Iris Leonardo. Sound familiar? It should. She was the fresh faced model in our Acrylick x Andrew Sebastian Pillow project. But what you probably didn’t know was that she’s a musician as well. Learn a little about Miss Leonardo and her music in the interview below:
Acrylick: So, brief bio. Who is “Iris Leonardo” and when did you first get started?
Iris: Well, I was born in the Philippines and moved to Los Angeles at the age of three. I currently attend Pasadena City College pursuing a Communications major. I initially kept my singing hobby a secret from my family and friends because I didn’t think I was good enough. I’d blast the stereo in my room acting out as if I was on a stage with a microphone. I finally broke out of my shell after participating on a Miss Philippines Universe 2007 pageant and decided to sing and play in front of hundreds at the L.A Convention Center. My friends were in the audience crossing their fingers hoping I wasn’t going to sound bad. It opened doors for me and I took whatever opportunity came my way. Music has grown to become an important part of my lifestyle and will always be.
Acrylick: Well we’re glad you gained the confidence to share your talent with the world. Was the guitar your first choice? Did you play any other instruments?
Iris: Actually, the guitar came second in my life. First, was the piano lessons that my dad insisted on me taking. I was 6 years old, and my dad told me if I did well on my first lesson he’d buy me the newest N’sync casette tape, which he ended up doing. During middle school, I developed more of an appreciation for the instrument and felt the need to learn more. My best friend at the time was part of a band, and I begged her to show me how to play the guitar. She taught me that popular riff from “My Girl” by the Temptations, and was hooked! I couldn’t set the guitar down, so I continued learning how to read tabs from the internet and taught myself songs from my favorite bands.
Acrylick: The Temptations, huh?! Haha. Is that the type of genre you like to play now? How do you describe your music?
Iris: I would describe it as chill and relaxing. A friend adds on, “…and goes well with a cup of hot tea in the cold from rainy weather”. (laughs) I want you to feel who I am just by listening, feel me reach out to you and notice how passionate I am. I asked several good friends of mine what they thought, they saw how carefully I construct the smooth melodies, and “feel a sense of sweet warmness to the heart and mind”. It was difficult for me to compare my sound to a particular artist. My sound may be unique, yet I’m still experimenting with different styles slowly finding one what really suits me.
Acrylick: Who are your musical influences?
Iris: The first band who influenced me musically would be Maroon 5. I was an instant fan of their addictive melodies and relatable lyrics, soon after becoming enthusiastic of learning their whole album on guitar. Other artists who deeply influence me are; James Morrison, Joe Satriani, Michael Buble, and Lady Gaga. Gaga may be a very controversial character and have a misconception of being quirky for the sake of being quirky, but she has soul. I truly respect her philosophies and honor who she is as an artist. Gaga has created something and continues to create with the most innovative way of expression. I don’t wish to be as eccentric as she is, but to have interest in being a real, true artist.
Acrylick: Which songs do you perform most frequently? Are they mostly covers? Do you write your own songs?
Iris: One of my favorite songs that I usually perform is “Black and Gold” by Sam Sparro. Most of the songs I’ve performed have been covers, experimenting with different sounds, styles, and crowd favorites. Just recently, within the year, did I start getting into songwriting. Everyday now I write, learning more about myself, the surroundings, and people who inspire me in the simplest ways they don’t even know. These songs are definitely a work in progress, and I’m very excited to release them very soon! I shared a song called “Supergirl”, it’s about not being able to be there for somebody when they need you to, but despite the difficulties, it’ll all be worth the fight in the end.
Acrylick: Duke Ellington once said, “The most important thing I look for in a musician is whether he knows how to listen.” What are your thoughts on that?
Iris: I’ve learned throughout the years why we’ve been given two ears and one mouth, to be quick to listen. The other battle in self expression is actually understanding what is being communicated to us. When I really sit down and listen to a song, I close my eyes and become consumed in it. I hear the words, the emotions, and can feel the artist’s message in a way the artist had intended on giving it. That way, you become vulnerable to the sound, letting it affect you somehow as a comfort or healing in your life. As a musician, I believe it’s important to know how to listen, to learn how to effectively communicate the message you’re trying to convey to people.
