‘Inspired By Pain’ (Leo Mondavi)
-Leo was born in 1991, so his childhood was filled with great music. He recalls peeping out the window throughout the night as a kid while songs from Sade serenaded in the background. Moments like this occurred when he and his family took long road trips to visit relatives on the other side of Chicago. He fell in love with the sound of music the first time he heard it and knew instantly it would become something he wanted to pursue. His mother listened to a lot of Prince and Michael Jackson while she cleaned around the house and immediately fell in love with the sound of music. His mother raised him, his sister fostered him with knowledge, and his brother toughened his spirit. AWP had the opportunity of chasing Leo down further discuss how he discovered his escape from the world through music as a rapper and producer.
Click on the link and listen to the special edition song made by Leo Mondavi
And We Present x Leo Mondavi
AWP: Welcome to your very first interview, don’t forget, we did it first! Ha Ha, so before becoming involved with music, what were a few interests you attempted to pursue, but just didn’t quite click like the connection you have with music?
LEO: Ha Ha, its an honor and I would have to say basketball. In fact, every kid I grew up with wanted to be a basketball player. I was always the type of kid who felt like school was a waste of time, but of course, I was wrong. In 7th grade, I couldn’t wait to try out for the basketball team. My teacher, who was also the basketball coach, told me my grades weren’t good enough. I didn’t completely give up after that. I played basketball for 2 years in high school, but by that time music had already became my real passion.
AWP: Well at least you made the team, no success for me. Of those interests, if any, which one possibly guided you into slowly deciding, “hey, this doesn’t work for me, but it will help benefit me musically”?
LEO: After getting turned down in middle school and waiting a couple years just to play I let go of that dream. I always told myself, in order to be the best at something you have to start at a young age. I felt like it was too late to be as good as the others. I played on the team because I loved the game. I was always the team captain every other game because I was a great leader. In the studio while working with other artists, that’s exactly how you have to be. You have to be aggressive and show leadership.
AWP: Once you did become involved with music, what/who were your main influences to begin music and what influences were surrounding you that prevented you from quitting?
LEO: My oldest brother influenced me to rap. I was inspired to compose my own sounds because of the music from my childhood. Like I said, I was never a fan of school, even in high school I wanted to drop out because I still had this shyness about me. Quitting music was out of the question because that’s all I had to fall back on if things fell apart for me.
AWP: How has living in both Chicago and Oak Park, benefited your writing with perspectives from a hardcore neighborhood compared to a middle class suburban area?
LEO: It’s great. It’s great because I experienced two completely different lifestyles and I needed that. It’s also great because being from Chicago and Oak Park is going to take up at least 2 albums worth of stories I haven’t even told yet. I come up with ideas very fast when I visit my old neighborhoods. That’s why I haven’t left the city I’m currently in because for this project I’m telling a recent story of events that took place right here. I try to stay focused while recording an album or mixtape.
AWP: Since you had the privilege of living in both worlds, does that sometimes play a role in how you produce your music? Do you sometime search for an aggressive sound (Chicago) or maybe a more laid-back sound (Oak Park)?
LEO: When I first started producing I tried that all the time. It works sometimes, but for the most part it’s a bad way to approach a song. Everything happens based off the way I feel. When I tried to force a specific sound it barely worked out. In order to get those specific beats, I have to surround myself around those cities to remind myself how it was. Then it happens naturally.
AWP: I know both sounds tend to pull different emotions out of you so lets dig a little deeper…what is the worst emotional pain you experienced (family, friends, relationships) in your beginning stages of making music that still inspires you to this day to continue to use that emotion to creatively develop an unlimited amount of concepts?
LEO: Probably my first serious relationship. After putting in so much time and effort just to make one person happy, I started going in the studio to invest the same time talking about what happened to me. I never run out of concepts when dealing with that simply because I always get reminded of it. After being with an unfaithful girl, you have a hard time trusting again which messes things up for the next girls. Those girls become victims. Then you become the bad guy because you lost all skills of caring like you used to. Now, you have to live in those shoes for a really long time because of one person. That’s why there’s always a new concept.
