Los Angeles-based singer and songwriter discusses her journey to becoming an artist, producing story-telling and political conscious music and more.
Get ready to take notice of rising singer and songwriter, Leilia. Brynne “Leilia” Filer, daughter of Judge Kelvin D. Filer for the Los Angeles Superior Court of Compton steps to the forefront with a budding music career debuting her EP “Other, Other: Volume 1,” produced by Ervin ‘EP’ Pope. She brings a cinematic feel to her music, introducing singles: “Fossils,” “Insidethered” and “Morphine” that evoke indie soul-folk sounds. The “Other, Other” explores a woman’s experience in public spaces while simultaneously maintaining her private realm. Leilia presents a narrative sound to the music world as well as themes of identity that she explores through music.
Los Angeles Sentinel (LAS): Your debut EP “Other, Other: Volume 1” offers the theme of the “Other, Other Woman.” It asks the question of “what happens to a young woman when there is no gaze on her?” How did you come up with this narrative and what is the significance surrounding it?
Leilia: It’s a piece that I will be working on continuously for a little while and its essentially an archetype that I started noticing in a lot of films. I noticed it was mainly a female character that isn’t a part of the original film itself. However, she comes into a scene, alters the entire course of the film or main character’s position, then leaves the scene and never reappearing in the film. I started getting into the idea of “invisible women” and using that kind of invisibility to claim it as a power instead of thinking of it as misrepresentation or no representation. Me, myself being a Black woman and being small, I’ve felt invisible in public spaces and I found out when I started to write about this “Other, Other” archetype, it gave me a sense of power and purpose to be invisible in those public spaces. For me through music, it’s about the exploration of her and her own private space. Who is she when she wants to come undone? Who is she when she wants to deal with her trials and tribulations. “Other, Other” explores a woman’s private self and vulnerabilities.
LAS: The production of your music is deep and a bit abstract. Theoretically, what place do you go to when writing and recording your music?
Leilia: I go to my dreams. I am a cerebral dreamer, I’ll remember all my dreams and they’ll play out like little films. I do my best writing at night and in the dark, because it becomes a solitary space. In that space I can unpack all of the noise, thoughts and things I have been wrestling with. I let my head clear and I write a lot about films. I love films that came out of the French New Wave cinema in the 1960s’. It was messy, slightly documented, artistic and had a social questioning. I think that is somewhat the making of my music.
LAS: The lyrics to the single “Fossils” seems to be self-reflective. What does the song symbolize?
Leilia: I wrote “Fossils” to describe the feeling of being undiscovered. It’s a little about my own artistry and my frustrations in trying to become a true artist and not doing things for quick attention and turnover, but that slow process of unveiling. It’s written as a monologue about being something that is covered up and asking ‘could you dig me out?’ That’s really a question for myself. Ultimately, no one can uncover us, except for ourselves. There’s a frustration that comes in the waiting, but there is a graciousness that comes with it as well. That song is about the pairing of the two.
LAS: At what age or moment did you know you wanted to become an artist?
Leilia: I knew I wanted to become a singer when I was very young. I took vocal lessons with an amazing vocal coach, who taught me the technique of using your whole body to sing. I did that from ages 7 to 14. I would sing around the house, here and there. I didn’t sing in church, chapel or perform in any girl groups. I cultivated my music privately.
I started pursuing music as an artist when I graduated from college, around the age of 21. It’s been about 9 years of constantly going in and out different projects working with different producers. I was signed to a really small indie label for a minute, working with a guitarist for two years and being in a duo group. Those things never took shape into something as a sustainable career. I hit a bottom, trying to understand what I wanted to build from. Only recently, have I defined the kind of artist I want to be and the music I want to participate in.
LAS: Law and music are two distinct mediums. Being a singer, are you looking to separate yourself or are you embracing being a part of your father’s legacy?
Leilia: It’s a two-way narrative. I write a lot about my dad’s status and our relationship. It comes up in a lot of the songs. It is a subtext, I don’t call it out, but it is a big part of my identity and shaping myself as an artist. I have nothing but respect, admiration, adoration for my dad and I think what he has done as a member of society, Compton and the whole judiciary system has been huge. He is a part of a huge legacy. I happily take on that legacy and that next chapter. I want to represent that pursuit of greatness, but I do understand my own path is my own path. There is both this juggling act of wanting to ensure that the work that I do can be relatable to the Filer name and understanding that I need to do it on my own so that I know what it feels like to gain that kind of respect in the world. People look at me and don’t know my last name. I’ve haven’t done anything of any real substance and people will be kind of dismissive of me. However, I know where I come from and the path that has been laid out for me. I’m walking towards it with respect and graciousness.
LAS: There are many successful mainstream artists, however, there is an influx of independent singers and songwriters on the rise that are making great waves in the industry. Are you looking to become a mainstream or independent artist?
Leilia: I don’t think I’m going to go mainstream, even if I wanted to with the work that I do. I’m trying to do good work and participate in a large conversation that is happening with music. Right now, music is having this social revolution, where artists who even are mainstream are wanting to talk about things that aren’t so mainstream-like. I’m looking to lend my voice to that conversation.
I think the music industry, in terms of the structure, is changing shape and form. It is becoming less of a vertical hierarchy play of climbing your way to the top, but becoming something much more of a horizontal realm where you can look across and not always have to look up as a means to success. I do think there are artists who hold that position. Beyoncé is one of them, she is called “Queen B” for a reason, however, at the same time, the music industry’s system is changing. Artists are feeling that pull to ask bigger questions. We’re living in a society where we are becoming more political in our everyday speak. For our generation, this is our moment to see artists participating in that change the same way Nina Simone did during the Civil Rights era, talking about the Black experience. I appreciate the fact that Kendrick Lamar is obvious in the way he relates to music. He’s given a face, voice and a tenderness to being a Black man who can understand the hardships and hardness, but the beauty in being a poet and hip-hop artist.
I had a few chances to take the mainstream route, for one reason or another, it didn’t work out. I’m enjoying the process slow, there’s something beneficial to it. Now is a better time, than what would have been eight years ago, if I would have jumped the gun and gone for the stardom. I don’t want who I am to be a persona, something that I take off.