation of who I am and what I’m aiming to do. I had a lot of fun with that name and I intend to continue having lots of fun as Leah!
Growing up, was it always music for you or did you imagine your career path differently?
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? It was always music, since I was a little kid I wanted to sing in a band and now I’m kind of doing that as a DJ. My older brother was a DJ ever since I was two so I always wanted to be like my big brothers as a kid. The interest in DJing was always there but I pictured myself being like a Paramore. I’m really happy to be doing what I’m doing because I feel it’s kind of cool to be able be kind of a one man show but also have the ability to add in live sound like guitars and drums like I’ll be doing at Imagine this year. I was always very shy of my singing and growing up I was very shy in general and so I pictured touring, big stages, and performing but I never knew how I would get there but I really always knew I would. May sound funny but even with no absolute path in mind I knew that’s what I was going to do.
A lot of people seem to believe that you get your start in this business by focusing primarily on one or the other when it comes to making music and DJ’ing; were you focused on mainly one or just grinding all around the clock on both?
I’ve always made music and kind of fell in to DJing but if I had to say one or the other I’d say whatever makes you happiest! I’de also recommend being kind and supportive to your local promoters and DJs. Me personally I get a lot of happiness from both and have put a lot of focus on both. I’ve never stopped making music and I think playing shows and making good music are both essential to each other.
Who are some of your biggest influences that people might not have expect? I feel like my answer to this is always some what the same but I would be lying if I didn’t bring up Hayley Williams or Brendon Urie. I got a lot of inspiration for my Fall EP listening to the new Panic at the Disco album. I draw a lot of style and writing technique inspiration from Amy Winehouse, Adele, Hayley Williams, Brendon Urie, Ellie Goulding, Joan Jett, and bands like ACDC even. I take a lot from singers like Ella Fitzgerald now after a friend was trying to teach me to sing around the song and not always so obvious and on time. This opened up a different style for me as well, bringing in Jazz influences.
You’ve gotten support from a lot of big names throughout your career but one that stood out to me was Big K.R.I.T., how did you manage to grab his attention and could we get a possible collab from you two? (lovethat Trinidad collab btw)
Meeting Big K.R.I.Tactualy came about in a kind of funny way! So Krit has the same personal trainer in Atlanta that my mom has and she was at the gym one day at the same time he was working out. My mom is so sweet and supportive and always spreads the word about me to people any chance she gets; she’s the best! She walked over to him thinking that he just looked like “a somebody”. Justin is the sweetest guy and my mom is the sweetest lady so they hit it off immediately. My mom’s boyfriend Frank who was there as well and is particularly outgoing and fit challenged Justin to a push up battle. Through their laughter my mom of course mentioned having a daughter who’s a musician. He then told her that he was a rapper and wanted to meet me. She showed him a few of my demos and he gave my mom his number to give me. I hit him up and we met up in a studio near Atlantic Station in Atlanta where I played him more music and he played me some of his. He’s a good friend of mine and continues to support me. We have talked about collaborating and haven’t done so yet in our busy schedules but I would be honored. He is an amazing musician and lyricist and I would be lucky to work with him. He’s also given me a lot of great advice on how to handle certain situations as they come.
Something K.R.I.T told me that really stuck to me was to get ready for the haters because if they aren’t talking you are doing something wrong.
I’ve heard this before from a lot of artists. I’ve never talked about this before but I think it’s important to address this for all people not justup and comers and artists.
Whether it’s your peers at work being condescending towards you, bullies at school, or a friend that isn’t supporting your hard work towards your dreams as you feel a good friend should, it’s important to realize it’s not you and that they just have feelings of their own. Youcan’t do anything about that. Sometimes it’s their own insecurities, sometimes it’s that jealousy demon, and sometimes it’s just hate but the most important thing is that you keep doing you and that you keep loving them genuinely. Some buttery mashed potatoes for thought.
Word is you’ve got an EP in the works that’s due later this summer; tell us a little bit about that?
I’m really excited to finally be getting new music out! I named it Radiance because when I think of the word radiant I imagine an object that exudes light. A lot of the messages I put out are about spreading positivity and creating light. I think it’s really important to put out as much positivity in to todays world as possible. There’s so much darkness already, why add to it you know?
This will be my first Leah Culver EP and I’m stoked to be showing a lot more of my voice on this one. A lot of people were asking me to sing on my own tracks and so I made it a goal to give them that because really they are the ones that matter not me. When I write I’m always thinking about what I’m saying and how it can affect the people who hear it. I want to help people through things and inspire. I wouldn’t consider myself successful no matter what unless I was inspiring others in a positive way.
The debut track off the EP, “Ex Is A Loser”, definitely has an upbeat feel should we expect more tracks like this or are you going to mix it up?
Absolutely! Though I will say that Ex is a Loser has it’s own identity very different from the rest of the EP, I can also say that I’ve been working on a lot of different sounds recently. Radiance has a lot of belty anthem like hooks that are different from things I’ve written in the past. Radiance has a lot of positive messages in it that matter to me, the theme is strength and I think it’s really important to believe in yourself and be strong no matter what happens. We are all radiant.
Can we get some hints as to who you’ve been working with on Radiance?
I’m looking at working with a few more artists on my follow up EP after Radiance. Possibly Borgore, Mark The Beast, Prince Fox, Adara, Marshmello, and Yultron. I say possibly because you never know what happens but I’m currently working with them now on tracks. I’ve done some vocals for Adventure Club and The Chainsmokers as wellbut I don’t think those will be on my EP.
I know this question is cliché but I always ask because I love to hear and I know the readers do to, especially from somebody like you. What advice would you give to anybody trying to make it in this industry?
My advice is to always be yourself and do whatever you love no matter what anybody says. If you do what others say you might not be happy with the results so it’s important to live by what matters to you. I also think it’s very important to stay humble because at the end of the day it’s not going to help anybody to have a big ego. I also think treating the people who support you like kings and queens is what we should all be doing since they are the reason us artists are getting to do what we love. Keep working until it’s yours because nothing can stop you but yourself.
There you have it, hopefully this brought you a little bit closer to the talented Leah Culver. If you’re heading to Imagine this weekend you wont want to miss her 2:45pm Sunday set at Oceania. Her live sets are always on point and super high energy; caught her at IMF last year and ended up being one of my favorite shows from the weekend. Be sure to keep a look out for her Radiance EP that is due later this summer!
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