Tea Leaf plays beautiful, intricate and (sometimes) sad songs and is excitingly going to be playing at our next gig. Have a read and have a listen and get ready for a nice chilled opening to the Nov 1st afternoon.
How would you describe your music to a would be listener?
A lot of my writing for Tea Leaf at the moment is quite intimate, sad and acoustic. They’re simple songs to hopefully help someone through a bad day. Some people have compared me to Conor Oberst and Jesse Lacey, which is quite nice since I grew up listening to them and I still love their music. Some of my conscious influences include Elliott Smith, Kevin Devine and Tim Kasher.
Whereabouts are you from originally and how did you end up in Leeds?
I grew up in Manchester and moved to Leeds for Uni. I studied music, naturally.
Why do you think solo performers (such as yourself!) use a name other than their own and what’s the story behind yours?
For some, I think it allows performers to adapt and portray a particular persona or character, which might be less apparent when using their own name. It gives people a mask from themselves. For me, it was a nickname I had in school. I have a pretty common name [Tom Lee] so I thought it’d be better to use a pseudonym instead of my own, it makes it easier to Google. I also like the serenity and singularity of the name, it feels appropriate to use as a solo artist.
What’s your experience been of the Leeds music community compared to other places you’ve lived?
It’s so wonderful, vibrant and diverse in Leeds. There are lots of great venues and spaces such as The Brudenell Social Club, The Leeds Music Hub and Wharf Chambers, and there’s a constant wealth of awesome new bands popping up or cool shows to go to. The scene here feels much tighter than in Manchester and everyone seems to know each other, which is cool. There’s also an incredible D.I.Y. presence and mentality. No matter what you’re into, whether it’s noise rock or emo or folk or whatever, there will be a community in Leeds that are into the same stuff you are and going to the same shows.
Strangest gig you’ve ever played?
I played a solo show at Temple of Boom in Leeds with a US hardcore band called Drug Church a while ago. It was strange because of how I slotted in: my quiet, sad acoustic songs shouldn’t have worked on the bill but it went down surprisingly well. I suppose the contrast from the noise gave everyone a bit of a breather. I made some good friends too. I also played a show in Nottingham at a place called Malt Cross which was strange. The venue was beautiful, but the stage was weird. There were two floors at the venue, but the stage was positioned in between the two floors. It was really high up from the ground floor too, so I don’t think anyone was really paying attention. It felt like playing to open air.
Top 3… Records, cakes, gigs?
Records: It’s impossible to pick but these three artists and records were important to me growing up and still are… Jack’s Mannequin – ‘Everything In Transit’ Brand New – ‘The Devil & God Are Raging Inside Me’ Weezer – ‘Pinkerton’
Cakes: Chocolate, double chocolate, triple chocolate.
Gigs: Seeing Refused in Manchester on their initial reunion run was incredible. Sufjan Stevens on the Age of Adz tour was magical. Oh, and of course, Babymetal headlining Brixton Academy. Insane. Kawaii metal forever.
Top tips for solo performers starting out?
It’s a cliché but my top tip is to just get out there and play anywhere you can. I know a lot of people (including people in bands) who are nervous to go out on their own, but you’re not going to build the confidence up if you don’t put yourself out there. I think open mics are a great way to test solo material out in front of strangers and there’s usually little to no pressure. People are generally nice.