Album Review | AIC | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5
With a handful of well-crafted songs, a lucrative clothing sponsorship deal and the good looks she was born with, Anna Leddra Chapman has now uncorked the Champaign, aimed it squarely at the stern of her vessel and has successfully launched what looks like a very promising music career. With a voice not unlike Regina Spektor in places and the attitude of a young Kate Winslet, Leddra Chapman has brought to fruition the CD that she always dreamed of making and always wanted to be proud of. With ten songs to go on, together with a handful of video diaries and a generous presence on the interweb, I was still curious to find out more about this young Essex songwriter and the best way to do that was to reach for the telephone. On a particularly wet and windy December weekday afternoon, I seized upon the opportunity to speak to Leddra and first of all I enquired about where exactly the ‘Anna’ part of her name had disappeared to and whether or not I should send out a search party. “Anna Leddra Chapman is my full name and it was always a bit of a mouthful for people to say, especially when they were introducing me at gigs. My friends at college call me Leddra anyway, it’s kind of become a nickname and so it just felt really natural to lose the Anna. It’s nice as well when I’m working and when I’m doing my music I’m Leddra and when I’m on stage I’m Leddra and then when I’m home with my family I’m Anna again, it’s really nice to almost have a bit of an alter ego with it”. Born into a musical family, her dad a musician who had done what most self-respecting musicians do, that is to fill the house with music, Leddra had soon absorbed everything she heard around the house to good effect as she explained. “I just grew up listening to really kind of cool music, we had lots of Radiohead and lots of Pulp and some Michael Jackson, just lots of music playing in the house. My dad played in bands ever since I was a little girl so I was never really scared to pick up a guitar and start learning”. Picking up that guitar at the young age of 12, Leddra set about composing her first lyrics almost immediately, then faced the frustrating slog of finding a gig where she would be accepted at such a young age. Like other singers before her, Laura Marling for example, it would sometimes prove to be tricky getting into some venues to play at all. “It happened at a few places but a lot of places made exceptions for me, which was really nice” Leddra explained, “I remember playing my first ever gig in London when I was 15 at a place called Monkey Chews in Camden and I’m pretty sure that they didn’t ever normally let anyone under 16 play but my mum had got in contact with them before hand and I think the rule was I had to play and then leave or just not have any drinks”. Leddra did however wait patiently for her age to catch up on her burgeoning talent and her debut album has now finally been released. Referring to her music as chilled-out folkie-pop, the ten songs on Telling Tales perfectly reflect this self-assessment and cover a broad scope of themes influenced in the main by the books and films that Leddra had read or seen, as well as from the real life people around her, all personal to this young songwriter in their own way. “I’m really really proud of it because every song means something different, it’s very special to me and I’m really chuffed with the sound that we’ve come up with. Obviously I started writing when I was so young that I needed to develop as an artist and I had no idea what I wanted to sound like; one minute I really wanted to be like an Avril Lavigne, kind of rock chick and the next minute I was in love with Damien Rice and I wanted just a guitar and voice. Then I met the producer of the album Peter Vettese and we worked together and together we just found this really cool sound and it just works for me”. The most immediately accessible song on the album is “Story”, which gets things off to a sprightly start. The protagonists of this little vignette, with its infectious arrangement augmented by the Egham Brass Band and a flirtatious harpsichord, are Marisa Jones and Michael Porter, two characters lost in their own complex relationships. I asked Leddra whether these two characters were real or imagined? “Marisa is my best friend, I’ve changed her surname and Michael Porter is going to remain a bit of a mystery”. I expected nothing less to be honest. The song is accompanied by a promotional video, which has in no small part brought Leddra’s song to a wider audience. “We filmed that in Hossegor, the place I go to perform some of the Quiksilver events and we were lucky enough to film a lot of that video in the Quiksilver house. It was a real pleasure to film and was the first time I ever had to lipsinc or do any kind of posing in front of a video camera it was very surreal”. The Quiksilver clothing company took on board