LESLIE BLACKWELL LILES is the driving force behind Sommer Saffron’s latest release. She wrote all of the songs on Dream, and she recorded all vocals and instruments. Sommer Saffron is Leslie Liles.
Leslie grew up in the Atlanta, GA, area, where she studied classical piano and had dreams of becoming a concert pianist. A love of pop music and a college class in electronic music set the course in a new direction, as she began writing and recording her own songs.
Today, Leslie wears many hats – singer/songwriter, elementary music teacher, pianist and accompanist, recording engineer and producer. She also sings soprano in her local community choir. Leslie currently resides in Fresno, CA.
Leslie’s music combines elements of pop and electronica, with vocals that are sometimes airy and wistful, sometimes focused and energetic. We first hear the leading song, Ebb and Flow, with its’ smooth, downtempo groove and seductive vocals. This is followed by Avatar, with a sound that is upbeat, lively, quirky, with layered harmonies in a retro pop style. Included on the CD is a dance track, Vitality, that features a repetitive, airy, vocal motif over a driving instrumental background. Also included is a beautiful ballad, Climb, that is full of longing, and Solitude, a more abstract song that incorporates the sound of the ocean and a poem written by Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Ocean). The water is featured in several songs, and the music sounds almost meditative at times. There are recurring themes of relaxation and self-reflection. In this time of unrest, Sommer Saffron clearly wants you to relax, unwind, and enjoy yourself.
We caught up with Leslie for an exclusive interview on Camden Monthly..
What inspired you to get into music?
I started out wanting to be a concert pianist. I started taking piano lessons at age 7, and there was never any question in my mind that I would have a career in music. I majored in piano in college. It was there that I signed up for classes in electronic music and sound recording. I had always been passionate about pop music and I loved to sing. It was only a matter of time after college until I began writing and recording songs.
How would you describe your music?
My music is a mix of pop and electronica. Songs range from the upbeat retro-style pop sound of Avatar to the dreamy electronic pop songs such as Far Away from Home and Ebb and Flow. There is also an ambient tune called Serenity that contains only synth sounds that I designed myself. I wrote this song while enrolled in a sound design class through Berklee Online. Vitality has a trance sound with a driving beat and ethereal vocals. There are also several songs that have a folkier, singer-songwriter style, Drivin’, Ashore, and Climb. All of the songs were produced electronically.
What would you say is your recording and song writing style?
I took a different approach with this album. In the past I wrote lyrics and then wrote music to fit the lyrics. For this album, several of the songs I composed and mostly arranged and recorded before going back and composing the lyrics and vocal line. Ebb and Flow, Far Away From Home, Harmony, In the Stillness are all examples. I compose from the keyboard. Some songs originate with just piano. For other songs, I like to create the drum and bass track with basic chord progression first.
Where would you like to see your music career in 5 years time?
I hope to find an audience for my songs on radio and streaming platforms. I am interested in writing for film and tv. In five years, I hope that many people are familiar with Sommer Saffron. As an artist, I want to continue growing and creating songs that others will enjoy hearing.
Where can music fans listen your music?
Songs are available on Spotify, SoundCloud, Amazon Music, iTunes, Apple Music, Pandora, Deezer, YouTube, and many more places online. You can also listen to and buy Sommer Saffron’s songs at sommersaffronmusic.com.