From Mae to December - what the year has in store for Leeds brightest rock starlet.
I'm not happy, I am far from happy .
It is with deep irritation I find myself immersed in the repellent environs of a consumer
frenzied Headrow on a Saturday evening in the midst of a violent downpour.
Water scoops up from my inadequate footwear and saturates the base of my jeans , soaks through and
finds delicate flesh. I am rushing, charging psychotically towards my destination through dirty grey streets , past wobbly, deformed looking drunks hanging out of ill-reputed pubs, gasping on cheap cigarettes and satisfying their heaving lungs. Lifeless figures queue at bus stops clutching on to masses of carrier bags for dear life
hindering my progress. I take the opportunity to check my reflection in a passing window and find with some degree of consternation that I look nothing like the human being that stared back at me from a bathroom mirror some forty
five minutes previously. I panic slightly and attempt in vain to flatten down my wild hair with a mouthful of sticky saliva.
For some inexplicable narcissistic reason I find myself aching to impress after much schedule rearranging, tonight I am meeting a woman who , from her online portfolio, seems to subliminally warrant that extra effort. From her work as a well travelled singer / songwriter to her job as Art director on Coronation Street this industrious local enigma appears worthy of this small consideration.
I take a quick right and find myself surrounded on all sides by tasteless neon signs proclaiming squalid takeaways hidden beneath and seek the much needed solace of our meeting point: the Sela bar
I am immediately engaged in a homely and comfortable ambience beautiful, young creatures glide in dark silhouettes around the dimly lit basement and group together in loose, hushed circles. The atmosphere is
European in flavour.
Leesa mae is easily identifiable sat in the corner next to the bar, she beckons me over. She is tall, even sat down she is tall. Dressed casually in an off the shoulder grey T shirt, dark denim jeans and knee length brown leather boots she looks every bit the insouciant musician.
Her hair falls slightly over her left eye and she attends to it regularly , only for it to fall again seconds later. She looks eye- hurtingly beautiful as she sits stooped , delicately sipping from a tumbler of Jack Daniels and Coke and
reflecting on the week that has just passed.
"I haven't stopped since 5 o'clock Monday morning", she muses cheerfully, "Corrie has just been mental recently. Her job takes her to Manchester for five days a week where she creates, develops and oversees the visual appearance of television scenes" that are broadcast into millions of homes several times a week. She previously worked on such shows as Heartbeat, Countdown and a Touch of Frost.
I am intrigued to know how she manages to juggle such a challenging and time consuming position with her musical
"I generally play my gigs on weekend evenings and afternoons, although, I do perform at some 'free mic' nights during the week whenever possible". I can sense a constant bubble of excitement in her voice showing no signs of bursting as she begins to talk about her life in music.
I used to sing with my father while he played guitar, I listened hard and learned to play a few chords on my own and I just got the bug from there.
Her family is a big influence on her career and her brother features as lead guitarist in her current band. "I started writing my own songs and eventually worked up the courage to get on stage. Once I got that feeling of performing and seeing the reaction on people's faces I wanted to do more and more"
Leesa is charming and friendly , calm on the surface with an underbelly of intrigue. Much has, and much hasn't, changed since those early days of playing local pubs and acoustic nights . She still plays Working
Men's clubs and travels up to Richmond most Saturdays
where she has a weekly commitment , but Leesa is ambitious and last year saw her take herself off to Australia
under her own steam where she plans to return this year to do some dates and perform her new album . She already has dates lined up to play in Brisbane and Sydney.
She has developed into a strong , natural performer with a mesmerising, hypnotic vocal range and a penchant for catchy hooks. Never is this more evident than on her debut EP 'Love - Eternity' produced and recorded for free as part of the prize for winning the 'Live and Unsigned exposure award' in 2009.
Despite her arrival into her early thirties Leesa still clutches on to an unyielding belief that she can scale the
heights of solo pop stardom. But even if she should fall short in this fearless determination she will certainly remain on a pedestal for all aspiring young ambitious performers out there. She is every bit the strong , independent
ambassador for the city. A hod carrier for the 'X factor' misanthropists.
As I adjourn to the bar for more Jack Daniels to slake her parched throat I briefly look around to find her perusing the laboriously felt tipped posters advertising coming attractions , it seems she never misses the opportunity for more work. She looks almost tomboy esque and one can almost imagine her spending her childhood climbing trees and wiping snot from her upper lip. As the evening clings to the night's chin , Leesa suggests we
move on somewhere else, she is 'in the mood for dancing'. I am almost sorry to bid farewell to the Sela and warm, unpretentious clientele as we make our way to 'Verve' bar , a much pokier manufactured affair .
The rain has intensified and Leesa puts her coat over her head . As we scurry disjointedly along I find myself getting more and more captivated by what makes this woman tick and acting on my curiousity to delve into her personal life I fear, is only a short sharp cocktail away.
"I was brought up into a musical family she informs me after interrogating the bar woman as to which is the best cocktail to satisfy her need for more Bourbon. "We used to sit around and have sing songs all the time, infact I'm sure there's a clip on Youtube of us somewhere. Her reminiscence is short lived as she breaks off and starts a conversation with a middle aged lady next to her. The woman smiles and warms to her immediately, she seems to have this effect on most men and women within her vicinity and you sense she likes to be the centre of attention.
This she achieves by little more than inhaling and exhaling. She is a garrulous head turner. At times she seems every bit the walking contradiction strong and independent yet fragile and delicate , uncomplicated and introvert but at the same time cryptic and a complete show off.
I recapture her attention momentarily as I want to talk about her work for charity. Leesa recently stripped naked for a Cancer research calendar . " Cancer research is something I hold dear to my heart , I lost a close member of my family to cancer so I do whatever I can to help, I am hoping to do more work for the cause this year
With the Australian tour already in place, her local gigs pencilled in and her work on Britain's biggest soap , one wonders how she will find the time to cram more charity work in. But this is Leesa Mae, this is the woman who seemingly finds time to do anything she sets her mind to. Completely accidentally on her part she leaves you with a feeling of self unfulfillment, a need to achieve more in your own life. This is not a bad thing.
Still slamming down the Bourbon long after the more liver respecting souls have hailed down black cabs the night takes on a more distracted and intoxicated feel. Leesa dances precariously on the tables, bursts into occasional tuneful whines and flirts crudely and cruelly with allcomers
In my haze I give up trying to understand her and instead I just marvel. For here is a person who knows what she wants and how to get it , knows when to have fun and when to work hard .
I slip away and back into the ceaseless rain , I pass a deformed looking wobbly drunk gasping on a cheap cigarette , stop and take a step back . I am mildly distressed, upon closer inspection, to discover it is my own reflection.
The Leeds Debacle, Issue 2. March 2011
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Sassy Singer/Songwriter from Leeds- Solo with acoustic guitar or with kickin 5 piece band. Also working as an Art Director on ITV's 'Heartbeat' & now 'Coronation Street'; Leesa Mae has continued to go from strength to strength. Leesa's debut single 'Forbidden Love' is now available to buy on iTunes and Amazon.