Leah Dou on growing up with music, forgoing expectations for her art and working on her second album.
photos / Jena Cumbo
styling / Kimberly Nguyen
hair & makeup / Laura Mitchell
story / Koko Ntuen
Leah Dou must have been born with a music note in her mouth. Her parents are music legends, Faye Wong and Dou Wei, the Beyoncé and Jay Z of China. As a kid, Leah Dou was immersed in her parent’s big stadium lives, harmonious notes carrying through her family like a ritual. Leah was featured on her first track, Faye Wong’s “童(Tong)” when she was just one year old, by 19 she was doing arena tours opening for Bastille. Her voice carries in a way that hauntingly alive like the soundtrack to an underbelly of a city filled with sinners and saints alike.
Dou’s brilliant debut, Stone Café is an album full of ethereal vocals and wavey rhymes that are reminiscent of the best parts of 90s electro pop. The songs are a high fashion affair that could easily accompany any long legged model down a catwalk or just a lonely girl sitting on the subway waiting for her stop. The songs hit you in an intimately charged way that almost makes you feel the blood running through your veins. In person, Leah is very much the same. She is intimidatingly cool down to the most minute details like her quirky tattoos, her studious elegant nature and how comfortable she seems in her body and surroundings. I caught up with in the midst of her 2017 year while she was working on more tours and a second album.
What was it like growing up so closely, like immersed in music?
I guess as a kid I didn’t really notice it as much because I thought that was normal, for me. As I got older I began to realize that it was a little bit different. You know, from other people’s lives. I don’t know, it was great having music all the time. Playing it the car, playing at home. It’s just, its so natural to me, ya know. To have music. Even now I’m not really used to not having music in my life. So, when I’m in the car or when I’m doing anything, I’ll always put music on.
Do you remember your earliest memory when you first fell in love with music? When you were like, ”I love this song!
I’d probably say that it was when my aunt would put on her favorite records in the car, I’d want to listen to certain songs over and over and over again. I fell in love with like certain songs off her records. That was one of my favorite things to do, be in the car with my aunt and listen to the stuff that she likes.
What’s the whole whirlwind been like? Having people resonated with your music and wanting more?
It’s very flattering! It’s satisfying because I did go through a period where, it was all was all very overwhelming for me, as a teenager being in the family that I’m in, and the background and everything. It was overwhelming at one point, and I did sort of want to get away from that. But, that’s not why I make music. I make music because I love it. But, to be able to separate myself from my background is still something that is like very satisfying and gives me great comfort.
What did putting out your debut album, Stone Cafe, mean to you?
Putting out Stone Cafe, was sort of like a relief because I’ve had these songs for so long. I think one of the first songs that I wrote, I was fifteen or sixteen. I put it out when I was eighteen, so it had been quite a while. It was just a really great feeling to be able to put that out. I didn’t really have that many expectations. I always find that the more you expect the easier it is for to get disappointed, which I feel like is totally unnecessary, becaus of that’s not why I make music. I worked hard and put together an album and put it out. I was surprised about how it did really. I just feel incredibly fortunate. Yea!
And what’s the process like then for your sophomore album? You know your mindset, your chill-zones. Like how do you feel when your working on this one?
Oh, it’s completely different! I think it’s completely different. For this upcoming album, it didn’t take as much time as it did for the first album. The first album took two or three years but this one came together pretty quickly, within like a year. In a way, I feel more attached to it or I could relate more to it, even more than the first album because by the time I put out the second album, I was finding it slightly difficult to relate to. I’m changing and growing as a human being and ya know that happens. So I feel like the second album is very much the present for me and really expresses and conveys the person that I am right now.
White collared top- Claudia Li. Jumper- Rodebjer. Sweater- Marcelo Burlon. Shoes- Dr. Martens. Choker- ISLYNY.
Trouser- Diesel Black Gold. Black knit sweater- Hatch. White off shoulder top- Claudia Li. Shoes- Dr. Martens.
Graphic t-shirt: Death to Tennis. Black knit sweater: Apiece Apart. Strip skirt: Nanushka Budapest. White patent trouser: S’MM. Shoes- Dr. Martens.