With unending humility and gratitude, Christian Leave taps into a space of deep contemplation within his newest EP, ‘Superstar,’ an intimate and emotionally driven guidebook for all those searching for their place in the universe.
Stream: ‘Superstar’ – Christian Leave
I’m a music man! I’m here for the music and that’s it.
The aforementioned words come straight from the mind of the one and only Christian Leave; self-proclaimed ‘normal guy’ — with a rockstar side hustle. But wait! Don’t be alarmed: when I say rockstar, I am not alluding to the archetypical braggarts with overinflated egos who are 100% sure that they’re the hottest stuff in the business. If anything, Christian is the farthest thing from that persona, leading his life with the utmost humility, grounded in the present by his overflowing sense of gratitude.
Some might recognize Christian from his days on Vine, or via comedic cameos on his friends’ YouTube videos, but his musical career showcases an entirely different side of his bona fide creative prowess. Releasing music since 2015, Christian now has a fully fleshed out discography under his belt — a continually expanding scrapbook of his time on earth thus far. The freshest snapshot in this coming of age narrative is Superstar, Christian’s newest EP, released Oct. 11, 2022 via Warner Records.
Praised by critics for his dynamic musical versatility and genre-bending sound, Superstar is a manifestation of a more self-realized Christian Leave than ever. Cementing his newfound sonic footing in a mere five songs, this project is proof that this rising star is nowhere near burning out.
“[Superstar] is about me finding my own place within the people around me and the things around me,” Christian reveals.
Despite the name of the project, on a day-to-day basis, Christian doesn’t think of himself as someone with around 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
He lives his life with a buoyant nonchalance, remembering his fame only when he has to promote his work on social media, or when he is recognized by a fan on the street. “It never actually feels like that many people are looking up to me,” Christian confesses. “In my day to day life when I’m eating breakfast I’m not really thinking about it. I feel very lucky and so, so, so fortunate to be where I’m at in my life right now […]. It has been very weird growing up with [fame] — actually the weirdest thing ever, but it has been very fun […]. I don’t think about it, and I try to keep a level head.”
When it comes to Christian, what you see is exactly what you get. There is no online persona or elaborate façade that he hides behind; he’s a down-to-earth guy whose fervent passion for music propels him through this life.
“[Music is] my favorite thing in the world,” he discloses. “It creates such a special space, and it makes me feel like I get to go somewhere that I don’t usually get to go without it […]. It is such a guttural reaction, especially when it’s something that is resonating with what’s going on within my life.”
Christian’s music undoubtedly functions in a similar manner for countless others; his emotionally intuitive songwriting approach eloquently captures the ongoing search for his place in this world. “I’m slowly developing throughout my own personal life, and it’s always affecting my art,” he confides, acknowledging that almost every trial and tribulation that he has faced in this lifetime is memorialized in each song that he writes.
Superstar is perhaps where we hear Christian Leave at his most exposed.
“I was going through a lot of different transitional phases; there were a lot of things going on. It was scary, and I dealt with it within this project,” he shares. “I still see myself in those situations when I listen to these songs.” And although the EP provides a snapshot of a very specific period of time in Christian’s life, the themes found within these melodies will always be applicable — no matter the circumstance.
While Christian looks back on parts of his discography with slight embarrassment for the more naive version of himself, when it comes to Superstar, he proudly affirms: “For the first time, I feel like I can confidently say that even if it doesn’t age well for other people, it will age well for me.”
Superstar is a hard-hitting expose on the various types of power imbalances that we come across in this life; delving deep into the framework of the relationships that have greatly impacted Christian’s world. Full of nuance, Christian is unafraid to express his discomfort at being caught in a state of limbo, never quite knowing where he stands with others, or how they truly perceive him. From the hazy musings of awe and admiration nestled in the title track, “Superstar,” to the final admission of defeat within the orchestrally-infused closing, “Pull,” Christian masterfully explores the full range of human interaction in just under 14 minutes.
All of this time spent closely examining his relationships with others has certainly paid off — when asked how he gets by in an industry that often runs people to the brink of exhaustion, Christian doesn’t hesitate before immediately exclaiming: “Music and friends!”
