Name: Leyla Diamondi
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Nationality: Greek-Turkish
Recent release: Leyla Diamondi's new single “Broken Pieces” is out now.
Recommendations: If you can please watch ‘ The curious incident of the dog in the night-time.’ I’ve seen this play four times and it has been the best play I’ve ever seen.
I also listed a playlist of a genre of music called Rebetiko. A style of music that was created from the foundations of the starvation, and extreme poverty of a group of people when they settled in Greece. These were a group of people that crossed from Turkey to Greece during the Byzantine exchange. These are my grandfather's people on my father's side. During the exchange, they walked on foot and many died along the way. The genre of music has been described as the ‘Greek blues’ and I feel this is why I am so connected to the genre of blues.

If you enjoyed this interview with Leyla Diamondi and would like to discover more about her work, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.  

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

In the beginning music chose me, it was always a part of life. I found through song I could communicate how I felt and understand my emotions. Music gave me a connection to the world around me and I liked it.

Unlike most people, I didn’t really have any strong influences in the beginning. I had a piano and I played, I listened to nature and whatever was around me. Later on in primary school I began to listen to Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Jason Derulo and that began the big search and hunger to know more.

But the first song I was obsessed with was “Lemon Tree” by Fools Garden and I think the reason was because it was 1 of the few songs on my mum’s iPod.

When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?

Sometimes when I listen to music I like to create alternate worlds and galaxies in my mind. I make living things and environments and walk through that reality and see how I feel. Other times I study the work, trying to listen to the details and learn as much as I can so I too can express myself more freely. Music, like dreaming, is an incredible place of freedom and exploration.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

If you listen to my discography you can see a clear growth in vocal technique and the ability to communicate emotion through music. I feel my greatest challenge has been me. I think a lot of creatives can relate to that.

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

I'm very proud of my heritage, but it’s also been important for me to understand who I am as an individual. We live in a time of label on top of label on top of label and I think we forget that we are all unique. My heritage has definitely impacted my music but more in the sense of I have seen two cultures that have had racial and cultural conflict between them for centuries.

And then I have seen the people around my parents unlearn their discriminatory mindsets and find unity and understanding for one another. From a young age that has made me see that the mind is flexible, and with awareness, education and patience everything can be change.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

My key ideas towards music are honesty, vulnerability, and to have fun.

When we grow up I think we forget that playing is such an important part of living and with how the music industry works sometimes it can be really hard to remember that we’re doing this because we love it rather than just focusing on numbers.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

I feel like whatever comes naturally, and I don’t think they are versus each other. I think you can make something that’s original and innovative and it be timeless too.

I would like to challenge the term ‘perfection’ as I think that some of the greatest music in the world isn’t perfect. Aretha Franklin and Etta James, sometimes the slight imperfections in the vocal delivery give that extra boost of emotion, that extra humanity, that people latch onto and that’s what makes the song ‘perfect’ and ‘timeless’. You can also see that in Michael Jackson’s music, Elvis‘s music, even Whitney Houston’s music.

People don’t want perfect, they want to feel something real.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

I feel the most important tool I have learnt has been from my current vocal coach Dimitris which is the importance of unlearning. Most of our vocal coaching sessions consist of me unlearning something that I have picked up over the course of my life that may get in the way of me using my vocal tool in its most efficient way.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

What I try to do consistently every day is I like to train my vocals, even if it’s for 20 minutes. I like to make sure that I get a form of exercise in, I like to try to make at least one positive move towards my desired career. And I like to drink enough water and do stretches.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

The most exciting bit of my creative process whether it be writing, creating a live performance, et cetera, is that you are telling a story. And the story will always be a piece of you whether it’s a personal life story or a character that you create.

The journey of writing out the story gives you the opportunity to process emotions you didn’t realise you had and then when you send it out into the world you never really know how it’s going to impact somebody else but you plant a seed and that seed grows. That connectivity is sacred. That’s what’s most dear to me; sharing; connecting.  

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?

Most of my current influences have actually come from people sharing music with me. My favourite way to absorb music is when I’m listening to it with my brothers and my current partner. We will just lie down in the living room for hours just listening. I prefer to listen in a group because people are always going to show you music that you don’t know, it’s impossible to know all of the music because there will always be more.

In terms of creating it depends, sometimes I start from scratch with a team or do it alone, it depends on how I feel. My latest track ‘Broken Pieces’ was written by me and only me. I didn’t feel the lyrics needed anything else. However the piano was performed by a dear friend of mine.

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

I would like to show that unity and the ability to have an open heart, innocence, is so much more powerful than segregation and anger.

Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

I was being bullied in primary school and Lady Gaga was this weird and wacky character that made me feel like I belonged somewhere. In the end I actually had to change schools because my headmaster said that would be the easiest solution. That was the first time I identified with an artist.

Apart from that I always wrote to understand myself and process my emotions as I felt I couldn’t really explain myself to anybody else and feel understood. If you listen to my ‘Disc of Light EP’ it goes over a lot of my life including my grandmother’s passing called ‘Anneanne.’

How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?  

I feel like if you respect music you need to respect science. Everything is made up of waves. The difference between noise and music is that music has organised waves.

The same with our biology, as a singer the trachea consists of so many little ligaments and muscles that help us freely communicate. I actually spent a reasonable amount of time in 2019 drawing diagrams and cross sections of different parts of the vocal tract in order to understand what it really consisted of. I have a habit of getting very obsessed over things, if something peaks my interest I will obsess.

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

I do not see a difference. The ancient Greeks even saw astrology, history, the sciences as all creative things.

I think the fundamentals of creativity is to explore and play. And I think whether you are making something you can hear or making something you can look at, or making something you can taste; exploration is still a process you need to play and that is no difference from a scientist exploring something to creative medicine or a PhD student exploring something to create a thesis, or a musician exploring something to create a song.

Creativity is merely the ability to take something or find something and poke at something and see what happens.

Music is vibration in the air, captured by our eardrums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it’s able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

I feel like despite a language you can always understand emotions from the way someone sings, music is just waves that are organised and what we consider noise is just waves that are unorganised.

Our brains have an incredible ability to understand patterns as we are social creatures, so when we hear a series of certain waves we identify as an emotion.