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Leah Marlene Defies Expectations On Debut LP

Leah Marlene's debut LP is available now
Leah Marlene's debut LP is available now

Singer-songwriter Leah Marlene's first full-length album is quite a curveball for those that came to her through her 2018 up-tempo, hook-laden debut EP “Arrows.”

"The Space Between" is a ballad heavy introspective eight-song affair full of doubts and the stresses of expectations.

“My last EP was just kind of like my first songs that I wrote. And they didn’t really … personally mean a lot to me. It was a next step in making music and learning how to do things. And so, this is the first record that I've put out where this is totally me,” explained Marlene, who is from Normal.

"Winding Roads" is the first full-length song following the intro “Searching for a Dream.” The narrator is headed down a wrong road, struggling to understand who she is. Quite unlike the confident talented Normal Community West High School senior who knew where she was headed and how she was going to get there during her 2018 WGLT appearance.

“Well, college changes a gal,” she laughed via Skype from her home in Normal. "Last year was my first year of college. I go to Belmont in Nashville, and it was really, really hard. And I wrote that ("Winding Roads") my first semester. I lived in a dorm with a roommate who's awesome. But you're always around people, I can never get personal space. And I didn't realize how introverted I actually was until I was in that environment."

On one of her drives she discovered what she characterizes as one of the most beautiful winding roads in the Nashville area and returned often for what became “poetic” drives.

“And so that song, when I wrote it, every time I sing it's just that picture in my head,” said Marlene. “That was one of the first songs I was starting to process through from freshman year, and just like really not knowing who I was anymore. So that was kind of like the opening to what this album is and was going to be.”

The album title “The Space Between” isn’t a song that appears on the album. Marlene said it came from what gap between what she acknowledges is a high-energy, charismatic personality and what was going on behind that “take everything to the Nth degree” exterior.

“I was silently miserable and suffering for a very long time,” said Marlene. “But everybody has their lines and the space between the lines in their story. I just think reading between the lines is a really neat concept. And the space between perfectly sums up what this album is without taking away room for anybody's story because anybody can have their own lines and their own space between them.”

She referenced those expectations of her on at least a couple of the songs on “The Space Between,” but she said there was no hesitancy to move in a new musical direction on this album. Where the 2018 EP “Arrows” came off as a confident, emerging singer-songwriter with an ear for catchy melodies, the subdued music on “The Space Between” matches her inner soul-searching.

“I just need to do what is right for me,” said Marlene. “So, all the music in this was what I needed during this time. And I know that other people that go through similar things … it might be something that they might appreciate or need during that time. And so I did not want to stray from that. I want it to be completely authentic to where I was.”

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Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.