Christian imbues his overflowing gratitude for the people closest to him in everything that he does. Whether it is gushing with unending admiration for his girlfriend, or telling a story about the zany antics of his friend group, not a day goes by without the singer-songwriter actively recognizing all of the love present in his life.
Practicing gratitude and positive reflection has been the key to maintaining peace of mind in an industry that places so much weight on streams, likes, and views as indicators of one’s success. “It’s really good to be constantly grateful just as a rule of thumb,” Christian asserts. “It puts so many things into perspective, and it doesn’t allow you to get hung up on things that might not matter.”
There are so many notions of what ‘success’ is, but for Christian, it’s the ability to connect with others on a deeper level. “We’re reaching a point where people are listening and want to be involved, and that’s all that really matters to me […]” he exclaims. “I’m not looking to obtain some kind of big success, or be the biggest star in the world. I’m looking to make an essential career out of this, to connect with people and make something that feels good for me, and also for the people who are willing to participate with me.”
And thus, with the release of Superstar, Christian finds his rightful — and furthermore, deserved — place within a microcosm of fellow creatives and the world at large. With music as his trusty guide, Christian braves through the rough spots of life, weathering any storm that dares to throw him off his course; rallying others to join him on this gradual journey toward self actualization.
Experience the full expanse of Christian Leave’s wisdom by streaming Superstar below, and continue reading to learn more about the life that informs this singer-songwriter’s craft.
There’s a lot of context in learning. I’m just trying to pick up on that, I’m slowly developing throughout my own personal life, and it’s always affecting my art.
Stream: ‘Superstar’ – Christian Leave
A CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTIAN LEAVE
Atwood Magazine: Before we get into the new EP, I want to start off by asking you about your time as a musician. You've been on the internet for a while, and have been playing music for a good chunk of your life. Besides it being your full time job, what keeps you creating music? Why does it continue to be meaningful for you?
Christian Leave: That’s a great question. Thank you for asking. I grew up with music around me all the time. My entire family on my mom’s side sings or plays [an instrument]. It has been a really big part of my upbringing in a lot of ways, but it has also been a big part of phases of my life. Music has been the only thing that I feel I can rely on to signify how I’m feeling, to create new moods, and to create that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach. I love it more than anything else. Truly the answer is that it’s my favorite thing in the world. It creates such a special space, and it makes me feel like I get to go somewhere that I don’t usually get to go without it. It also makes me feel like I can communicate myself and my emotions in a big way.
Definitely! These songs are landmarks of your time on Earth that you can refer back to. You've captured that really well with your whole discography. Going off of your beginnings; you've been on social media for a while — but artists have a really complicated relationship with social media now more than ever, because in being an artist you have to market yourself, and that can really affect mental health. How do you deal with having a social media presence as an artist and having to market yourself to people?
Christian Leave: It’s such a funny question, because it’s the bane of my existence. I don’t mean that in a negative way. The music scene has changed a lot, the dynamic between a label and what they expect of you. Just what it means to be a musician now, it’s not [wholly] focused on [music].
The way that I deal with it? I just don’t do it, I just ignore it. I’m working on things, I’m trying to become more vocal and more consistent with creative things. Even beyond music, I do love to create and make videos, whatever it is. Most of the time I just ignore [social media] and focus on making music — that’s really all it is. For me at least it’s so ingrained in my day to day life that the only mental health issue is really the pressure that comes with it. It’s something that I use every day, so there’s not much anxiety around using it. Most of the time, I ignore it and don’t participate.
That can be healthy, because when it seems forced your fans will know that it's not organic. You want to do something that's from you and not because a label or a manager is telling you to do it. You are a solo artist, but you do have a management team and people who support your career, but it's mostly up to you to kind of manage and pioneer your own career. How do you maintain your peace of mind in this competitive and isolating atmosphere that is the music industry?
Christian Leave: I really trust the people that I’m around. I’ve been really fortunate enough to develop a pretty healthy ecosystem of friends and also of business partners. It has taken a long time to get here, and I’ve worked with a bunch of different people, and I’ve also had a bunch of different friends. I’ve learned a lot along the way and have gotten myself into a really good position where I feel incredibly comfortable with the people I’m with.
