- Act Profile:
Mary Leay Official
- Folk Rock
Mary Leay is a London based singer songwriter. She has been performing at venues across London to promote her debut album 'For the Last Time'. Timeless and hypnotic, Mary Leay entrances with her pure as crystal voice and atmospheric gut-wrenching songs. Once described as the product of an "extra marital affair between Joni Mitchell and Robert Plant", Mary's vocals have a rare honesty and vul...
Mary Leay Official up close
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Mary Leay is a London based singer songwriter. She has been performing at venues across London to promote her debut album 'For the Last Time'. Timeless and hypnotic, Mary Leay entrances with her pure as crystal voice and atmospheric gut-wrenching songs. Once described as the product of an "extra marital affair between Joni Mitchell and Robert Plant", Mary's vocals have a rare honesty and vulnerability which tugs at the heartstrings and keeps you spellbound waiting for her next breath. A talented singer-songwriter, Mary's uniquely evocative sound graces the soundtracks of several recent acclaimed films including 'Heartless,' starring Jim Sturgess and directed by Philip Ridley; ‘Forget Me Not,’ starring Tobias Menzies and directed by Alexander Holt and Lance Roehrig and 'Decoy Bride' starring David Tennant. She has spent time in Nashville writing with the likes of the legendary Roger Cook and performing the album. Back in the UK she has been co-writing for UK based artists with successful UK Pop producer Tim Powell.
Born in Fenstanton, Cambridge and based most of her life in a sleepy town in West Sussex, Mary knows all too well what it’s like to have a big dream in a small town. After training with a professional opera singer and thinking musical theatre would be her path, Mary joined her first rock band and suddenly the chorus line seemed a million miles away. "Joining a band changed everything for me. I started listening to big voices like Skin from Skunk Anansie, and Alanis. While I also loved the edginess of bands like Radiohead, it was my Dad who introduced me to a lot of new country artists – Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alison Krauss, Beth Nielson Chapman and Shawn Colvin - who were all huge inspirations to me, although I don’t think I knew it at the time!" After a chance introduction to songwriter, film composer and producer Michael J McEvoy, things began to take off and Mary and Michael spent three years writing and recording, laying the foundations for her debut album. Mike recalls the first meeting with Mary; "My wife heard Mary perform and was blown away. She came home very excited and convinced me to meet her. So Mary came over to my studio and I played guitar while she sang a few well-known songs - and her voice was just so pure, perfectly in tune, effortless and honest. She wasn't trying to sound like anyone or be anyone else. After talking for a while about the sound she envisaged, she played a song idea she had - very tentatively - as though she didn't quite believe in her writing ability. But it was a beautiful idea...and it turned out to be the first song we completed together, 'Rose of Gold'. It really was the start of what has become a very fulfilling and important creative relationship for me". Most recently Mary has been performing the debut album 'For the Last Time' as well as preparing new material for the second record.
Q. How did you first get into playing music?
I started performing in my first rock band at 14! Alongside this I was listening to a lot of American New Country Artists at home introduced to me by my dear dad. Listening to voices such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alison Krauss and Union Station were inspiring me to develop my skills as a performer, singer and songwriter. I thought the idea of being in a band was probably the coolest to me!
Q. How long have you been performing?
I started performing as a child in musicals and even a small part in an opera! I had voice training from fairly young and just loved singing and being on a stage. I then discovered the joy of writing my own music and playing in pubs and clubs which changed everything for me!
Q. How would you describe your sound in one sentence?
Timeless, authentic songs, honest and sometimes gut-wrenching lyrics delivered by a haunting powerful voice.
Q. What makes your music unique?
I think my music is unique because it is timeless. There is no fad, trend or "style", you can't really put me in a box. I don't mind that. I think it's the sort of music that will stand the test of time and will hopefully still feel important in 100 years.
Q. What inspires you to write songs?
I write about what I feel, think, see. I write about my life, love, family, fears, anxieties, weaknesses. I find it hard to write in the middle of something significant that's happening to me. I often can't face picking up a notebook or pen to write about something until months have passed. I tend to write best when I can look back on something rather than trying to find a song out of the moment. It never seems to come to me that way.
Q. What have been your best and worst gig experiences?
My best playing experiences are when you know the audience is totally in the moment with you. They're connecting with the lyrics and it's affecting them in some way. I found this to be the case in Nashville when I spent some time performing there last year. They love their music and they love nothing better than just a voice, guitar and a story! I gave that to them as best as I could! My worst kind of gigs are just playing when people aren't listening! It's tough for artists that are all about the lyrics! We've all been there, you're out on a friday and you just want to talk and drink beer! But when you're trying to tell the world about a cr*p relationship and they're all smashed - well it's just not the most rewarding experience!! But hey, those kind of gigs teach you how to be a better performer. Ooh I also once had to leave the stage because I needed the loo! No joke! That wasn't my finest hour!
Q. If you had to listen to one album for the rest of your life what would it be?
Oooh this is mean! OK - One album... ummm - Fleetwood Mac - The Dance
Q. What do you get up to when you’re not making music?
I like to hang out with my friends, eat nice food, go running, drink some wine, eat some cheese!
Q. What are your goals at the moment?
I'm working and writing for some UK based artists at the moment and I want to continue with that. I have been working with a great UK producer - Tim Powell. I also want to put out another album so am writing new material for that. I'd love to get back to the States and perform some more. I'm also looking at getting involved with writing a full film soundtrack as a lot of my music lends itself to film.
Q. What have you been working on lately? Any new tracks or gigs lined up?
Lots of new music starting to come through and always performing in and around London. I am headlining the Unplugged stage at Gig In The Park, Suffolk on the 11th August and of course appearing on the Emerging Icons Stage at the Olympic Park which I'm very excited about!
Q. What do you think of Unsigned Band Review?
I think it's a great platform for emerging artists. It feels a little like there is a big brother out there looking out for your career and that has your back! I think it's a great thing to be involved with.
Q. What is the name of the last track that you wrote and what is it about?
The last song I wrote is called 'The Life I Live Without You'. I have recorded a youtube video of it which you can find on my channel. I wrote it in Nashville with the legendary Roger Cook. It's about the realization that you're no longer with someone that was in your life, and about how you're going to carry on, go about your life but just the sadness they are no longer there living it with you.
Q. What was the music scene like where you grew up?
I loved music from a young age. I loved the fact my dad was always a bit of a muso! He was listening to Radio 2 folk and country show when I was a teenager so he was always telling me about new female folky/Americana voices and New Country artists which I became completely obsessed by. The cool thing alongside my love of the folk/country scene I was also into 'bands' - I loved Radiohead, Foofighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers and of course the big female voices like Alanis and Skin from Skunk Anansie. I think I fancied myself as a bit of a grunge kid and wanted to be Shirley Manson for a few years!! I also loved Bjork because I was fascinated by what she could do with her voice range. Yes, I think I had a wonderful choice of music growing up and the industry was a fascinating world I was so desperate to be a part of.
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