Léonie Gray | Treat Your Ears to Sweet Honey Sounds

Discovering Léonie Gray and her soulful voice in an unlikely place is a memory I cherish and am grateful for. In these times of quarantine, I can only become more appreciative of art, creativity, and music. Art just lifts the spirits and gives us hope, doesn’t it!?

As such, right before this pause on the world as we know it, I got to interview a musician that packs a punch: humility, strength, incredible presence, and a powerhouse voice. That being said, allow me to introduce you to the sweet honey sounds of Léonie Gray!

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Léonie Gray on MTELUS Stage 2019. Photo: @mawrsi (IG)

A Day with Léonie Gray

First Encounters

Fate (or the “discover” feature on Facebook events) led me to L’Escalier on a regular, albeit freezing, Friday night in February. The first time I heard Léonie Gray sing there, I was blown away. Léonie gave off Adele/Amy Winehouse vibes with a style of her own. Right then, I knew I had to feature her on the blog and was thrilled when I reached out, and she happily agreed!

So, I met Léonie at cozy Mile-End Cafe Les Impertinentes, where she was hanging out with the shop’s blind canine mascot under a big comfy shawl. I was instantly put at ease. We shared some lattes and dove right into our conversation (man, I miss hanging out at cafes!) Here is “Sensitive”, one of my favorite Léonie Gray albums, on Spotify to set the tone. 

Born to Sing

The Montreal-based singer/songwriter/producer hailing from Lavaltrie, QC has been singing since before she could walk! She grew up in an artistic household as her father was a bassist by profession and had built a full studio in their home.

At 7 years old, she did her first show and was hooked. This was followed by a first-place win at a talent contest, which led to her first studio recording session at 14. Then, at 16, she started writing her own music. Later, having always known she wanted to be a singer, Léonie moved to Montreal to pursue her career.

Even if she didn’t know anyone, she fell in love with the multi-faceted musical scene of the city. She spent her time seeing live bands, attending as many art events as possible, ultimately networking with other remarkable musicians. Her favorite thing? The open-mic Thursdays at Bootlegger where local musicians get together to jam.

GROWTH of an Artist

Sitting across from Léonie Gray, you know you are in the presence of a true musical artist. Not only has she been honing her skills since elementary school, but she always approaches performing like an athlete. For example, her parents filmed all her performances growing up. She would then watch the tapes after every show, analyzing the things she did well and the things she wanted to work on. When you see her on the stage now, it feels like she belongs up there.

Influences & Mission

Although her voice has such range and is so versatile that her sound can fit within many genres (classical, soul, jazz, pop, R&B), the singer does not adhere to a specific style. For Léonie, music is music, and inspiration is more important than the genre. Her biggest influences are Amy Winehouse and Corine Baley Ray. After 15 years, her favorite Baley Ray album is still relevant, and she loves listening to it to this day.

In fact, the mission of her music is just that: for people to relate to her songs. Whether they make people feel good or help them through a rough time, her aim is to make people want to keep listening to her songs forever. She dreams of doing this while traveling, meeting people, and working with musicians from around the world. I personally think that an international career really is in her cards!

When I asked her how she feels when she is compared to her idols like Winehouse and Adele, Léonie tells me that she’s honored, but she also can’t wait for people to tell new up-and-coming singers “you’re giving me Léonie Gray vibes!”

Writing Process

Gray writes her own music, and she prefers to do so in the studio with the producer of the song. She will create the music first and then write the lyrics. After many years of songwriting, she works really fast. All it takes is one inspiring sentence, and the whole song comes together. As an empath, she will listen to people’s stories and perceive their emotions, which then allows her to recreate them in a song that many can relate to.

Why Feminism is Important to Her

At first, the singer wrote love songs, and then she started addressing feminism and mental health because it is essential to her to educate on top of creating sick beats. Actually, this transition happened following a restrictive relationship. When it ended, she started reading a lot and talking to other women about their various experiences. Seeing the heaviness of societal expectations placed on women more and more, the songwriter’s mission became to highlight issues and help women reclaim their own power.

Sensitive Master of All Trades

Actually, Sensitive is the title of Léonie’s 2019 EP. In fact, she did everything on this record except for the mastering. More specifically, the singer realized that more often than not, producers in the music industry were male. So, she applied for a grant, which allowed her to develop the skills to create songs from start to finish. She wanted to experience the whole process to then be able to help other female artists do the same. Furthermore, when she listens to music now, she listens to the entire production, which opens her ear to new elements and creative opportunities.

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Léonie Gray. Photo: Dja El Grande

The Sweet Honey Sounds of Léonie Gray

I have never met anyone who sits in the power of knowing exactly who they are like Léonie does. I felt this strongly and admired it so much that I had to tell her about it. She responded that she put in a lot of work to get to a place where she is actually entirely at ease with all aspects of her self. You know how I know she is the real deal? She trusts herself always, especially during hard times.

To conclude, I can’t wait to see what is next for this incredible artist. Following her performances at the Montreal Jazz Fest and the Santa Teresa Festival as well as sharing the stage with the likes of Milk&Bone – the sky is the limit! You can keep up with all Léonie Gray news right here, listen to her music here, and follow her on the socials here and over here.

Leonie Le Cypher by Rene Ricardo Bernal
Léonie Gray Live at Bootlegger. Photo: Rene Ricardo Bernal
Lastly, as we love meeting inspiring artists, I invite you to check out our interview with multi-disciplinary visual artist Alex Coma!

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