I’m not looking to obtain some kind of big success, or be the biggest star in the world. I’m looking to make an essential career out of this, to connect with people and make something that feels good for me, and also for the people who are willing to participate with me.
When I first moved to LA, it did feel very competitive and very scary, because everyone is doing so good all the time. You have to, because if you’re not, then you fade into the background. Now I don’t really care. Life is so long, there’s so many things to worry about. This is my job, so I feel the same with any job; I’ve found some comfortability within my own life. It’s the same as anybody else would.
The label circuit can really kind of chew people up, spit them out and leave them, so I'm glad that you've gotten that community and are surrounded by people who support you and are there for you whether it's in a musical sense or a personal sense.
Christian Leave: How do you handle the pressure?
I work for Universal Music Group as a PR person, so I know a little bit about the other side of the industry, emailing people and such.
Christian Leave: Do you like UMG?
Yes I love UMG, it's so fun. I'm sorry though, we're competitors with Warner.
Christian Leave: Doesn’t matter to me!
Right? It's the music. Music is all that matters.
Christian Leave: I’m a music man. I’m here for the music and that’s it. That’s my vibe! I’m just an artsy guy!
Christian Leave, “I'm here for the music” — that's gonna be my headline. Your EP comes out in three days. How are you feeling? I know you said on Instagram that you're so excited and so pumped.
Christian Leave: I did say that! That is how I feel! I’m literally ecstatic. You know, you start making music when you’re really young and you make a lot of really young decisions. I’ve been developing for a long time, and I haven’t really made an album yet. There’ve been a lot of situations where I’ve put out music and been super excited about it, and then years have gone by and then I’m like: “Oh, damn, that’s not how I wanted it to age.”
It’s just a fun little time capsule that I have, but for this one in particular I feel very connected to it. It took me like a year to write, even though it’s only five songs. I was going through a lot of different transitional phases; there were a lot of things going on. It was scary, and I dealt with it within this project. I still see myself in those situations when I listen to these songs. For the first time, I feel like I can confidently say that even if it doesn’t age well for other people, it will age well for me. I love it so much and am very excited for it to be out there and exist.
That's so awesome to hear, because so often artists are stuck in the press cycle, and you're talking about the songs and hearing the songs over and over before the EP actually comes out. It's good that you are still enthusiastic about these songs and that they still feel like you! Can you tell me about the title? Where did Superstar come from?
Christian Leave: The title track of the EP is called “Superstar.” It’s about my girlfriend. My girlfriend is very cool, that’s where I’ll start. She’s the coolest person that I know. I love her absolutely to death; she is my best friend. It’s very cool to see her exist as a person, in her interactions and how much people care for her and cherish her. Not that I don’t feel the same way, but reflecting upon her own interactions and seeing where I have faults and where I wish I had more. I know that I could never be as cool as her, because she’s absolutely at the top of it. The song is about that; the sentiment of the song is about reflecting upon those differences.
The whole project as a whole is about power imbalances within a relationship, whether it being romantic or platonic. Not even with another person, just relationships with things in general. Calling it Superstar is giving the other person, or the other thing within those relationships and within those situations the front of the house; giving them the main show. It’s about these other little superstars. It’s about me finding my own place within the people around me and the things around me.
For the first time, I feel like I can confidently say that even if ‘Superstar’ doesn’t age well for other people, it will age well for me. I love it so much and am very excited for it to be out there and exist.
I don't know if this was intentional, but I see the power imbalance in the cover art for some of the singles that you've released. It's different heights, different characteristics, etc. It's really reflected in those as well.
Christian Leave: I also randomly got a tattoo. I wanted a tattoo that said “superstar,” and as soon as I got that, I was like: “I guess I can work that in there.”
So that was the real motive.
Christian Leave: Of course. Everyone was like: “You should call it ‘superstar’,” and I was like: “Oh, you’re right!” I had already written the song, so it kinda worked out.
Love it. I have a fun question next: If this project had a Tinder bio what would it be?
