Leyley is on a musical mission. In October 2015 she set off on a six-month journey to write an album while travelling the world. The 20-year-old otherwise known as Lena Walker has a diverse, mixed heritage with family all over the world, fuelling her enthusiasm for life and a fervent desire to bring out the best in everyone she meets.
She has been travelling since she was a little girl and has now reached the halfway point on her latest excursion exploring south America and the West Indies. In each country she visits, she intends to write a song encapsulating her experiences which will be compiled into her debut album. We caught up with Leyley to find out more.
Looking back on it now, the decision was so inevitable. I can’t sit still. I dream of far-away lands. Of untold stories.
Tell us bit about yourself - what were you doing before you started making music?
If you ask Mama Walker, she will tell you since I’ve been making music since I was a tiny baby – well talking at least… I’ve been singing since I was a child and started playing piano at 12. I began to teach myself guitar at 15 to accompany my singing and that’s when I got my first gig. I’ve not long turned 21, so it’s coming on for 6 years since I’ve been performing out, which has gone by so quickly!
What was the first style or genre of music you really got into? Was there a particular song or artist who inspired you?
My sources of inspiration are a real mixed bag as I’ve been exposed to such an eclectic variety of music - I think reflecting my mixed heritage. My father is a jazz pianist, and loves Bossa-Nova and the rhythms of Brasil, so I feel like, Jazz and Blues is in the blood.
I listened to a lot of Folk, like Bob Dylan and Neil Young growing up with my mother. But also a lot of Soca, Steel-pan, Calypso and Reggae, as my mum lived for thirty years in the Caribbean.
It has enriched my music more that I could ever have believed and since I’ve left I can’t imagine it any other way, I was born for this.
How do you set about writing tunes? Is there a common starting point for all your work?
There really is no formula. Sometimes I write words first - sometimes the melody. Sometimes a guitar riff - or sometimes I will hear the bassline. It’s whatever works, whatever comes up. Whether my mood is happy, sad, angry, exhausted, frustrated, head-over-heels-in-love, I have to be charged. That’s why I put myself in high energy places.
I strive to surround myself with nature – waterfalls, mountains, the ocean, sights that take my breath away. To spend time with people that stimulate my mind, and make me question the way I see the world. I chase interesting, fun experiences and live for adventures.
If your music was a person, how would you describe their personality and where would they live?
She would be savage; half beast half woman. Think wild hair, twigs and leaves. Probably with animals nesting in their too. She would like to laugh and dance and would live in a tree house - fishing and foraging for dinner. Hold on, I think I am just describing myself here. The music I write comes from my soul. From my heart. From my experiences and my outlook on the world. It is free, it has no boundaries and is a piece of me. But yeah, it is most definitely savage.
What was the most significant moment of 2015 for you and why?
Last year gifted me with so many killer moments; it is hard to pick only one. But the one that is jumping out for me right now is being on a bus, the first day I arrived in Buenos Airies. It was day one of my South American tour, and I was exhausted after almost two days of travelling but I felt so at home. Sitting on my rucksack and my friends surfboard, I pulled out my guitar and started making music with a man sitting across from me.
I didn’t speak any Spanish, and he didn’t speak any English but we were communicating. I felt him welcoming me to his country. We strummed and sang together for almost an hour, making the passengers smile, then got off and went our separate ways. It was one of those moments, and I am getting them more and more often now, where you notice you have all the jigsaw puzzle pieces; everything feels right and your tummy and heart feels full.
You decided to go travelling to write music. Why did you set off on this path?
Looking back on it now, the decision was so inevitable. I can’t sit still. I dream of far-away lands. Of untold stories. I’m an explorer and what better way to unleash creativity than on the road. Things are constantly changing, your tasting unusual food, meeting people from all walks of life. All the while, mine is packed into a 5kg rucksack!
How are you finding the combination of seeing the world while writing?
Working and travelling is a way of life. I am making music on everywhere I go, in the streets, in hostels, bars, restaurants, 4x4’s… There are challenges daily, communicating with others when you don’t speak their language, finding places to perform, somewhere to sleep that night. It often gets tiring, at times exhausting.
But at the same time it’s so humbling. Sharing with others, and learning about the world makes you figure out so much about yourself. It has enriched my music more that I could ever have believed and since I’ve left I can’t imagine it any other way, I was born for this.
Where have you been to so far?
Since leaving the UK at the end of October I have visited Argentina, Chile, Brasil, a brief stop in Suriname and I am now between the Caribbean islands of Trinidad & Tobago.
Sitting on my rucksack and my friends surfboard, I pulled out my guitar and started making music with a man sitting across from me.
Where has been the most inspirational place you’ve visited? How did you feel inspired?
Everywhere has been inspiring in different ways. Being on the move provides you with such opportunities to learn about yourself. But if I had to pick one, Iguazu falls stands out in my mind. It rendered me speechless. There is nothing more to do that stare in silence at the gallons and gallons of gushing water, and rainbows stretching almost full circle, reminds you that you are so small. Yet, undoubtedly part of something bigger.
How is the music coming along?
I have six songs written for the album so far, and still have three months until I return to the UK. I really can’t wait to record and share what I have been working on. Internet access has been limited, and somewhat unreliable whilst travelling, as has the technology I’ve been able to get my hands on. So that is one of my goals for 2016: documenting more of the amazing moments I am experiencing and share them with some super quality recordings, photos and videos. Exciting!