An exploration of a past self

Montreal pop-jazz singer Léonie Gray’s recent EP is a cathartic release

Léonie Gray performed at L’Escalier, a cozy vegetarian restaurant near Berri-UQAM metro, on Jan. 30 to showcase new material from her recently released EP, Eliana’s Poison. The new project features delicate ballads with an electro sound and high-quality vocals. She goes from sophisticated orchestration to an intimate pop-folk register using her strong voice.

“It’s always a good experience to open up to people on a stage and to have friends come and support my performances,” Gray said after her show at L’Escalier. The Montreal-based pop-jazz singer started singing at the age of one and began performing when she was only seven. Following the release of her latest EP, Gray sought out some new musicians to complete her band. “Some of the struggles of finding new band members is finding someone reliable who you’re going to get along with in general and musically,” she said.

The cover for Léonie Gray’s new EP.

Gray’s new EP is a powerfully emotive reflection on heartbreak and loss that doesn’t always offer a light at the end of the tunnel. With an instrumental palette of piano, drums and splashes of electronica textures, Eliana’s Poison is a poised and ever-confident debut from a singer trying to prove herself in the music industry.

“I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and [I started] songwriting when I was 16 or 17 years old,” Gray said. Some of the songs on her EP, such as “Break Free,” were written when Gray was a teenager. “Actually, it wasn’t a song about a heartbreak, but a friend of mine who passed away because of cancer,” she explained.

For the songs that are about heartbreak, Gray said putting together lyrics about toxic relationships has helped her move on. “Yes and no. It doesn’t really do the job for you, but it helps you to stay focused and concentrate on yourself, to worry about your own success only,” she said.

The videography in Gray’s music video for “Break Free” features a lighthouse by the water. According to Gray, she usually jots down ideas for the music video before even writing the song. She submits these ideas and scenarios to the videographers, who then approve her suggestions and go into more details about creating a mood and selecting actors, costumes and makeup, as well as finding locations to film the music video. Gray said some videos can take a single day to shoot, while others can last anywhere from one to a few months. Regardless, she said, they are always interesting to work on.

Gray was reluctant to choose a favourite track from Eliana’s Poison, since each song represents a state of mind she has experienced. She said she loves all her songs equally, and looking back on them feels like remembering a past self.

In order to bring Eliana’s Poison to life, Gray collaborated with numerous producers, notably Sookz for the track “Cactus,” Lucas Liberatore for “Break Free” and “Your Game,” while “Save a Prayer” and “Pieces” were produced by David Esteban.

Gray expressed gratitude for the contributions each producer and musician made to Eliana’s Poison. She said she wanted to thank everyone who helped her through this process, including, “ironically enough, my ex-boyfriend, who was the main inspiration for my EP.”

Leonie Gray’s new EP, Eliana’s Poison, is available for free on Spotify and Soundcloud.

Feature photo by Joyce Chan

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