L e e L i
At age 15 Leeli decided it was high time she got some guitar lessons.
Not just from anyone mind you.
She wanted to learn from the 16-year-old boy she’d seen playing in the local talent quest.
And so it was that Leeli came to be standing on Dan Morgan’s front lawn performing Tenacious D’s Tribute complete with highly choreographed dance moves.
“At the end I got down on my knees and said ‘will you teach me to play guitar like you?’,” Leeli – aka Emma Louise - recalls, chuckling.
“That’s how it started.”
It was also the start of a musical journey that would eventually see her perform across the globe and alongside some of Australia’s finest young musicians.
Right from the start the Byron Bay local’s sweet, soulful voice and honest, heartfelt lyrics connected with audiences.
Drawing on influences ranging from Bob Dylan and Fleetwood Mac to Glen Hansard and Jack White, she has developed a unique brand of folk pop characterised by intricately crafted songs that tell stories from her life and travels.
The songs seamlessly fuse acoustic guitar and voice with drum loops, touches of electronic ambience and a hint of dark country.
In 2014 she released her debut EP With the Sea – an evocative collection which received radio play across the country.
The single Grow Old was nominated for a MusicOz award and was a finalist in an international song-writing competition.
But it was only later – during a nine-month stint in Indonesia – that Leeli decided to put music at the very centre of her world.
“I met all these people who basically had nothing, but all they want to do in their lives was art and music,” the now 27-year-old recalls.
“There was no expectation about money or getting a really well-payed job. They were doing art and music because they loved it and I realised that I shared that love with them.”
That passion is reflected in her new single Into the Dark (to be released on October 14) in which she peels back the layers and returns to the purity of voice and guitar.
The single, produced by Jordan Power (Dope Lemon, Xavier Rudd) will be at the heart of a new EP to be released in the coming months.
It reflects a new level of lyrical and musical intensity that Leeli is eager to share with audiences face to face.
“For me it’s about the intimacy of performance,” she says.
“That beautiful rawness of telling your story with one guitar and one voice.”