AWP: I understand, it can be a ‘Heartbreak Warfare’. I know after awhile, you probably figure that you cannot keep making the same type of music on a constant basis and eventually you consider some slight change. In what way do you attempt to reinvent yourself overtime? Which experiments have failed and which ones succeeded?
LEO: For the most part I plan to just live. That’s why I put out projects and then I leave for so long because I’m somewhere living this crazy life and new things are happening. Some rappers make music because they love to do it, but why make a 20 track mixtape every other week about nothing? Find new sounds or new producers to help create something new. No matter how hard it gets when you love something you’ll figure it out. That’s why I sing a little more in my music because it’s different and hey the girls love it. They get the soft side and aggressive side. So far the singing is a success. Nothing has failed yet.
AWP: Ha Ha, poetry and singing can unlock any girl’s heart (if you are skilled). Ok, so AWP recently introduced a new method last year for every interview called, BDP (Breaking Down The Process). This is when we ask artists to list their step-by-step creative process of creating whatever it is they do. From poetry, to dance routines, singing, writing, etc. In your case, what procedures do you follow in the producing process, writing process, and recording process?
LEO: However I’m feeling when I make a beat is exactly how the music is going to sound. Sometimes the weather helps me create my music, that’s why most of my songs were recorded in the fall/winter. I love cold gloomy weather. First things first; the television is off or muted. So, I’m making a beat and then an hour or two later, the beat is done. I’ll mix it later. At this point, I already know what the song is going to be about based off the emotion its giving me. The beat is playing loud in my room where my studio is and I’m pacing the floor mumbling words to myself. I tend to leave the studio very often to clear my head. I usually come back in the studio with a complete verse. This only takes 15 minutes or less. I come up with words in my head very fast. Immediately, I record what’s in my head into the microphone just to see what it sounds like. My second take is more aggressive. Sometimes my first verse becomes the last verse in the song depending on how I want it to play out.
AWP: Wow, you definitely need to video record yourself during that process to show people exactly how it is in there. Seems intense! What do you think your purpose is in music and how does it differ from everyone else who is trying to make music?
LEO: I plan to change the world. There are probably only a few rappers who ever said they wanted to make a difference in the world. Not just with the help of money, but with the help of wisdom. My new music is going to make people cry and laugh, which are great emotions that we need to let go of, whatever stress we have. For the most part, my music is going to inspire you. That’s all we need to change the world is inspiration. I’m not trying to impress anyone. I inspire to inspire.
AWP: One last question, name a change in music that you feel is needed and how will you facilitate that change from within yourself and your music?
LEO: I think it’s about reaching for new ideas. In music, there’s no such thing as selling out if you love the decision your making. It bothers me when critics call an artist a sellout, it just doesn’t make sense. It makes us afraid to try new things. If you’re a rapper and you want to work with Katty Perry then you should do it. So what if she’s a pop artist, she’s a great pop artist with an amazing voice. It’s all about what vision you have for the song and where you plan to take it. I’m not necessarily a hip hop artist just because I rap, I’m a musician. Right now, I’m a hip hop artist to the world, but in the long run I plan on being something bigger than just that. We all have to come together from different genres so that we can create new genres.
AWP: Absolutely man, unity is a virtue. Before we end this discussion, please provide a Wave of inspiration for people who are trying to begin or reinvent themselves musically and personally.
LEO’s Wave: Every day you have to remind yourself what your goals are. Think of your goals as small steps before you reach the dream. These goals are like walking up a flight of stairs. The difference is you have to spend a great amount of time getting to the next step. You’re going to lose sleep to get there, but always keep in mind where it’s going to take you. Always remember to take advantage of time off as well because you do need sleep to live. If you are a football player and you want to make it to the NFL, I guess your first step after high school is going to that dream college. You know what to do when you get there. If you’re a singer, but you feel like you’re not good enough, but you love to sing. Your first step is to figure out how you can improve yourself. It’s all about investing time and money, but more importantly you have to want it. Be innovative and try to stand out. I follow this routine every day.
And We Present x Leo Mondavi
LEO: (INSPIRED BY PAIN is a 12-14 track free album that I will be releasing this year. I’m not sure of a release date yet but it will be later on this year. It will be mastered in Nashville.)