Five Favourites: Miss Leading

New Zealand born songwriter, producer, poet and activist Miss Leading has now shared her poignant new single ‘Woke‘. Having spent five years living in Scotland, she recently moved back to New Zealand where she founded the Eastern Sound Collective – a network of musicians based in Wellington with the aim of supporting and connecting Asian artists.

A response to the virtue signalling that permeated much of society during the Black Lives Matter movement, ‘Woke’ showcases Miss Leading’s knack for combining a sparkling, soulful musicality with a gritty social awareness and poignant sense of urgency. Watch the deeply stirring new video for ‘Woke’ here – of the video, Miss Leading explains: “The symbol of haircutting is that of ‘a thousand tiny cuts’, that accumulation of constant prejudice and its impact. It is also about pulling back the nice dressing to reveal something that makes people uncomfortable.

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspires them. So, to celebrate the release of ‘Woke’, we caught up with Miss Leading to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that have inspired her the most. Read about her choices below:

Green Day – Dookie
Dookie was the first CD that our parents did not pick out. I think my sister only bought it because all her friends had said it was cool. She will attest to the fact that she has never liked punk. But I was instantly connected, the fast drum lines and the lyrics that fed the soul of a shithead teenager who didn’t connect with the constraints of the adult world imposed upon them. We sat there with the CD cover insert in hand, reading and singing along with the lyrics all afternoon until we knew every song by heart. I loved the secret track ‘All By Myself’ – a gift hidden for those who left the CD on play.

Jill Scott – Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds Vol. 1 
I remember hearing ‘Love Rain’ on the radio and thinking “what is this?”… It was poetry and jazz and contemporary and sexy – “We made better than love we made delicious”. When I lose direction about where to take my music and poetry, I always return to this album. Each track is a story that glimpses into Jill’s everyday life. Her ability to blend spoken-word with beautiful vocals is seamless. I hold this as an aspiration to work towards in music-making.

Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
Singers that I will use to practice to are Aretha Franklin, Doris Day, and Amy Winehouse. Amy is undoubtedly one of the greatest singers of my generation. She knows where to place power in a line and where to let it just sit. True to jazz vocals, she plays with how a word should sound using her voice as an instrument. The more I dive into Back to Black, the more I realise how much of a lyrical genius Amy was too. Her stories of infidelity, addiction, use of swearing and slang, or named references to brands and objects stamp her music as a portrait of a period in time. This style pays homage to the boundary-breaking writing that jazz has always had a part to play. I try to think about this when I’m writing songs – “how do I want to bring my listener to the time and place I am in right now, and what language will I use to do this?”

We Were Promised Jet Packs – These Four Walls
I am not exaggerating when I say that I moved to Edinburgh because my favourite band lived there. What better way to pick a new place to live than one where you know there will be good music. And I am a big-time fan having seen them play in Toronto, Boston and all over Scotland. I love all of their albums; as musicians, they continue to develop and change in a way that their audience can move with them. The instrumentation of their music carries you through a full tide of emotions with fantastic build-ups that pull right inside you. Adam’s lyrics use beautiful metaphors and imagery that allow the listener to try to decipher what it may mean to the writer or let it be their own story – I’ve always related ‘Quiet Little Voices’ to how I feel about my nieces. I’d like to make music like this but haven’t quite figured out how. The album starts with ‘Thunder and Lightning’, which has gut-wrenching lyrics, but the music features the pretty tones of a xylophone and the final lines “I’m leaving!” brings a sense of liberation. The album finishes with ‘An Almighty Thud.’ A quiet song, beautifully written with words that seem to be a metaphor for vulnerability, perhaps fears of failure and imposter syndrome, which is relatable to most artists, if not most people. Good songwriting like this, the kind that you can enjoy on first hear and then as you look closer draw you in more are rare and why I will always be a WWPJP fan.

Noname – Room 25
Taken from this album, the track ‘Self’ is 1 minute 34 seconds of perfection. This piece says what it needs to say and leaves you to think about it. Noname’s cadence and words are unapologetic. Her style doesn’t over-perform or try to fit other people’s rhythms. ‘Self’ was the first time I’d heard the term “pussy” used to demonstrate feminine strength. “My pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism. In conversation with a marginal system in love with Jesus” – this line is gold. I loved seeing her perform live at SWG3 in Glasgow. Although a serious rapper, she is charming and isn’t afraid to show her enjoyment and have fun on stage with her audience.

Massive thanks to Miss Leading for sharing her Five Favourites with us! Listen to ‘Woke‘ here, and watch the affecting video below:

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