When it comes to how our futures are shaped, there are a few schools of thought. Some think that everything in our lives has been destined to happened, and anything we do has been predetermined by vast forces outside of our control. Some are content not thinking about it at all, instead focusing solely on the present and paying no mind to what is coming down the road. And some believe the future is ours for the taking, if only you grab the reins of life, put in the work, and bend your future where you want it to go. No matter what your thoughts were before, Leah Capelle will make you a believer in her ability to create the future she wants. The staggeringly multi-talented LA resident has spent the past few months creating some of the most intimate, expressive music of her career with singles like “Settle Down” and the EP Giants, and she’s not planning on stopping anytime soon.
Controlling your own future takes energy, and it’s immediately evident Capelle has that in ample supply. There’s an exuberance that radiates out from her that’s evident even over the phone, a wellspring of emotion and eagerness that’s infectious. She notes at one point in our conversation she’s been pacing around her backyard relentlessly while we speak, and I find myself wanting to get up and walk around the room as well. It’s even more impressive considering she has just finished a full week of midterms at USC for her music business degree when we speak. “Things are happening very fast and really good things are happening” she tells me.
The journey here has been long and winding for Capelle. Her career and education decisions have been intertwined since she first began. “I almost didn’t finish college. I went to Berklee College of Music and then I dropped out to move to LA and be a rockstar or whatever, and then I took two years off and didn’t do school,” she explains. It was after a couple of years in the industry where she thought to herself she would like a degree and ended up at USC. If it’s not enough to make you exhausted just reading this, there’s more. She says “I stacked my schedule, because I also work a job and I have worked a job the entire time that I’ve been in school.” Capelle has worked in the film industry for close to her entire time in LA, starting as a PA and moving up to a coordinator over the years.
While the heavy workload doesn’t give her a lot of free time, the benefits have made it well worth it for her. She says “as painful as it has been during the process, everything that I’ve done has really given me this pretty well-rounded background in different parts of the entertainment industry.” She runs down a huge list of skills and areas she’s been involved with, which includes everything from A&R work and graphic design on the music side, business skills through USC, and work with test screenings and creative insight in film. She summarizes by saying “I have all these random skills that I’ve accumulated just by nature of being involved in different parts of the industry. It’s pretty cool!”
All of those skills serve as welcome additions to her repertoire, as Capelle prefers to be hands on with all aspects of her career. “I just like to be involved as much as I can to the extent of my abilities at any given time,” she says. She explains she doesn’t have “grandiose blanket statements” to talk about in her work, instead focusing on her own life and experiences that have happened to her. She believes this resonates with fans too, saying “people want to relate to you and hear what you have to say, and I just think that’s really cool and important.” With such personal subject matter in her music, it only make sense she wants to be as involved with her career as she can be.
This is especially relevant to Capelle’s stunning single and video “Settle Down,” a powerful and incredibly personal track about her embracing her own power, voice, and being comfortable with who she is. She explains “Settle Down” was written in 2017, and came from a difficult part of her career. If you listen to all of Capelle’s work from start to finish, you’re going to notice a lot of variation. Her self-titled debut EP sounds very little like Giants. She acknowledges part of this is simply because she’s a “diverse writer” with a lot of interests. That’s not all of it, though. “I had a number of consultants and I had a manager who did wonderful things for me in a lot of ways, but I had this whole team of people who all had very strong opinions about who I should be as an artist and the music I should put out and the look I should have and the way that this was all going to go,” she recalls. At the time she was only 19 years old, and by her own admission was pretty green when it came to the workings of the music industry. “It was in that moment that I gave up the reins a little bit on my creative direction and my look and all of those things,” she says. She stresses that she does not regret that decision (she regrets very few things in life, she tells me later in the conversation), but the realization something wasn’t right quickly became apparent. “I got really frustrated and I realized that it wasn’t genuine,” she explains. Not only was this upsetting for Capelle, but she remembers fans tuning out from her music as well.
