Leila Jane is the next potential Eurovision artist we were able to grab for a chat over email, and learn more about the fateful message on Instagram that sent her on the path to Eurosong 2023.
For those who don’t know, Leila Jane is a Dublin based singer with roots in both London and Donegal. She was selected by Imelda May herself to receive the “Imelda May Scholarship” at BIMM Institute Dublin, and would go on to earn a degree with honors in song-writing. Leila has also performed in a number of international festivals that includes the UK’s Glastonbury Festival. But her life changed when she noticed a missed call while grocery shopping, and when she called the number back it was RTÉ announcing she’d been selected for the national final.
Hello there Leila and welcome to ESCUnited.com! We’re so happy to have the opportunity to interview you ahead of the Irish national selection. How are you doing amongst all the preparations and press?
I am very happy to be able to share the interesting story of how this all came about. The interviews have been very fun and I’ve really enjoyed meeting the Eurovision community. It’s important for me to stay focused during this time and keep a balance in order to not get overwhelmed. I think I am managing to do that, and am getting more and more excited about my performance for Eurosong as it draws closer!
My favourite thing to do during these interviews is help our readers get to know the artist better – so to do that, what is one thing someone would be interested to learn about you?
From a very young age I had an awareness that I loved to sing and that I could do it well, but it wasn’t really until I was thirteen that I ‘’came out’’ to my parents as a singer! There was a clue, however, when at the age of 5, after watching a contestant be Dusty Springfield on ‘’Stars In Their Eyes’’, I decided that I wanted to learn the lyrics of Son Of A Preacher Man.
How would you describe your musical to our readers? Are there any artists out there that inspire or influence your music?
Most of the music I have released so far has been in the indie/ americana/ alternative realm. I do think, though, that my songwriting is quite commercially minded with direct, catchy and introspective lyrics. My latest EP release has more electronic pop sounds creeping in and I think that is a result of listening to artists like Mac Demarco and Timber Timbre who have nostalgic voices but aren’t afraid to explore more modern sounds too. The combination is what makes their music so alluring for me.
If you were tapped to record a Eurovision cover album but you were allowed to pick the songs for that album, what are some songs you’d choose and why?
I am a big fan of last year’s Swedish entry ‘Hold Me Closer’ by Cornelia Jakobs. It has a great emotional pull and I love the melody. I love anything that is dreamy and allows the vocals to soar. That would be my number one cover. I would also choose the Swedish 2012 song ‘Euphoria’ because again, it allows the vocals to soar and has a great dance vibe.
Two very fantastic picks in my opinion! And I read on Donegal Daily that co-writer Liis Hainla scouted you online, saying she was looking for an artist to collaborate with for a Eurovision song. What were your first thoughts when she reached out to you via Instagram about this opportunity? Were you even thinking of Eurovision at the time?
To be honest, at first I didn’t register what she meant by ESC. I agreed to the collaboration because it seemed like a cool thing to do and I liked her ideas. It wasn’t until later that it occurred to me that ESC must mean ‘Eurovision Song Contest’! I was happy to just go along with the process because I could easily fit it into my schedule and everything seemed to flow naturally. So overall, pretty relaxed and it didn’t seem like a huge effort.
I’ve also heard you say in a few interviews that “Wild” is an empowering song that tells the story of a woman’s strength and spirit. When you and the team were writing the song, what made you decide to hone in on such a message?
The initial idea came from Liis, who I think is an amazing songwriter. She and I soon found that we had a lot of common life experiences and I feel like the song became an anthem for that kind of shared female perspective. As a songwriter and artist, the most important thing for me is to stay in touch with my sense of authenticity because then I can create art that comes from a place of integrity. I often feel myself being pulled in many directions because everyone has an opinion of how you should be when you are a female in the music industry. I like to process everything, but ultimately listen to what my own instincts are saying and follow through with that regardless of what other people think. So, Wild represents the courage it takes to follow that ‘Wild’ instinctual part of yourself despite the noise around you.
The reason that the song begins with the word ‘no’ is because we as females sometimes find that word hard to say, because we are so intent on pleasing others. However, the ultimate message is that it is ok to say ‘no’, if that is what we need in order to thrive! That is how the core message came about and then Arto and Aaron brilliantly helped with structure, lyrical details and production to make sure the song sounded as succinct and professional as possible!
I want to ask you about the music video for “Wild” because that video is just so simple with you standing or sitting in shots, but also captures the energy of the chorus with those dance segments. What was the funnest part of making that music video for you?
I love that you asked this question! Eamonn and I had a lot of fun making the music video. He was very intent on me maintaining a deadpan face while lip-syncing. There was one moment where I caught him smiling in the corner of my eye during filming and I burst out laughing. He told me that he had been thinking about the scene we were about to film with me wearing a coat in the bathtub. I think that scene of me sitting in the bathtub with sunglasses on, cocktail in-hand had to be the funniest part of making the music video. I really had to work hard at keeping a straight face for that part!
Reflecting on your entire experience so far, what has been the most fulfilling or rewarding part of this whole process? Similarly, what would you say has been the biggest challenge for you?
I suppose the challenge is the most rewarding part! I love that feeling of achieving something where your initial thoughts about it were ‘’How am I going to pull that off?’’. That is pretty much how this process has been since discovering I got through to the national final. There were so many questions running through my mind when I got that phone call in the Jervis Shopping Centre in December: ‘’How are we going to get the release ready?; How will I prepare for the performance?; Do I need backing dancers?; We’ll never have a music video ready in time’’. – Nonetheless, since then, everything fell into place and I honestly don’t know how it all happened. In that short space of time, I managed to fly to Helsinki to finalize the vocals on the track, release the updated track, make a music video just in time for the announcement and find a choreographer.
Eamonn, the cinematographer, was someone who I remembered had approached me at one of my gigs and given me his card saying he’d like to make a music video if I ever needed one. (This was maybe a few weeks before the life-changing phone call!) So I took him up on that offer once I found out the news. Liis found Michelle, the Canadian choreographer who just so happened to be travelling in Europe around the time of the performance and who could also bring along fellow dancer, Char. Hey presto, I had my backing dancers whose dancing fit the style perfectly!
The most rewarding part for me has been the incredible teamwork involved and the satisfaction of attaining each stage of the process.
I love that, pulling in some favors to make things happen I love that! As we close out and for those who want to connect with you ahead of or after the selection– where can they find you and your music?
My music is available on Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music and most other platforms. I also have a YouTube channel with loads of music videos and live performances… And for exclusive content, you can subscribe to my Fanclub page!
In closing, do you have a final message you’d like to share with the readers of ESCUnited?
The last couple of months have shown me that you never know what blessings are around the corner and if you just stay open and trust the process – even when it’s scary – magical things can happen!
Leila Jane will compete against five other artists during the Irish national selection on Friday February 3rd on the Late Late Show. The winner of the national selection and Ireland’s next Eurovision act will be selected using a combination of national televote, and a split national and international jury vote.
Are #YOU team Leila Jane? Let us know on social media @ESCUnited, on our discord, or on our forum page!
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