Christian Leave: What would it be… one second, let me think. “I know everyone loves music, and I am music. So, the fact that I’ve been able to access Tinder automatically gives me 10 points above everyone else. If you want to hang out with me, an EP, just a CD — that’s all I am — then hit me up.” Then all of the photos would be a CD. It’d be flexing huge buff arms. It’d be at the beach, in Paris next to the Eiffel Tower, it’d do the leaning thing at the leaning tower [of Pisa], and then it’d be like “I’m music!”
That's great. Perfect profile, no red flags. You touched on this already a couple of answers ago, but within the EP you talk about various types of relationships — both platonic and romantic — and the troubles that come with them. I'm going to turn the tables a little bit and ask what the telltale signs are that indicate you are in a good relationship, and a healthy relationship?
Christian Leave: Open communication dude. If you are with someone who is speaking their emotions, the way that they feel, the way that they understand things, and the other person is willing to take time to understand and shift their perspective in order to meet in the middle, or vice versa — if you feel like you can do that with someone else, that is the first thing. Everyone says that, and it’s like super cliche, but compromise is the biggest thing to help make your relationship last longer and be more healthy. After time and practice, it becomes how you operate within a relationship. That’s my answer: communication, baby.
So true. It wouldn't be a common answer if it wasn't true.
Christian Leave: Honestly, it’s great. Me and my girlfriend can talk about anything and we will always meet each other on an even level, on an even playing field.
‘Superstar’ is about me finding my own place within the people around me and the things around.
That's so important. The title track, “Superstar” discusses this notion of stardom and putting people up on a pedestal, like you addressed. You yourself have been in the spotlight since childhood. How have you dealt with these pressures that come with being a figure that so many people admire and look up to?
Christian Leave: That’s a fun question. It’s a weird thing that I kind of ignore. It never actually feels like that many people are looking up to me. In my day to day life when I’m eating breakfast I’m not really thinking about it. I feel very lucky and so, so, so fortunate to be where I’m at in my life right now. But the pressure aspect of it; I don’t feel pressure from other people, but more so the pressure to succeed now that I’ve obtained this thing. It has been very weird growing up with it — actually the weirdest thing ever, but it has been very fun. I don’t know how to deal with it to be honest. I don’t think about it, and I try to keep a level head.
Thinking about it might lead to overthinking, and even more stress.
Christian Leave: More so now, because everyone can be what I’m doing. Everyone has the opportunity to enter into the industry because of how accessible the internet is. There’s even less reason to be like: “I’m the next thing. I’m mega, you don’t even know my Instagram follower count.” It has been very weird for sure. It has changed my brain as time has gone on. How do you feel? How do you feel about the current day and age and existing within the webs?
It's interesting — I'm not a social media gal, but as a journalist, I have to be like: “Read my work, please!” I really try to think of it as promotion for the artists; something that I'm doing to help artists in general get their voices out there and things like that. Social media is definitely a battle, for sure.
Christian Leave: How do you feel about TikTok?
Well, I deleted TikTok in December… I cannot be on that app. What about you?
Christian Leave: I think it’s cool — don’t get me wrong. I think it’s very cool, it’s the people’s app. As far as music is concerned — it’s just weird, the relationship between being a musician. Now you’re not only a musician, you’re a TikTokker first. That’s how it feels, which is weird. It’s interesting, but it’s very cool.
Definitely. So many people are discovered on TikTok, which is really cool. The labels with their A&R teams go through TikTok and find people there and they’re like: “We have to sign them!” It's a really interesting process.
Christian Leave: The voice for smaller artists is great. The focus of hunting down those people to then immediately sign them out of their rights to their music; that is the part that I’m like, “Okay, this is a little suspicious.” How quickly it happens is the main thing.
You can go from not famous, to famous overnight, which is so insane. Definitely intense. Speaking on those quick transitions, your song, “Pull,” discusses a lot of the transitions and the way that we navigate through life. Do you have any examples of the ways you've been able to navigate through hard periods in your life?
Christian Leave: Music. That sounds stupid. I’m starting to sound like a broken record but music. Anytime I’ve been able to positively reflect it has been with music. Especially if I’m going through something difficult, whether it be writing or listening. For me, it is such a guttural reaction, especially when it’s something that is resonating with what’s going on within my life. Literally music, and also the people around me; having a support system. Again, I’m very, very fortunate that I have my girlfriend, my family and the friends that I have. They’ve really carried me through feeling bad about myself at times. Music and friends!