Leddra as one of their European brand ambassadors, which the songwriter has embraced wholeheartedly. Neither a singer songwriter turned model, nor a model trying her hand at song writing, Leddra has the rare status of being an artist able to run both things simultaneously from the outset, presumably giving her the best of both worlds. With frequent visits to the South of France, Leddra is able to perform the music she loves in exciting surroundings and at the same time show off some nice kit and if that isn’t appealing enough, how about the opportunity to hang out with ‘some really cool people’, playing poker tournaments and partying by night and surfing by day? I wish I still had that sort of energy. With the launch of Leddra’s new website, we see a generous artist emerging who takes care of her fan base. The norm would be to launch a CD with little other than a face and a track listing and the obligatory mystery for us all to solve sooner or later. Leddra Chapman makes video diaries that allow those who admire her music to follow her every move (well almost). The mixed media approach will no doubt bring her music to a wider audience at a time when her potential is being realised. I asked her how she approaches making the videos to accompany her songs. “It was really quite weird the first few times I had to lipsinc. I remember I didn’t want anybody to watch me because I was so self-conscious about it and then Dan Fernbach the guy who directed and made the video said to me just treat it as if you’re on stage and that you’re performing to a crowd and just sing it and after he said that it came quite naturally to me and I did a lot better I think”. Another promotional video is currently being made and almost on cue, Leddra has made available some video diaries indicating precisely the fun that goes into making these things. “We did that in Brighton the weekend before last and that was so much fun because it was completely sped up, about ten times the original speed and it was hard to keep a straight face for the first few takes”. The fun element is apparent in one particular scene where she is directed to spill the feathers from a pillow for part of a video that accompanies the song “A Little Easier”. “There were feathers literally everywhere and when I say that I mean, everywhere. You couldn’t see a patch of carpet and we kind of underestimated what it would do to the floor”. There’s also something specifically English about Leddra’s singing voice, which is both honest and appealing at the same time. Whereas Adele is chasing pavements, in Edie Leddra is chasing street lights, creating a beautifully pastoral atmosphere at the same time, which the song hangs upon until the very last note. On the other hand, “Summer Song” has an instantly commercial sound that cries out to be played on the same radio stations that spun Lily Allen’s LDN to death a few years ago. Conversely, the sensitivity of Leddra’s writing leads us to the album’s heart. “Wine Glass” is written and performed by a woman who knows what love is all about. Who else would notice the specifics of how someone would walk into a room or the peculiar way someone holds their wine glass, than someone familiar with the ways of love? “I really wanted to write a song about that and about how you can love somebody so much and it’s just the tiny things that put the little cherry on the top, the tiny things that only you would notice. Someone very special to me has a really weird thing about how he holds his wine glass. He has to hold his red wine around the glass bit and he has to hold white wine around the stem and if I did it any other way then he’d go crazy”. Although Leddra is no stranger to touring and playing live gigs in the UK and in Europe, most notably opening for Roachford earlier this year, it is only now that the album is out, that touring has become all the more important and something to focus on once again; I asked Leddra when we would be seeing her up and down the country. “I really want to get back on tour in the New Year because I had my first tour at the end of October this year and it was such an amazing experience travelling and performing at the same time. I’ll definitely be back on tour in the New Year and we’ll be announcing dates on MySpace”. I was keen to know whether this would be in a supporting role or as the headliner to which she explained “To be honest I just really love travelling and performing whether it be my own headline act or supporting somebody. It’s lovely to support somebody because you get to meet people and learn from other artists who have been doing it for years, you really get loads from it”. So as Leddra embarks on this maiden voyage, armed with a stash of signed copies of her debut album, an acoustic guitar and her trusty pink toy piano, “the toy piano goes where I go” she joked, we look forward to hear what other tales this promising singer songwriter has to tell in the future.