Today’s Song: The Raw Inner Reckoning of Leo’s Soul-Stirring “Rough Hands”

Leo © Claire Giuffre
Leo © Claire Giuffre
A sonically and emotionally charged indie rock/pop reverie, Leo’s “Rough Hands” is a raw inner reckoning of the highest order, finding the Melbourne/Naarm-based singer/songwriter dwelling in an intimate space of vulnerability and volatility.
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Stream: “Rough Hands” – Leo




I’ve heard if I blink three times, say my name in the night, maybe things will turn right…

Soaring, soul-stirring, and achingly visceral, Leo’s third single promises to get your blood pumping and your heart racing. A sonically and emotionally charged indie rock/pop reverie, “Rough Hands” is a raw inner reckoning of the highest order, finding the Melbourne/Naarm-based singer/songwriter dwelling in an intimate space of vulnerability and volatility.

We all hurt from time to time, but for some of us, that invisible pain is more intense and more frequent – a semi-permanent fixture in our lives; sometimes it never leaves us at all. In bringing their own depression to life so vividly through song, Leo offers a lifeline to all who need it – and a means of connection to all who long to be seen, to be felt, and to be heard.

Rough Hands - Leo
Rough Hands – Leo
You’ve got rough hands
you’ve got callouses
You work in the farm house
and i’m in your dog house.
You didn’t wanna see me
I wouldn’t wanna see me too
Though I still love you
even when you’re killing too.
You left me down by the street
and you weren’t meant to

Independently released June 30, 2023, “Rough Hands” is the third single by Australian artist Leo McCloskey, who debuted their mononymous artistry just last year and has been steadily introducing themselves ever since. Following 2022’s dark tempest “Doctor” and this past February’s immersive, intense upheaval “Half Unconscious,” “Rough Hands” finds Leo at their most energetic and cinematic, emulating peers like Bec Stevens and Angie McMahon whilst developing a sonic world that is undeniably their own.

Leo © Claire Giuffre
Leo © Claire Giuffre



Charismatic and churning, “Rough Hands” aches in all the right ways as the artist spills their soul on the page, showcasing the unabating intensity of depression and anxiety through soaring guitars, dynamic, spirited melodies, and breathtakingly honest and unfiltered lyrics.

Their chorus is a moment of confession – a sonic cacophony and an emotional catharsis all in one seismic climax:

and my thoughts, they’re creeping in
and I’m screaming in my sleep
and my nightmares, they are coming back
it’s a sign shit’s not going right
calculating when will be my last night
I’ve heard if I blink three times,
say my name in the night,
maybe things will turn right

Leo originally wrote the song in five years ago about “someone close who moved away to sell cattle in rural Queensland,” but later re-wrote the track to speak not to that loss, but to their own internal sense of disarray and discord. “‘Rough Hands’ was first written in 2018 as a one verse type song in a similar world to my first single ‘Doctor,'” they tell Atwood Magazine. “It was literally G and C for about a minute and thirty seconds. The initial version carried a ‘Woman’ by City and Colour / ‘Skeleton Tree’ by Nick Cave type vibe as a slow burner.”

“For years I wanted to add a chorus and felt apprehensive to write a second verse until I had a chorus written. In 2021 I was introduced to the G power chord (late in the game – I know. I wasn’t playing music with anyone, so didn’t really explore power chords), and this aided with the faster pace that the song moved into. The increase in the pace of the song helped with exploring the idea of a chorus which is how I was able to move towards finishing the song.”

“Additionally, I opened up the lyrical world of the song which aided in finishing it. The first verse was initially written about a friend from high school who moved away but after working out the chorus chords it moved into a more introspective and self-reflective song. In verse 2, there are lines that say, “so take what you want from me, I’m not living so happily. I came and I saw, now I don’t have much left to live for.” I find that I will often write a song and have at some point a phrase like this that really hits home in how the emotion and tone is delivered in the song. In ‘Doctor,’ this line is, ‘I deserve worse and more.'”

So take what you want from me
i’m not living so happily
I came and I saw, now
I don’t have much left to live for.
I’m feeling so blue,
am I gonna lose you too?
I need you, I love you,
I want you, stay forever.
Don’t leave me, I fucked up
some more drinks might make me better.

“When writing the chorus, I was having a lot of night terrors and was quite interested in learning about spirituality. The way the choruses are written were incredibly literal to what I was experiencing at the time. I was around a lot of spiritual people who would talk about manifesting, mantras and the such and felt quite defeated in my inability to productively manage how I was feeling. This brought me to writing the somewhat sarcastic phrase, ‘if I blink 3 times, say my name in the night maybe things will turn right.'”

Leo © Claire Giuffre
Leo © Claire Giuffre



Leo recorded the song with producer Jonathon Tooke (best known as half of Cry Club, but also for his work with artists like Bec Stevens, Eaglemont, Pretty Bleak and The Lazy Susans) at The Black Lodge Studios in Brunswick.

“‘Rough Hands’ was the third song I recorded with Jonathon Tooke (‘Half Unconscious’ coming first),” Leo shares. “He produced the track and aided in the tempo increase and the dancey guitars you hear in each vocal break. We recorded the song soon after I finished writing it (late 2021) and had Nick Robinson play drums as well as Eaglemont (Bridgitte Jessop) sing harmonies.”

“The single cover was taken in August of 2022 with Tamara Brane-Gregory at Brunswick Ballroom in Naarm. I wanted a cover that carried the lack of control and yearning for comfort/validation that the song emulates. The cover that you see now is pretty similar to the scrappy drawing I did in June when planning for the shoot.”

Leo © Claire Giuffre
Leo © Claire Giuffre

So take what you want from me, I’m not living so happily…

How often does depression get its own rousing, redemptive anthem?

“Rough Hands,” painful though it may be, is the kind of song we can scream at the top of our lungs. By marrying feverish indie rock instrumentation with more tender indie pop-leaning vocal lines, Leo finds the sweet spot between fracture and furor. The result is a searing, gut-wrenching delight that promises to have us smiling and crying all at once.

Leo’s journey is still just getting started, but if “Rough Hands” is any indication, then we’ll be singing along to many more of their songs soon enough. Connect with the Australian artist below, and get lost in the angst, charge, and charm of their beautiful, breathtaking “Rough Hands.”

and my thoughts, they’re creeping in
and I’m screaming in my sleep
and my nightmares, they’re coming back
it’s a sign shit’s not going right
calculating when will be my last night
I’ve heard if I blink three times,
say my name in the night,
maybe things will turn right

— —

:: connect with Leo here ::
:: stream/purchase “Rough Hands” here ::
Stream: “Rough Hands” – Leo



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Rough Hands - Leo

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