You're not a broken record. If you don't have those two things — a life without music, that would be terrible, a life without friends, that would be sad. “Ain't No Reason” is the song that stuck out to me the most on this record. I really love the gospel-ish sound. It kind of reminded me of “Ain't No Way” by Aretha Franklin.
Christian Leave: Oh cool, that’s so funny. I didn’t even think about that! I love that song. That’s such a great reference!
In the track you reference that days keep slipping by. How do you ground yourself in the present when time seems to be passing by so quickly?
Christian Leave: Meditation is how I do it. Going back and talking about all of these things: the hyper-ification of reality with social media stuff like that, you really can get lost in these micro-moments, these very tiny interactions that then turn from half seconds to hours. Where it’s like the sun goes down behind you and you’d haven’t even noticed all day long. Not that I’m obsessed with my phone like that, but it’s just a part of the way we interact now. What I found even this year, is taking 25 minutes of just listening to your body and aiming toward presence without thinking of the future or the past. [Honing] in on being where you are right then, and only interacting with those things has helped me quite a bit. I have pretty bad ADHD, and this has been such a game changer. Just listening, but not hearing — if that makes sense — breathing, just allowing myself to breathe without controlling it. Being voluntary and involuntary at the same time. It has been awesome.
Meditation is so key. I meditate regularly as well and whenever I fall out of the practice, I'm like, “Dang, my life is a lot worse without it.”
Christian Leave: The gears get all rusty. It gets clogged up. It’s weird. I also like the half nap that kind of happens. You get to sleep a little bit.
You come out of it and you feel so refreshed, but you're also like, “Whoa, what happened?”
Christian Leave: Exactly.
What track on this EP is your favorite?
Christian Leave: “Pull” is my girlfriend’s favorite, and for a second I thought that was my favorite song. That, as far as my own gauge goes, is the best song I’ve written personally. “Superstar” is probably my favorite. My niece, my sister’s daughter, is at the very beginning of the track. I had sent it to them initially and she really liked it, so she sent me a little voice message that is at the beginning of it saying “Uncle Christian I love it!” I like that a lot, and it makes me really happy. “Ain’t No Reason” is also one of my favorites. It’s like a lot of the music I grew up listening to. I’ve been aiming to make something like that for a minute. There’s different versions of it in my discography that I’ve tried to make, but I haven’t necessarily succeeded. I feel like “Ain’t No Reason” is finally the actual thing.
All of the songs on this EP are so cohesive. They all capture a different part of your sound that has been developing within your past couple of releases. Congratulations on that!
Christian Leave: Thank you very much. Which song do you like the most?
I like “Ain't No Reason”! I like “Why Not” as well. I like all of them. Listeners have a lot to look forward to.
Christian Leave: That’s really awesome to hear.
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It’s really good to be constantly grateful just as a rule of thumb. It puts so many things into perspective, and it doesn’t allow you to get hung up on things that might not matter.
It's so important to have that internal meter of gratitude like you're saying. That's really the foundation of where you can continue being able to give, just in having thanks for the outer things that you're receiving. What are you doing to ensure that you continue to grow and develop as an artist?
Christian Leave: I’m reading and listening a lot. I’m critiquing myself a lot. I’m allowing other people to critique me a lot. It just happens as you grow. Your taste changes as you become more configured and prepared to listen to things, hear, or understand things. There’s a lot of context in learning. I’m just trying to pick up on that, I’m slowly developing throughout my own personal life, and it’s always affecting my art.
I like to end all of my interviews on a happy note, so what has been giving you joy lately?
Christian Leave: Honestly, I was pretty against this daylight savings that has happened. But I’ve been waking up real early. I enjoy getting up, going out, doing a little run, maybe a walk, read a book, take a shower, then it’s eight o’clock and now I can start my workday! That has given me so much joy because I get little time in the morning for myself. But as the rule of thumb, daylight savings, get rid of it!
There’s a lot of context in learning. I’m just trying to pick up on that, I’m slowly developing throughout my own personal life, and it’s always affecting my art.
Stream: ‘Superstar’ – Christian Leave
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