Mattie Leon grew up an athlete and even got a golf scholarship to Penn State. But music was always calling his name. He recently performed at the Surf + Social Club in London, Ontario. Check out our Leisure Live and interview below where Mattie performs and tells us how he decided to follow his leisure and how he’s breaking out in the music scene.
Mattie, when did you start playing music?
Music was always hanging in the air as the soundtrack of youth but it never crossed that threshold of entertainment until I was about 17 or 18. At that point it crept up on me, tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “You should start doing this.” I started playing my dad’s guitar and immediately began writing songs. Expressing myself and creating something original was always my focus. All the things I cared about before then started to take a back seat. The fog lifted and a big ol’ chunk of my brain has been reserved for music ever since.
Did you start sharing what you were creating right away?
It took me a good year of singing into a tape deck before I even showed anyone something I’d written. No one in my family was a musician and I’d grown up an athlete. My parents were always so supportive, but I was scared nevertheless. Slowly, SO SLOWLY, I started showing my songs to friends — usually after building up some courage that only cheap beer could provide.
After a while of just breaking through nerves, I started getting up on stages; open mics, small bars, coffee shops. As I progressed, I went to the clubs in Toronto that had the best bands, booked shows at music venues, and started a band with my best friends.
The more time I spent around serious musicians, the more I started to see the world as one. At the end of the day, I think being around the people that are doing the thing that you want to do is the most important. The next thing you know, you’re wearing jean jackets and fedoras and reading biographies to help your songwriting!
What advice would you give to someone just getting started?
You’ve gotta push through that wall that says “stop, this isn't you, you can't go this way” because you totally can. I was a golfer on a scholarship to Penn State. But then I followed my leisure. It was hard at first because my whole identity was being a good golfer, but it was much harder not putting all of my energy into the thing that I am — a musician and songwriter. Doing that thing that you want to do is just a couple of years away. Nobody is going to tell you to follow your passion. You have to keep telling yourself that.
Looking back are there things you might do differently, or important lessons learned?
I wish I had worked smarter than I did. I wish I focused less on “moving up” and instead on bettering my skills. With music theory and reading music, I thought, “Paul McCartney can’t do it, so why do I need to?” But in recent years, I started taking vocal lessons, reading more music, and learning music theory. It’s already helping me write new songs and better understand my craft. All of these things feel like investments that will pay off in the long run. I’m a better singer now than ever. I wish I did that when I was 20.
What's next for you?
Cross Canada Tour this summer in support of my new record Signal Hill and single “Vimy”! Can’t wait. Then some more recording and hopefully new music out by the end of the year.