Interview: Leon Seti
Before anything, I'd like to thank you for accepting my invitation. I admire your work, not only as a listener but as an artist myself, knowing the struggle of building everything from scratch.
How would you describe this process and how do you experience every 'birth'?
I have always been independent so it is very normal for me to write songs and then organically decide to put them out. For the last year I have been sticking with singles, which require a lot of attention and care when it comes to the whole business side. You know how important it is to invest in promotion and to have knowledge of music marketing in this business, so for me every time I put a song or an album out, it’s very much a job. I detach myself completely from the artist and act as the label exec. I never get excited to hear people’s reaction until days after, because it’s like Leon Seti the artist isn’t even there on release day. For me the most artistic rewards come from myself after I finish writing a new song, the satisfaction of knowing I wrote something good is deeply personal and doesn’t come from the outside.
You released your first body of work, 'Talking Shadows', back in 2016. What pushed you to write this album and how did it feel to release your first music out there?
That feels like such a long time ago… I was very young and wanted to try writing songs, and the first ones weren’t even personal! I was experimenting with logic and songwriting but my skills were so underdeveloped that I still think, to this day, that the EP had a lot of strokes of genius. I was so unbothered by the whole business side and didn’t even know about any musical technicality, which resulted in a very artistic spontaneity that I can still appreciate.
There are songs of yours like 'Ultra Silver Lining' or 'Fake' that, in my opinion, have a great potential to become what is called 'hits' in the commercial music scene. Do you have this in mind during the creative process, or does it manifest naturally?
I would be lying if I said I don’t. But I think it’s important not to follow the rules and not to give people what they already know, if you want to set trends. I am fully aware at times that my songs have a pop sensibility which could work on the charts, but it’s never in my mind while I write them. It’s always after, when I listen to them again, that I feel it.
I personally received Cobalt as a truly mature piece of you, peaceful and confident at the same time. Like the color itself. What does Cobalt mean to you? Also, are there tracks in it that will keep following you forever?
That’s a huge compliment, thank you. Cobalt is my only album so far which I am truly truly proud of. Even if there are a lot of things I would change today, I was actually listening to it the other day and I thought “this is quite a coherent and good piece of work”. Cobalt is both the colour and the metal (I am obsessed with metals and alchemy) and it is the most beautiful shade of deep blue. It reflected the mood of the album perfectly, which is why I ultimately named it that. To answer your second question, I still think that Silver Lining is the best song I’ve every written, so I hope it haunts me forever.
'South' and 'Internectar' are among my very favorites. Can you freely express yourself on those tracks, let us know how you connect to them?!
'South' is a very melancholic song about leaving my house of two years and not looking back, which coincidentally happened right before a breakup after I had just moved to London. It really was very tough for me so I said to myself “you know what? I wanna go south, I want to go home to Italy”. Which I did to recharge. I’m also gonna spill some tea…South is being reworked to be included in my next album, but you didn’t hear it from me.
'Internectar' is a bangeeeeeer, but the mix and master didn’t really exceed my expectations, so I’d love to go back to it and re-do it. It actually contains my favourite part of the entire album, the bridge. I really love the harmonies there and the retro synth.
I was wondering if Leon Seti and Leo are two entities. Is Leon Seti an alternate persona you've created for yourself or is it 100% Leo Baldi?
Leon Seti is 100% Leo Baldi, there is no distinction. I actually cringe when people call me by my surname though, because in my head I’m Leon Seti. And it means so much more to me when people understand that.
If someone drained your passion and ability for music, what other means would you use to express yourself?
I can draw! My mum is a painter and my sister is also very good at it, I still keep a couple of drawing notebooks just for fun, but I have to be in the right state of mind, which doesn’t happen very often.
Tell me about how you're connected to Italy and how come we don't have an Italian song of you yet?!
We will very soon! I lived my adult life in the UK, since I was 19 so to me it feels perfectly natural to sing in English, which is the language that I speak the most anyway. I also find it easier to express myself with English lyrics because it is such an eclectic language with so many influences and it is stimulating to work with it.
The Greek media had channeled a tragic situation in Italy at the beginning of the pandemic. I can't help asking how the pandemic affected you as a person and as an artist.
Where do I begin? This has definitely been the worst year of my life, but being a songwriter really has been crucial in helping me transform the pain into songs. If I hadn’t written anything I think I would have been completely depressed today. I think transforming pain into songs is the testament of our craft. Artists create. So in a sense the pandemic has been the worst and best experience, because I got to write about it.
With all the respect, can you name one thing on Leo that makes him proud of himself and one that makes him feel vulnerable?
I am quite adventurous in life, I move easily and I make friends in new places all the time. That’s truly my best quality, because I try to have a positive attitude towards everything new. On the other hand, though, I struggle with self-confidence and doubt myself constantly. But my philosophy right now is to try to smile even if I don’t feel like it, and sooner or later I will start seeing all the good around me and inside me.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
In a quite place, writing music in my studio.