Daily Discovery: Leeni on Battling Our Internal “Enemies”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Sometimes, we’re our own worst enemies.

The prolific, talented songwriter and performer Leeni understands this and, in her own generous way, wants to warn others of it, while also offering commiseration and a sense of understanding around the plight to herself, too.

That’s what her latest single, “Enemies,” is all about.

“This song is about the internal enemies we all have inside our minds,” Leeni tells American Songwriter. “Oftentimes the biggest resistance we face is from within, and it takes being a self-love warrior in order to overcome this battle on a daily basis. Some of the voices may have come from an external source initially, but they reverberate and echo within and become part of the fabric of how we view ourselves.

“Those voices get confused for ‘thought’ or ‘self’ if we are not careful enough to separate [them] from our real selves. It’s so insidious and powerful, but I think love is more powerful. This song is an anthem for overcoming self-hatred with love.”

Leeni has enjoyed a long, fruitful relationship with music. She says the art form “gripped” her from a young age. She moved to Seattle, Washington, from her hometown of Manchester, New Hampshire, in her mid-twenties and began to work at the craft. At first, she made songs with guitar, bass, and tambourine on a four-track. She wrote her first “serious” song in 2005 and has created luscious tracks as Prom Queen (see Midnight Veil). Later, she enjoyed popularity with her Nintendo Gameboy-rooted “chiptune” creations.

“I played the International BlipFest, gamer conventions, video-game-themed shows—and all the while I was not even a gamer! I just loved the sounds and enjoyed working within that genre,” she says.

Today, she’s back as Leeni, creating melodic, synth-driven, floating songs like “Enemies,” which you can check out below. It’s a testament to her talent that she can maneuver through so many types of sounds and feelings and rhythms. She’s a veritable jukebox unto herself.

“Everything is intentional, and melody is key,” says Leeni of her style. “When I stumble upon a melody that speaks to me, I try to make all things work in harmony to support it: the lyrics need to lend words to the story the melody is already telling, the instrumentation needs to rise and fall and build with the melodic arc, and the production needs to make space when sparse-ness is in order, but to blow the walls off when the wave reaches its crest. But mostly I create music for myself.”

That last point is key. It can be easy for songwriters to try and create work that they think will fit into some box that will make them a household name. The trick, though, is to make music that satisfies one person first: yourself. And let the chips (or chiptunes) fall where they may.

“I want to remind people to get out of their own way, to stand up to their negative inner bullies, to rise up and realize that this is their one and only life, and not to spend it at war with themselves,” says Leeni. “But I’m not trying to sound too enlightened. This message is for me, too. I want this song to hold me accountable and keep me on this path.”

Of course, this effort is not solely tied only to music or creative output, Leeni says.

“This message can also be applied to external opposition,” she explains. “Thinking about the battle we are facing as women in this country, being stripped of our rights regarding our own bodies, I can’t deny that there are forces outside of ourselves working to undermine us, too. They want to put us down and to keep us low. But we won’t let them win.”

In fact, that final line is her favorite lyric in “Enemies.”

“I repeat this line throughout the song almost as a mantra,” says Leeni. “It’s a powerful line that feels determined against whatever negative force is coming at you. To undermine them so they can no longer undermine you.”

Photo courtesy of Leeni

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