Today’s youth speaks up with its own voice. And that can be heard on Marilyne Léonard’s first mixtape, Vie d’ange (the title literally means Angel’s Life, but is also a homophonic wordplay [vidanges] that also means Garbage). She mixes singing and rapping with confidence, constructing songs with no user guide other than her inner voice.
“I always talk about what I go through, and I’m not about to start making up stories,” says the singer-songwriter matter-of-factly. She dubbed this short, eight-song album a mixtape based solely on its eclecticism. “Our inspirations are all over the place, and we just collated all of that together,” she says. “I think eight songs are enough for people to figure out who I am without giving enough time for people who don’t know me to get bored,” she adds, laughing. “I like the format, and it represents where I came from and where I’m going to, all at once.”
Emmanuel Ethier produced the first four tracks. “I didn’t trust myself enough to do it on my own,” says Léonard. “But after that, what I wanted was so specific that I couldn’t delegate. I brought the demos of four new songs [‘Mirage,’ ‘Dans la foule,’ ‘Vie de rêve,’ and ‘Quand tu parles’] to Marc Bell so he could put his touch on them, but it’s very true to what I’d done on my own at home. Ultimately, they’re the four songs that are closest to who I am right now.”
With both hands on the wheel of her musical story, Léonard dreams of independence and self-production, even though she is now a member of the Audiogram family. “When I’m more experienced, I’d like to go independent, but it’s always been my dream to build my career with a record company,” she explains. “I dreamt of telling my mom I’d signed with a record label. It’s truly thanks to Audiogram that I’m able to live what I’m living now, since I’m starting at the very beginning of the ladder.”
Her songs are honest slices of life, rooted in the present. Above all, everything starts with a guitar: “I always write with my guitar first,” says Léonard. “I look for cool chords. I find a cool sentence, and I find a melody to tie it to those chords. It’s quite a strange method,” she admits. “I never write all the lyrics. I do everything at once. It’s like a puzzle made of sentences, melodies, and chords.”
Hearing Léonard sing, you can hear the very specific character of her voice. It becomes a rhythm, an instrument. If you heard her sing a capella, it might almost feel like listening to drums, because the beat is so integral to her vocal delivery. “I listen to a lot of rap, so it obviously inspired me,” she says. “I also love ‘80s productions. I find inspiration in rap, but I’m also into ethereal and complex productions involving synths, and very lively bass, so I find a way to make all that fit.”
She unabashedly tells her audience that vulnerability isn’t a fault, and that the difficulties that arise as we go through the stages of life are normal. She hopes we identify with that and allow ourselves to make it a safe space where we can calm down.
“I want to say I want to love,” says Léonard. “There’s a music video with my girlfriend: ‘Dans la foule.’ Before that, I didn’t dare name the gender of my love interest. I was scared. But for the last two years, I’ve wanted to show off this pride, and this freedom. A guy or a girl talking about love using the word she is banal. I’d love to be one of those girls who are super-at-ease with that, and for whom difference no longer exists. Les Shirley, Calamine; many others do it. It’s relatively new for girls to speak up about this, and I’m glad I’m part of this youth cohort that’s waking up.”
On stage, the project will travel the same numerous directions that the mixtape hints at, but “it’s going to rock a little more,” promises the singer-songwriter. “I also do remixes on stage: La bohème, and a Drake song. People know those songs and they get on board with the show.”
She hopes music will allow her to travel, and in fact, she’ll soon head to France. The future is full of many different promises, and she plans to learn bass, and would also like to produce for other artists. “I’ll start by acquiring my own experience by fucking up my own stuff a thousand times,” she says, laughing. “I need to finish building my own puzzle.”