6 Questions With Mitchell Leonard
Welcome to “6 Questions With…,” a series of interviews with emerging artists, musicians, and bands focusing on the music scene and how they live within it. It started as a quick, fun project, but has quickly gained serious interest, so it has become a permanent fixture here on Indie Minded. Over time, the questions may change, but the sentiment will stay the same. This is a way for independent artists to be discovered by new fans on a global scale.
Within in each post, you will find all of their social media links, and also either a link to their music, or the ability to stream at least one of their tracks or videos, depending on the availability.
We hope you enjoy this series, and if you know anyone that might be interested in being part of it, please have them reach out to us for more information.
Next in the hot seat is Brooklyn-based indie singer-songwriter and composer Mitchell Leonard. We have not had the privilege of featuring Mitchell here on the pages of Indie Minded, so we are thrilled to bring you this short interview. Sit back and enjoy! This is what is great about this series – the discovery of new music.
For those who may not be familiar, please tell us about your music: the type of music you play, where you are from, and how you got started?
I am a Brooklyn-based composer and recording artist, originally from Phoenix, Arizona. My primary sound is dark piano-jazz, but I am returning to what I call the ‘Barrelhouse’ style – percussive, saloon-piano jazz – for my next release. Music was always a part of my family growing up. My father was a jazz drummer, and my mother a dancer. I started playing the piano young and was writing songs by the time I was 9 or 10. When I was a teenager, I played as an accompanist for traveling theater companies, which helped to foster my knack for flashy songwriting, as well as my general dislike for musicals.
As an artist, how do you define success?
Well, the two answers that come immediately to mind are 1) being able to sustain yourself exclusively through your art, and 2) reaching a certain number of people with your creations. While these are both legitimate, I’d say I’m not sure which one is closer to accurate. When I’m creating, it’s about making the best work possible, and when I release, it becomes finding as many ears and eyes as I can. I’ve played to huge crowds, made what I consider to be incredible pieces, and still be left feeling lost and insignificant when the road turns a corner. I don’t imagine I will ever have a day that I feel like I’ve achieved ‘success’. Producing and performing music is more of a compulsion at this point.
What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?
Staying confined to a niche. In the old model music business, the powers that be would define you, take what you gave them and make it fit into a certain style of hat. Now, for independent artists, it’s up to us to make sure we’re staying consistent with branding, sound, style, etc. That’s a struggle if you’re playing and composing within different genres all the time. Especially for most artists, who by nature lack any kind of business savvy or self-control.
If you could only play ONE of your songs for the rest of your career, which one would it be?
Probably “Wintermute Falling.” It’s instrumental and carries many meanings for me, so it has great replay power. However, my latest piece “Come Downstairs” has been the main focus of my last year as an artist.
Who do you consider your greatest influences?
Wayne Horvitz, Clint Mansell, George Gershwin. Those are the people whose style I hear within my compositions.
Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?
Use of drugs/alcohol. I’m not saying that to be cute, either. I tend to write in spurts when I’m on some swing of the roller coaster, so to speak. I’ve had a long and sustained battle with addictions, and it’s been a theme throughout many of my lyrics as well. My backup and more above board answer would be some of the personal relationships I’ve witnessed through close friends. I’m intrigued by the way people run, and a good story can sometimes put songs into my head before I even realize they’re there.