For any passionate artist, inspiration can hit us – full thwack – at any time. Whether it be on the bus, at the office, driving around town or in our bedrooms, ideas can start flowing and it almost seems impossible to not grab at them, eagerly. For Aucklander Paddy Leishman, those ideas come quickly enough and as they arrive, they turn up as something pretty incredible. His latest single, ‘Best Friends’ has cemented him as a pursuable asset to New Zealand’s pop music. The sound he produces is new-age and offers light and dark, soul and heart. He grew up with the sounds of Motown and 70’s rock impressed on him – a trait he learnt from his dad, much-loved radio and TV personality, Mark Leishman.
Photography by Ellie Richards
Known as Paddy Echo onstage, he has navigated the globe to London to pursue his love for music. He has over 600,000 views on Youtube and has been praised by the likes of Irish rock-band, Kodaline. He has released an EP, The Words Aloud, in 2016, co-produced by Chris Elliot and Duncan Brookfield. His latest song, ‘Best Friends’ has the taste of EDM and a retro-synth texture. We got the opportunity to sit down with Paddy and have a chat about his history and his new song.
Who are your musical influences?
I think it changes on a week-by-week basis, but right now I’m listening to a lot of Sam Fender, a UK-based artist and he’s epic. Loyle Carner and King Princess. Those are my top three at the moment. I know where to go back to.
There are old musos like Sam Cook and Chet Baker, Nina Simone. I think that stems from my father who listened to a lot of music. Creatively, on the ‘Best Friends’ project, I’ve been listening to a lot of King Princess. Alex Turner too, from Arctic Monkeys. I just take little bits and pieces from them.
What’s your story?
I grew up in Auckland and I’m part of a family that’s always been somewhat connected to the creative side of media. My parents worked in radio and television. I did a lot of music and started singing when I was about six years old. I focused primarily in classical training, so it was a different dynamic. When I got to the end of high school, when I decided not to be that ‘quintessential choir guy’, my music teacher convinced me to study popular music.
I had my mind set at 16 that I wanted to move to the UK. Everything about that environment was very attractive to me. That was where I released my first bit of music in 2015 – very self-funded and DIY. I then came back to New Zealand and have been working on this project for about a year now.
Would you say that your sound has a London-esk tone to it?
Very much so. I’ve always been more inclined to work around that. Two Door Cinema Club were massive when I was at high school, and I think that had an effect to what I was producing.
I think that there’s a difference between the industry over there and over here. There’s a certain familiarity though. The track’s been mastered in the UK, which is really cool. There are parts of the tracks that are linked to the UK.
What got you into writing?
First time I wrote a song – it was terrible – and it was part of a school assignment. Part of that was composition. The whole thing was based around soul music.
From there, my music teacher was fantastic and I was really considering studying pop music. It wasn’t really until after school that I considered this as something that I wanted to do. I just worked towards it, and suddenly you’re surrounded by like-minded people that are into the same thing as you. It’s pretty dope.
I’ve been on this journey for about seven years. Obviously, I have had times that I feel more inspired by others. I think location plays a massive role. I was pretty inspired overseas, and all of a sudden I was back home in New Zealand in my room and it felt like nothing had changed. That started a spell where I wasn’t necessarily as creative as I wanted to be.
What’s your favorite album of all time?
Oh God. One that I could probably listen to from start to finish would be ‘X&Y’ by Coldplay. Anything early Coldplay.
Explain your creative process…
It’s changed within the last six months. I’ve started working with a song producer called Alex Wildwood, and until I worked with him, it was a fairly solo road. I did a bit of collaboration stuff in the UK, but it wasn’t the same. I didn’t really know what it felt like to be in a proper songwriting session. It has changed. It went from sitting in a bedroom writing songs to studio.
The single I’m about to release was written in a day with Alex. It was a completely different experience for me. Go in, grab a coffee and then from 11 o’clock to seven o’clock and you’ve got the bare bones of the song. It starts with an idea. Lyrically, it has to start with something.
I’ve done a lot of work with notebooks. It’s truly for everything. Thoughts, lyrics, drawing. The lyrics could be one line written ages ago that I’ve forgotten about. I wrote a line when I was 15 and was flicking through the notebook and that was the start to ‘Best Friend’.
Tell us about ‘Best Friend’.
The idea behind the song is exploring a pretty poignant relationship. It sort’ve explores that desire of getting back to the point of not being just ‘boyfriend-girlfriend’. It’s that point where you know everything about them and they know everything about you. It’s getting to that point again. I’m excited to see how people feel about it.
Did it feel more authentic for you to produce than your EP, The Words Aloud?
It’s very studio-based and we’ve just been doing it section by section. That felt natural and easy. The song unfolded when we were just throwing down ideas.
We started with a guitar loop and we figured out chords. We gradually built the song that way. That was quite new for me too. With my last EP, I went in with fully-fleshed songs, so for this single, it was section by section.
How do you stay motivated?
For the creative process, motivation comes in waves for me. Just knowing that I’ve got something really cool here with this song. I’ve never felt that before.
In terms of music, I feel that I’m now at the point where I’ve got something really fun. It was mixed by really fantastic engineer in the States and then mastered in the UK. In terms of music motivation, I’ve never been on the cusp of this.
In terms of everything else, I have a very close relationship with my family. They keep me going and it’s a very collective effort. They’re very much on this journey with me, as I am on theirs.
What would you say that the best and worst musical experience you’ve had?
The best and worse is sort of the same one. When I was in the UK, I was playing this really cool underground bar called The Alleycat. There was literally four people in the audience, including the bartender. There was me, two mates and the bar guy who was looking so disinterested.
Mid-set, my mum, who was walking the dogs in New Zealand, calls on FaceTime. I was like, ‘I’m gonna take any audience that I can get.’ So I accepted the call, gave it to my friend. There was the barman, my two mates and now my mum on FaceTime. It was the most bizarre thing.
What do you have planned next?
To be honest, I’m going to just see out the next couple of months. The trajectory of my life has changed in seven weeks. I’m going with it, and I’m really excited to get ‘Best Friend’ out.
Nothing’s set in stone yet. But I’m excited to see what the future holds.