Introducing Lorena Leigh
With Texas charm and New York grit, Lorena Leigh has been defying the odds since birth. Awash with a childhood love of country music and an adolescent enthrallment with the NYC surf-scene, the foundation for the art Leigh creates is unmistakeable. Catchy hooks, lyrical stories and electrified, pedal-popped ukulele melodies propel her music to the core of your soul. It’s part cowgirl. It’s part mermaid. It’s part space. It’s part sea. It’s 1000 parts water theory.
After years of story-telling through dance, film and theater, Leigh finds herself crafting a whole new world that defies gravity, swimming seamlessly through waves of alt-pop, Broadway, island music and Americana. In a sea of carbon copy jellyfish, she’s a peanut butter ocean.
Why venture on the road less traveled, when you can just build your own path from scratch. Building on the success of the 2015 EP, Bella Vista, 2018’s mini EP, Jellyfish Queen, which contained the breakout single “Headstrong,” and 2019’s “Follow You,” she’s readying her debut LP for a September 27 release.
Entitled Water Theory, the 11-song adventure was produced by Ernesto Valenzuela (Tommy Genesis, Espé, B-52s) and features an all-star cast including drummer Sterling Campbell, who’s known for his work with David Bowie, B-52s and Duran Duran. Laced with hints of Nelly Furtado, Colbie Caillat, Enya and Jenny Lewis, Water Theory is much like your favorite Disney movie, a complete galaxy with vibrant characters, cinematic soundscapes and engaging reverie.
Beginning with the theatrical opener “Into The Water,” which she wrote after a great swim at the YMCA, Leigh explores themes of raising awareness and collective consciousness. It’s the perfect diving off point for the journey ahead. “Water is connected, we all are part of it, pulled by the moon like the tides and whether you jump into the ocean in Thailand or Saskatchewan, you’re jumping into the vast collection of molecules that cover our planet and connect us all,” says Leigh.
From there, the album’s emotional armor, “Girls Like Me,” whose accompanying music video has her riding jellyfish to the far reaches of the universe, puts “girl power” front and center. It’s an unapologetic anthem for women to embrace their confidence and ambition.
Elsewhere, the bouncy, Bossa-nova beach vibes of “Can’t Undo” take you to warm, happy place filled with sunshine on your face while “For A Long Time,” a spiritual-like ode with looped vocals, embraces friends that welcome you in, show you love and become a part of you no matter how much distance separates people. It was written about the close-knit community of Rockaway Beach in Queens, NY, a place that will always feel like home, while the introspective, melancholic “Lost at Sea,” a ukulele driven tale of self-discovery, is the purest gaze into her Keller, Texas-country roots, digging into the core of her evolved self-awareness.
“I really love being alone. I liked figuring out life on my own. I believe the sentiment of this song will be a part of me always, no matter who comes in and out of my life in friendship and love.” Lost’s polar opposite comes in the form of “Even Still,” with its huge cinematic drums, layers of distorted guitars, and rhythmic strings giving strength to move on from broken woe-be-gones.
One of Theory’s cornerstones comes in the form of “El Agua.” Landing at position 8 in the sequence, it’s an ethereal, transcendent, expansive, yet subconscious, homage to Durga, the Hindu God with eight arms. “She is the warrior goddess, whose mythology centers around forces that threaten peace, prosperity and dharma of the good. Embodying the fierce form of the protective mother goddess, it’s a force for liberation and destruction to empower creation.”
Born out of destruction are new beginnings. On “New Love, “ which begins with a cacophony of aquatic-sounding ukuleles, the song explodes into a funky summertime showdown that feels like sea jellies jamming with SpongeBob. A festive square dance for those with square pants.
Squares are welcome but it’s the circle that’s most important. Empowering collective sublimation, having a room full of spirits in synch is her vision in high definition. Whether it’s at an intimate Sofar Sounds show at an undisclosed location, a radio station or a hallowed music haven, Lorena’s lack of a comfort zone and ability to connect with those around her create an immersive, inclusive experience that leaves an audience buzzing with positive energy. It’s healing. It’s freeing. It’s pleasing. It stems from her belief that there is endless possibility and an unbound thrill in living a passionate and uninhibited life.
Armed with a fashionable life-size jellyfish headpiece for her live shows, she crowns the most jubilant soul. It’s a ritual that’s simple but powerful. At a recent gig at the Viper Room on the Sunset Strip, the lucky recipient was an elderly man who was enjoying his night like we should all enjoy life…full of light. Bright and ripe, he danced with abandon. Wearing the jellyfish head transformed him, king of the fandom.
Live Music News & Review championed her “intensity and emotional power, her voice shooting out like a bright bang, punctuating building musical moments.”
It’s not just building, it’s a building, a grand majestic temple in a magical city by the sea, a place for you, a place for me, a place for all humanity. A place called Water Theory.