In the last couple of months young singer/songwriter Kristian Leontiou has seemingly come from nowhere to have a UK Top 10 single, Story Of My Life, and a well-received debut album, Some Day Soon.
musicOMH caught up with the 21-year-old from North London before he was famous, to get the lowdown on how he almost didn’t get a record deal because he supposedly looks like a rapper!
“I was only doing things to get money to go into the studio. There were no jobs I was doing because I wanted to do them. I did hairdressing… but I didn’t like that… and I did laying cable but I couldn’t stand that – I don’t like getting up early in the morning!”
Kristian Leontiou is looking back on some of the less salubrious jobs he had before singing started to pay the rent, and not with many happy memories judging by his air of glum apathy at recalling his past life. Still, the baby-faced, pint-sized Londoner with the silky smooth singing voice could still have been battling his phobia of early morning starts if it hadn’t been for someone who heard the voice rather than judging by his facially pierced appearance:
“He just said, ‘No, it’s not our kind of thing – we wanted you to do rap music.'” – Kristian Leontiou on how record company execs judged his music by his appearance.
“I went into a meeting one day [with a record company exec] and he said that because of the way I looked when I walked in he thought I was going to do rap music. Because I wasn’t, he just said, ‘No, it’s not our kind of thing – we wanted you to do rap music.’ Luckily, the publisher I’ve got now – he was outside and was going to a meeting with the same person afterwards. He was listening outside [to the demos] and…”
… The rest is history. Or history in the making, perhaps. Nevertheless, although things have kicked off nicely for Kristian, he is one kid whose feet are firmly planted on terra firma:
“Well now I’ve released an album, and if it goes well that’s great, but it’s what I’ve wanted to do for years… So in all honesty it’s going better than I thought it would, so anything now is kind of like a bonus.”
Kristian’s softly-softly approach to stardom is perhaps a result of the fact that he’s been writing songs since he was a teenager and, even after being spotted by his aforementioned publisher, took a few years to hone his sound down to something he was happy to be out in the marketplace. The years of working and hoping seem to have lent him a mature perspective on the record industry, as well as making him a dab hand at dealing with cynical “friends”:
“There are a lot of false promises in this job.” – Kristian Leontiou is under no illusions about the music industry.
“I didn’t go telling everyone I wanted to do it [be a pop star], and I learned that quite early on because the people I did tell would see me the next day and be like, ‘Oh, so nothing has happened yet then?’ Everyone expects something to happen overnight… But there are a lot of false promises in this job and if you tell everyone every time there’s a promise that doesn’t come true then it just seems like you’re lying all the time.”
“So I kind of didn’t say anything to a lot of people but even now… I could have a Number One album for instance and I’d still get people turning round and saying, ‘Oh, when are you going to do such and such.’ You’ve got to kind of laugh with it… because at the end of the day I’m doing a job that I’ve always wanted to do and I know the same people who are saying that are doing jobs they can’t stand. So more fool them, really.”
But with Kristian having taken the long, slow road to success, we wonder if there were times when he was tempted to go for a quick fix, like appearing on Fame Academy or Pop Idol. His answer is emphatic but practical:
“No, not at all… The thing is you have to sing songs on those programmes that you don’t normally like and then you get criticised. I think they should let you go up every week and sing your own songs and then see how it goes, but if you have to sing an ABBA song and you don’t like ABBA, then what is that about? I just don’t get it.”
“And I don’t even know if this is ‘cool’ or not, but… I’d like to work with Phil Collins.” – Hey Kristian, no that’s not cool.
While on the subject of musical taste, it turns out that Kristian’s own CD collection is more varied and eclectic than most, particularly for someone who got mistaken for a rapper!
“I think there’s a lot I listen to that my mates don’t listen to. I’ve grown up listening to Guns ‘N’ Roses, Lionel Richie and Genesis, but as for groups at the moment, I think the most recent album I bought was Maroon 5.”
And who would he like to collaborate with, given half a chance?
“I’d like to write with Chris Martin… And I don’t even know if this is ‘cool’ or not, but… I’d like to work with Phil Collins. I think, if it was a woman, I really like Norah Jones – I think her voice is great. But it’s kind of a weird combination of people so whether it would actually happen, who knows?”
Who knows indeed? Not too long ago he was cutting hair but in a few years maybe he’ll be cutting his teeth duetting with musical legends. Someone better make sure that their studio time together isn’t early morning, however…
Interview – Kristian Leontiou
Kristian Leontiou @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
Kristian Leontiou – Some Day Soon