Filipino singer and music producer Lesha Liton’s star in on the rise, quite literally. The artist recently released her new song ‘Sun Moon Rising’, which first went viral on TikTok before she decided it would be the lead single on her upcoming album of the same name.
The 23-year-old Manila-based musician has been working on music since she was young and her stints on music platform Soundcloud and on YouTube spurred her creative journey, which has culminated in an album made up of many global puzzle pieces.
“Basically this entire album is actually a global collaboration,” she told Gulf News over Zoom. “When I when I told you I started off on Soundcloud posting song covers that’s how I met my current collaborators who are from different parts of the world — from Spain, Italy, Bahrain, US, UK, Korea. I met them all through SoundCloud when I was young because we would collaborate... then we became friends from there.”
In an interview with Gulf News, Liton opened up about dabbling in various genres, how social media boosted her track ‘Sun Moon Rising’, her OPM recommendations and more...
Can you tell me a bit about your journey as a musician?
Well, I’m a singer songwriter and music producer. As you can see behind me [points to her desk setup], this is my studio. This is where I produced my entire album and this is where I wrote all the songs, where I recorded. I basically do all of my stuff myself. I started out actually being a cover artist on YouTube and SoundCloud. That’s how I first started trying out music by doing covers of famous singers. Then I gained popularity out of that on YouTube because people really loved listening to my song covers... I like to add my own style of production and vocal chops into my covers and that’s what I did on my YouTube covers and it kind of blew up.
I’ve been doing music since I was really young... since I was three. Then I watched ‘School of Rock’ with Jack Black. I was inspired to learn how to play the electric guitar [so] I learned guitar and then in high school I started forming my own bands in school... we would compete in different schools for Battle of the Bands. When I started winning some of the Battle of the Bands, I was like, ‘whoa, okay, so I guess I can kind of make this music thing happen.’
So you wear different hats — you’re a producer, singer and make your own music. What is that like?
At first when I was trying to learn everything I was a bit overwhelming. Right now I think it’s very important for an artist to know all the loops and curves to the industry they’re trying to make it in. It’s so hard to depend on other people to make music for you, and I hated that. So I was like ‘I just want to do everything myself. So I’ll just learn it on YouTube.’ I’m a self-taught producer so I didn’t have any formal training, except for voice and guitar. But in terms of electronic music production, and what I am doing now, I’ve just learned through YouTube tutorials, when I was like 15.
Do you think it’s easier for people to learn music because of social media and the internet?
It’s a lot easier now because there are lot more people teaching. Everyone is turning to digital, the technology to learn and teach as well. So yeah, I think the digital world really opened up so many opportunities for budding artist right now.
What are your inspirations, especially when it comes to your new single and album?
EDM really inspired me a lot because I think that was my generation when I was going to parties and having fun. EDM inspired my music a lot... I slowly shifted my genre to a pop/mainstream approach mixing it with indie styles. I’m actually influenced by a lot of different musical styles like trap [and] hip hop.
One thing I wanted to get an idea of is Original Pilipino Music. Could you tell me more about it and where you fit in?
It’s the original Filipino music of the Philippines and I think people associate OPM more with artists that sing in Tagalog, which is the language of the Filipinos. But I think English songs can also be categorised as OPM as long as the singer, the songwriter is Filipino. So I think I am part of the OPM industry [laughs].
Nowadays people listen to so many different types of music, like Latin music and K-Pop. Language doesn’t seem to be an issue. Do you think OPM has the potential to go global?
Yes, I think OPM has a really big potential for people to really appreciate. I think we just need that platform for us to just showcase all of these amazing, talented, Filipino artists and for more people to hear OPM because I think it’s been very limited to the Philippines. I don’t think we have been able to get much more chances compared to like K-Pop. I think if Filipinos get the opportunity to give OPM the type of stage that K-Pop has I think it will be able to take over the world.
What would you recommend to someone who has never listened to OPM?
I suggest you listen to KZ Tandingan or Moira Dela Torre — they’re amazing artists here in the Philippines. They make super great Tagalog songs and English songs. I look up to them so much. They’re the best and they’re one of my favourites in the country. If you’re looking into trying OPM you should listen to KZ or Moira... or Ben&Ben!
What was it like working with your global collaborators on your album?
Well, I worked with a co-producer, his name is NOT U. He’s my co-producer from Barcelona. We worked for the first time as teens on Soundcloud — we released our first song together and I think he was 13 and I was like 15... then earlier this year I actually release a TikTok of ‘Sun Moon Rising’, which is the carrier single and the title track of my album. It was not meant to be an actual song... [but] suddenly people started using the sound [on the app]... so I continued to develop the track, produced it here, recorded it properly and then I sent it over to NOT U [to work on]... and the rest is history.
What have been listening to lately?
I love listening to Lorde, Kimbra, Morgan Hill... I love Troye Sivan. Lauv is also really amazing. Billy Eilish — I love style.
Do you have any advice for young people who are starting out in music and want to do their own thing?
I think they should really take risks. I don’t think I’d end up here if I didn’t take a risk and be patient with learning all the loops and curves of my industry, like learning all the marketing learning, all the production side, the business side... I think it’s really important for artists now to know how everything works so they don’t get taken advantage of in their industry. It’s also a good story to tell people in the future when you get interviewed that you built yourself from the ground up.
“My family is super supportive [of my career]. I actually shoot and direct and edit all of my music videos. A majority of them are shot at this house... my mom is a make-up artist so she does my make-up and my hair. My dad helps me press record and then he’s just managing everything. During my music video shoot for 'Sun Moon Rising' my entire family was there. My sister was taking behind the scenes footage and everything because she loves taking photos... I’m very lucky.”