Acrylick: What have been your favorite projects (to date) in your career and why?
Iris: I auditioned several months ago for Kollaboration Acoustic 4, and successfully made the line-up. It was held at the Ford Ampitheater in Hollywood, August 27th 2010. This project has served as a stepping stone for me, being my first time participating in a music competition. I’ve met some talented and fantastic musicians who are as passionate about music as I am, including my duet partner for the show, Johnny Le. He’s currently out in Georgia pursuing his DJing career, the best of luck to him! I’ve been planning with some of the other competitors about collaborating, my upcoming one with Flowethics, hip-hop group based off of Palm Springs, CA.
Acrylick: We saw the footage from Kollaboration. You guys did a great job and we noticed you rocking your Acrylick gear! Good luck with the Flowethics show; yet another stepping stone in your career. Speaking of which, how do you approach progression with your work?
Iris: Practice! Practice! Practice! It’s all about the quality you put into your practice. The time of day where I feel I can focus, no one being bothersome, and I’m relaxed, is late in the evening. It’s silent and I’m able to think. I have this notebook where I write down my thoughts for the day, or something interesting, potential lyrics, and play a melody along to it. After a while, you really learn much more about yourself and what you want, and get better along the way. I try my best to keep the inspiration going for as long as possible, surrounding myself with motivational things and people. After all that practice, the best thing to do is to take it to stage. It’s always a learning experience, to improve, to feel my most comfortable during a performance, and have people see the real me.
Acrylick is about expressing one’s individuality. How do you distinguish yourself among the other female musicians out there?
Iris: The only thing that separates me from every other musician out there, is being and doing no other than… me. I do search for a balance between who I am as a person, and what people expect of me. You hear about these celebrities, being famous in fashion for not doing so much. I do wish to be respected for my opinions, thoughts, and creativity. I do music because I am in love with it. I continue to write and sing for it brings me this happiness which no other thing has given me. Daily life inspires me to write from genuine emotion. It feeds my emotions that chase me through life. It’s all written down on paper, waiting to be turned into a song. I truly hope to influence positively the way music has left an impression on my soul that will cause to bring out the drive we all have inside of us.
Acrylick: Has the popularity of the internet affected your work? do you think it has a positive or negative influence?
Iris: With this new era in online communication, social networking has bumped its way to the most popular form of music promotion. It definitely has made more of a positive affect for me having the ability to gain a larger fan base. I do appreciate how I can receive feedback, positive and negative, from even strangers. Some comments are very sweet and touching, which encourages me to create more, realizing this is why I’m doing this. I’ve also learned not to beat myself up after receiving negative criticism. I take note of these judgments, though, to know I have something to improve on with my work. The internet has its pro’s and con’s, but a great tool to share with an audience that’s willing to listen to my music.
Acrylick: What other projects do you have lined up for 2010?
Iris: I recently auditioned for Music Speaks 2010 Charity Competition hosted by AJ Rafael. Music Speaks was a project/concert series started in 2009 to help raise the awareness of autism through the power of music and bringing people together. The winner of the competition will be giving half of the grand prize to the charity of their choice. The one I chose to represent is the Deafness Research Organization. Their goal is to attain a lifetime of healthy hearing, even treating infants who may have potential hearing impairments. I chose this because it made me realize how fortunate we are to be able to listen at all, and I believe music needs to be heard. Hopefully I’m chosen to compete on November 6th, 2010 at the Anaheim Heritage Forum, CA. Other than that, none upcoming big projects I know of. Different shows, open-mics, etc pop up during the passing months. I normally update on my Youtube and Facebook for updates, so check those out when I do!
Acrylick: Thank you for sharing your thoughts and music with us, Iris. Good luck to you in all your future endeavors.