Leonie Biney

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Territory: Worldwide except North America

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Holly Rowland

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about the artist

Right now is a time of transition. The long glorious summer is drifting to a close, the nights are drawing in and the temperature is dipping. But it's also a time of change for teenagers and young adults right across the country.

Many are leaving school or college to head towards a new future at university, while graduates are stepping into their first serious jobs. And if you're thinking, "Are my old friendships fading?" Or "Can my relationship survive the distance?" you're at least not alone in those thoughts. But you can at least seek solace in 'beach song,' the…

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Right now is a time of transition. The long glorious summer is drifting to a close, the nights are drawing in and the temperature is dipping. But it's also a time of change for teenagers and young adults right across the country.

Many are leaving school or college to head towards a new future at university, while graduates are stepping into their first serious jobs. And if you're thinking, "Are my old friendships fading?" Or "Can my relationship survive the distance?" you're at least not alone in those thoughts. But you can at least seek solace in 'beach song,' the beautifully intimate first release from the 19-year-old singersongwriter Leonie Biney. 'beach song (demo)' finds Leonie tapping into the vulnerabilities that emerge when with the realisation that the things you once felt were permanent are now slipping from your grasp.

The teasers that she has posted on TikTok have ignited a first surge of interest in her talents, with fans commenting how much they can relate to its emotional heft, drawing comparisons with Phoebe Bridgers and Faye Webster and – of course – imploring her to upload a full version to DSPs.

Both quietly self-assured and somewhat curious that she can inspire such a reaction, Leonie has appreciated the reaction. As she begins, "I found a lot of people to relate to that feeling of losing someone you care about and drifting away from friends, especially at this time of the year. A lot of people said that the song came at the perfect time because it was helping them go through these changes. It's a really weird feeling having so many people listen to my art, but I'm just really happy that people can relate to it." While 'beach song' suggests that Leonie is an introspective singersongwriter, her other upcoming songs demonstrate an artist with a remarkable depth and versatility.

Another early standout, 'comedown,' comes from a similarly authentic place, but builds into a mighty crescendo of sound with a production (as with 'beach song,' it's a collaboration with Jonah Summerfield, best known for his work with Holly Humberstone and Matilda Mann) full of hidden details that rise to attention when listening through earphones. It's arguably the moment that best captures where Leonie is at right now, her poetic, observational lyrics and bedroom pop aesthetic the heart behind a broader indie/alternative sound. Not that Leonie wants to be typecast into any one sound. "I really look up to Rachel Chinouriri, and she has been very vocal about how she's an indie artist, an alternative artist, she'll still get nominated for all of the R&B awards. Sometimes when I tell people I make music they immediately think I make R&B. I'm not closed off to making R&B in the future, but right now I make indie/bedroom/alternative, and I don't want people to think I'm trying to be something that I'm not.

There's also an underlying stigma around black artists making anything other than R&B or hip-hop or rap and people often say to me, 'Oh, I love seeing black women making indie music.' But what's so strange about that? I'm not going to be the first person to break that stigma, but I want to help make it more common for people like me to make indie-pop, bedroom-pop, whatever you want to call it."

Ironically her first musical passion came from her parents' love of the towering vocals and insane melodies of R&B greats like Michael Jackson, John Legend and Luther Vandross. But that changed heading into her teens, leading to Willow Smith and The Vamps, through to key current influences such as beabadoobee (observant TikTok follows may have seen the mini bedroom shrine that Leonie often performs in front of), Jeremy Zucker and Keshi.

They set their influence by example, and Leonie hopes to continue to hone her talents to reach a similar standard as a writer and a producer. Raised in Somerset, Leonie had always been encouraged to sing by her Ghanaian/Nigerian and Sierra Leonean/Jordanian parents and taught herself to play by borrowing her brother's guitar, but it wasn't until lockdown that she discovered the cathartic, therapeutic joy of channelling her inner thoughts into song. She wasn't sure what ability she had, but a first wave of discovery via TikTok – even just 50-100 likes from strangers – was enough to validate her efforts.

Far away from her current family home in Surrey, she discovered that the creative community around her is just as vital a part of her musical development as the course itself: the endless opportunities to perform and collaborate, the instant feedback, a city steeped in music culture. Towards the end of her first year, she posted a home-recorded demo of 'i'm making u coffee,' a mature and poignant meditation upon a relationship in which one person can't break away from the coercive control of another.

The fully produced version of the song is sure to be a significant moment in Leonie's initial breakthrough, but until then Leonie is going to keep growing, keep challenging herself, and keep writing songs which make a strident emotional connection with her first wave of fans.

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