Like many young women her age, 23-year-old Leah Renee is concerned with matters of the heart.
But, unlike some, the emerging pop singer/songwriter is not at the moment looking for that fairy tale happily-ever-after ending. Rather, she is aspiring to a “Storybook” beginning – with an imaginary Prince Charming, at that.
For the record, that’s because Leah’s first single, “iBF (Imaginary Boyfriend),” will be breaking in February 2009.The song is off her debut CD, “Storybook,” an 11-song collection scheduled for release later this year. Leah co-wrote all the songs on the infectious, high-impact CD, which she says is about love, and is hoping that it will bring her the attention she seeks — the kind borne out of the public-at-large getting to know Leah , who she is and what she feels, through her music.
“I’m lucky to have such huge input on my first album,” acknowledges Leah, whose contemporary R&B pop influences are at the root of her art. “A lot of people don’t get that chance. The songs are about my personal experiences but everyone will be able to relate to them. For example, the song ‘Disappointing’ is about my having met someone that I thought was my Prince Charming but later found out that he wasn’t.”
So then, welcome to the world of the iBF, the guy that no one stands a ghost of a chance with but who won’t let you down, either.
“This song just jumped right out as far as being the first single,” Leah smiles, using the slang abbreviation that seems destined to take its place among the standards on text messages everywhere once the song is released. “All of us have had an imaginary boyfriend at one point in our lives. We’ve focused on celebrities or have had a crush on someone else who’s unattainable. But it doesn’t stop us from daydreaming.”
These days, Leah’s visions are not just about romance but also about performing her songs live, in front of thousands of fans and maybe even winning a Grammy someday. To that avail, the pretty blonde with the girl-next-girl looks describes herself as” a normal person who’s working very hard to make her dreams come true.” In show business since the age of 5, the multi-talented Leah began doing cartoon voices and TV/acting work at 10 (she starred in the Donnie Wahlberg CW series “Runaway”). At 13 she began taking voice lessons with renowned vocal coach Elaine Overholt who helped Leah hone her vocal skills and define her sound.
In spite of her early success, there certainly have been some “Disappointing” moments along the road. “I’ve worked with some producers who were quite prevalent in the industry,” Leah explains. “They made promises that never came through — I was even told I was being signed to a major record label, which never happened. In my personal life, because I was acting on TV, the girls in high school would give me digs before they really knew me. And the guys couldn’t handle not being number one.”
“I really had to believe in myself to deal with the down times” she adds. “But I’ve always felt that it’s important to be real. That’s why I write about my experiences – I want people to know who I really am.”
Thanks to her natural sunny, upbeat personality and positive outlook, all those trials are now subjects of songs on “Storybook.” Because she never gave up on what she loved, she eventually met Aaron Curtis and Charlie Vox, better known throughout the industry as heads of a consortium of writers and producers known as The Conglomerate (Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson and more). Curtis and Vox are not only Leah’s collaborators on “Storybook” as well as the project’s
main producers, but they have become friends as well.
That is very happy thing, considering that seven months ago, Leah left her family, friends, two dogs, cat, chameleon, and bird in her native Toronto, Canada, behind to move to the Big Apple all on her own. Settling in a different country was not an easy adjustment but thanks to Curtis and Vox and the fact that she loves exploring new things and places, New York has become a fun experience for Leah, who relates that she loved living with her family and could have stayed there forever.
“My mother and father are amazing,” she enthuses. “They gave up so much so that I could do what I loved, even though they knew I had chosen a difficult path. I knew what I wanted at five years old and my dad took a job working the night shift in a warehouse so that he could take me to auditions during the day while my mom worked. Then, after several years of his losing a lot of sleep, my mom quit her job to take me around until I was 16 and able to drive myself.”
“My family’s a little different,” she continues. “My dad and younger brother are both into motorcycle culture – they both have Harley Davidsons – and they can get lost for days on a bike trip. My dad has tattoos and hair longer than mine and he’s always stealing my shampoo. My mom, who now works as a customs broker, and I do everything together and I really miss her. I talk to my parents a few times a day.”
When she is not working on her music – and she’s already started composing songs for a second CD – Leah is enjoying visiting New York’s museums and taking the subway uptown and downtown, seeking out new territory to look into. In general, she is a young woman who enjoys all sorts of activities.
“There’s not a whole lot I don’t like,” she admits. “I’m very curious and I like learning about a lot of things. I like to read and I like to cook — I love the culture, food and music of India. I would love to go there someday. I also enjoy ice skating and going to the gym and working out and doing Yoga and Pilates. When I’m home in Toronto, I love going out to dinner and to the movies with my friends – we like trying new restaurants and new food.”
While Leah reveals that she is outgoing where her career is concerned, she also acknowledges that she has never been the type to go to parties and get “wild and crazy.” More than likely, anyone observing her will see her on her cell phone – mainly because it has a recorder in it and she sings songs she is composing into it 24/7.
“I sing into my phone even when I’m walking or in the shower,” Leah laughs. “I write every day, whether it’s an entire song or just a line. It’s important to keep the juices flowing. In my apartment, I’ll light a candle and make some tea and then I’ll pick up lines, words and melodies from my journal to bring to my co-writers, Aaron and Charli.”
While Leah states that she would also like to write for other singers, such as Jordan Sparks and Rihanna, she admits that dreams of her own superstardom are not necessarily what drive her. Most important to her is having people hear her music and being able to continue her singing and songwriting. There’s no denying that her biggest thrill will be the first time she hears “iBF (Imaginary Boyfriend”) played on the radio.
“I’ve been waiting so long for that day,” the down-to-earth Leah says earnestly. “The first time I hear my record on the radio, I think I’ll lose my mind. Being number one would be a dream come true.”