Capelle knew something had to change. “I realized I had let it go too far,” she says, adding she found herself “trying to live up to these expectations that were placed in front of me.” That realization culminated in a series of large changes for her. She fired her entire team and took a brief hiatus she describes as a “hibernation.” That hibernation proved valuable for her. She took that time to sort herself out, saying “I just wrote a record and tried to figure out what I wanted to sound like and what I wanted to say and the values that were important to me.” Once she figured that out, she came back stronger than ever. Many of the songs on Giants were reproduced in order to fit Capelle’s original vision. Throughout her entire recollection of this story, the fire and passion in her voice grows and grows. It’s clear she’s committed to creating the career she originally envisioned. This is why, while she expressly acknowledges the forces in the industry which pressured her and still pressure numerous other young artists are bad, she can’t say she regrets how she has handled her career. She tells me the world is a scary place, but it can be beautiful, too. “I’m grateful that I had to go through that bullshit and weed through it, because now here I am with a lot of art that I’m super proud of and a whole different perspective on what my career could be and all of these really wonderful things are starting to line up for me now,” she explains.
From all of this came the video for “Settle Down,” which shows Capelle at her most honest and raw. The visual of Capelle–completely nude–spending four minutes coated in paint representing the societal pressures and injustices carried out against women, is moving in a way that few music videos ever will be. She explains this was the final video from Giants after “Docs” and “Better Off,” and she treats it as the end of the chapter of her life that got her here. That’s not to say filming it was easy. “It was scary, Gabe. It was scary,” she intones seriously. She was not afraid to be nude for the video, but she did worry about how people would view the video. “It was more just like,’ okay, is this going to be perceived when I release it as sexual?’ Because it’s not supposed to be, and I know being nude on camera for four and a half minutes could be taken and misconstrued in a number of ways,” she explains of her major fear for the video. On an emotional level, she also says it was tough processing everything in a solo performance. The other music videos Capelle has put out include her backing band, and she jokes with a big laugh that whenever she got too nervous in those videos she would just have the camera “cut away from whatever emo thing I [was] singing about” to show off the band. In “Settle Down,” there’s nothing to cut away to.
Continuing through a theme in Capelle’s career, while the filming of “Settle Down” was a nerve-wracking experience, she’s glad she did it. “More than anything I was really proud,” she says with that pride radiating through her words. “When I saw the first cut, I cried. I just started weeping because I was like ‘I did this,'” she remembers. She says everyone involved in the making of the video were nothing but supportive, respectful, and professional, which helped her get through it. Her energy boundless energy rises to an even higher level talking about the whole experience, and it’s clear how much this entire experience meant to her.
Having people connect with her music and “Settle Down” in particular has been the highlight of all of it for Capelle. “I get really emotional,” she says when I ask her about the support she’s received from fans. “It makes me feel really seen as an artist that I did something so vulnerable and people acknowledge that it’s vulnerable and relate to that.” She says sharing that connection is her favorite part of her live performances, and seeing a similar reaction to something she recorded and released has been incredible. She also says she believes the entire process around “Settle Down” and Giants has served as a turning point for her career as a whole, and she feels hopeful and inspired for what comes next. “Things are happening now that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t make that risky call. I’m grateful,” she says in summary.
Capelle is already hard at work on the followup to Giants, and she says fans should expect more of the guitar-driven sound they’ve come to love with a dash of experimentation. It also comes as no surprise to hear she’s steering the ship when it comes to all aspects of the music she has coming up. “I’m producing a bunch of it myself, which is exciting because as I mentioned being more hands on with everything has been really important to me,” she says. Everything going forward, from the sounds all the way down to creative direction, will have Capelle’s handprints all over it.
The future is unknowable. That’s the scary part about it. But that means it’s full of opportunity and hope, and Leah Capelle is ready to seize all of it. All of the jobs she’s had, skills she’s acquired, and experiences she’s gone through have given her the expertise and vision to capitalize on her talent and boundless energy to make a stellar career for herself. If there’s anyone who can create the future they want, it’s Leah Capelle.