Los Angeles based pop singer Leon Else opened up about his deeply personal mental health journey through the poignant new video for his song, “Beautiful World.” Sharing candid vlog entries captured right on his phone, directly from his perspective, he gives an insight to the depths of his lowest lows and his highest highs exactly as they are happening – hoping to shed a light on the reality of living with mental illness and to let viewers know that there is help out there for them to seek and that they are not alone.
Having taken a break from releasing music for a short period of time, Leon opened up to heirwaves about his new journey as an independent artist and how he is letting his true self shine through as he begins the next chapter as an artist.
“I’ve been away for so long, sorting my head out, sorting myself out,” he begins, revealing the reason for his brief hiatus from music. Leon notes that since stepping back into music with his new releases, it feels as if he’s starting over since the new music is so wildly different from his previous releases.
Originally from the UK, the 27 year old singer skyrocketed to recognition when his song ‘My Kind of Love’ was featured on the soundtrack of Netflix drama series 13 Reasons Why. This new chapter, Leon admits is building slower than before, but he believes is building in a more positive and sustainable way. “People are actually hearing the songs and they’re connecting to the songs so much more,” he says.
Leon released the first single of his new journey as an independent artist, ‘Change Up’ in April, followed by the single ‘Signs’ in May.
“I feel really good about ‘Signs’ being out,” he says, adding that the topic of the song is extremely import to him. “It’s the start of me really sort of opening up a conversation,” he discloses, “If I can spread my stories and help people, then that’s why I love ‘Signs’, it gives me hope, and I hope it does for other people!”
Leon admits that while he was living through the situation that inspired that track, he was lost in a headspace that strayed far from the feeling of hope that it gives him in retrospect. “I was in such a dark place and I was in so much pain, and confusion, and feeling lost. I didn’t think of anything else,” he shares, “The only thing I could do was create. That was the only thing that had given me strength at the time to continue.”
As the songs began to come to life, Leon says that his friends and his team encouraged him to share his real stories, saying that it was as if he had been able to break through and let his real self shine through his new music.
Having been deep within the scenarios depicted while writing these songs, he says that these are not tracks that were written from vague memories, but legitimate reactions and emotions to real time situations. “Every single lyric in ‘Change Up’ is something that genuinely 100% happened,” he says, “and with ‘Signs’, that was exactly how I was feeling that day,” he says, recalling how he said those very words to himself that morning he wrote it. He remembers walking into the studio telling himself, “I need to find that light at the end of the tunnel, because I can’t see it right now.”
“It’s word for word true life stories,” he says. He elaborates that more people are affected by similar situations – depression, bipolar, suicide – than people realize, and that it only takes one person to stand up and speak about it to help people going through those issues realize that they are not alone, and encourage them to stand up and say: ‘that’s how I feel too.’
Even through themes beyond mental health, such as love and heartbreak, Leon adds that the emotions felt in a heartbreak and pretty universal as well, and something that people can connect over. “I think honesty and authenticity are what bring people together,” Leon says adding that faking it and hiding behind empty lyrics no longer resonates, “People can see through the bullsh*t.”
Leon says that he has strategically blended the heavier themes in his lyrics with livelier pop melodies, noting that at the end of the day – it’s still his job. “It’s trying to hit both at the same time, I want it to be played on the radio but at the same time I want to bring the message.”
For him, it’s worth taking the bigger risks in order to pave the way for change, something he was unable to do with previous big label guidance. “I was listening to everyone else apart from myself,” he says, “I’d rather fail trying and doing it my way than sit there looking back and going you know what, it failed anyway and I f*cking listened to other people.
Addressing the negative stigma surrounding mental health, Leon acknowledges how difficult it can be to take that first step to open up, and that admitting you are going through a tough time can be extremely terrifying when the fear of judgment weighs so heavily on your mind. “I’m bipolar,” he reveals, “I have a disorder that has a lot of stigma around it and a lot of judgement.” He continues on to note that it’s when people begin to internalize the issues that the tragedies strike, which is why he hopes to start a conversation that negates the stigma and allows people to be more open about their issues.
When speaking out about these prevalent issues, he wants people to know that he is not above them, but on the same page as everyone else that is struggling. “I’m not going to sit there like a f*cking know it all,” he says, “but what I do know, is that I have a mental disorder. I know what sickness feels like. I know the judgment you fear… but I also know the flip side. I know how you can get help, and I know how getting help makes you feel better. I’m not saying you’re going to live a f*cking perfect life, I still have my down days and I’m always going to have to live with that… but my life is so much more fulfilled now than it’s ever been.”
Leon’s latest release, ‘Beautiful World’ is a candid narrative of his personal mental health journey after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “This is when I was walking around depressed and not understanding,” he says of this video which shows him physically breaking down in contrast with happier moments – shedding a light on the immense highs and lows, giving a visual insight to what’s going on inside his mind.
Admittedly, he was wildly nervous about the release of the video – stating that it put him in a very vulnerable position – beyond just music and lyrics. “You can’t really ignore it when you see it,” he says noting that it took an immense amount of self-discovery for him to be able to share that. “Now that I understand myself, and I’m stronger in myself, I feel like I’ve got this and I can talk about this.”
“I know it’s a beautiful world // I just can’t see it right now // There’s amazing things waiting out there // I just can find them right now.” – Leon Else, ‘Beautiful World’
“Until you show someone, they can’t fully connect with you,” he says, hoping that people will see what he’s going through and that it will resonate if they are going through something similar and reassure them that they are not alone.
“I don’t believe in just taking from the world,” Leon says, “you can take, but give something back. Stand for something. Help someone… because life is f*cking hard. Life is f*cking hard for a lot of people. You can help bring a little happiness… you can help bring a little bit of hope to someone, and I think more people should be doing that. I will try every step of the way if I can.”
For Leon, there is nothing more beautiful and fulfilling than when his music resonates with listeners, and he truly loves replying to his immense amount of DM’s as he is eternally grateful for any support and hopes that sharing his journey will help even just one person. “The fact that we all talk online and can share things is such a beautiful thing,” he shares.
His ultimate hope for his music is to generate a genuine, honest conversation and let people know that they do not have to suffer in silence, and that the help is out there. “No one’s expecting the darkness to go away, it doesn’t sometimes, but life doesn’t have to be alone. Let’s walk through life together.”
“Beautiful World” is available for streaming and download on all platforms now.
24 hour mental health crisis hotline – Tel: +1 844 549 4266 | Text: “home” to 741741 | visit mentalhealthline.org for more information.