Leanne Hoffman performs a tightrope walk between the sensual immediacy of pop music and poetry’s revelatory nuance on her new album, The Text Collector. Using the swirling melodies and glitzed-up production of Top 40, the Nova Scotia-based multidisciplinary artist builds tension between soundscapes primed for pure pleasure and lyrics that address the interconnected relationship between desire and despair.
Highlight single, “King Size Bed,” originally was a poem. All of the tracks on The Text Collector were originally poems spread out over the course of a year. Hoffman shares that this album is of self-discovery and awareness which lead her from being introspective on her former album, to accepting on this latest work.
Inspired by her love of pop music as a whole and especially fond of pop music from her youth, she set the poems to songs extending their longevity and reach in an approachable manner. “King Size Bed” was first written as a poem after Hoffman was at the end of a relationship, experiencing the now missing presence of her former partner on a bed that suddenly felt too big. Although the subject matter of the song is rather sad, Hoffman has purposefully hidden their meaning in a danceable pop instrumentation.
What is your creative process like?
I haven’t always had a specific process; I am still trying to figure out what works best for me. I do try to have a creative schedule that I stick to, something that is consistent and reliable. I am always keeping notes in my phone, either lyrically or melodically or just themes that I think would make an interesting song. With The Text Collector, my most recent release, the creative process was new to me. I started by writing one poem every day for a year and then I took those poems and created the songs that became the album. Starting with the poems made it easier in some ways and more difficult in others. It allowed me to really play with the form and the style of the songs, but it also created parameters that I had to stick to. Sometimes “rules” are extremely helpful as a jumping off point, but they can also become limiting if you try and follow them too strictly. The whole project was so different from how I’ve created in the past and I learned a lot in the process!
Was anyone else involved in writing, recording, or producing the songs?
Yes! Erin Costelo helped with all the parts of this record. She produced my last album “What Remains” and we created this project together, almost entirely at her home studio. I started with making demos of everything and then I would take them to Erin and we’d build the songs together. We’ve been working on them for a couple years now and it was a huge learning experience for me to be in that new roll. Erin is an incredible musician and songwriter and producer, so having her on board always pushes things to a level I couldn’t reach on my own. I knew what direction I wanted each song to go in, but Erin has the knowledge and experience to bridge the gap between what the song is and what it could be.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
I often find that the best way to deal with a creative block is to not deal with it at all and just ride it out. Sometimes just the act of acknowledging you’re feeling stuck can bring up things that get you unstuck. And sometimes you’re just meant to be stuck for a minute, or a day, or even a year. I always think of creativity like a long tube or hose, and to get to anything in the tube, you have to let the whole thing empty out. Sometimes what comes out is great and sometimes it’s not and sometimes it’s just air pockets. I have cues and exercises I use when I’m feeling bored with my writing, and those can help send me in a new direction. If I feel like my creative brain is off, I try and treat writing as homework or as an experiment which helps take the pressure off. ALSO, I think writers block can sometimes mean my cup is empty and I need to go live a little and reflect and connect and sleep and move around and do other things that fuel the writing.
- Advertisement -
What draws you to your preferred genre?
I imagine most artists feel this way, but I feel drawn to so many genres. Every time I hear a great song or see a great band live, I’m so intensely drawn to that energy and that feeling. I would love to change genres or styles with every album and get to experience what each process has to offer. I have always been drawn to pop music and that’s what I wanted to express with The Text Collector. I love how accessible and powerful and emotional pop music can be, and how it can speak to such a wide range of people. I love that it makes me want to dance and sing about anything from heartbreak to friendship to taxi rides and sunsets. It’s so universal and visceral and I really wanted to make something that feels the way my favourite songs make me feel. I think with any genre, when something is done authentically and you can tell the person making it feels good while they’re doing it, that’s what pulls you in as a listener. I always want to be making things that feel good.
Have you always been interested in music? Was there a particular song/performance that made you say “Woah! I want to do that!”?
I vividly remember the first time I heard the song On The Radio by Regina Spektor. I forced my mom to listen to it with me on repeat until she couldn’t do it anymore. I’d never heard anything like it, and I daydreamed about it for months, just imagining what it would feel like to write something like that. I always had an interest in music, but it was more from a listening standpoint, and I didn’t really understand how I could take my thoughts and feelings and translate them sonically. It wasn’t until I started writing songs in high school that I realized it was something that I wanted to commit to. I don’t think I was aware of how it would fit in to my life at the time but I knew it was important. There have been many songs and shows since then that have solidified my connection with music and songwriting, and it still happens on a regular basis where my love is rekindled and I’m reminded of why I am so drawn music.
What was the last TV series you watched on TV?
My roommate and I JUST finished watching Breakpoint on Netflix which is like a documentary style series about the top tennis players in the world. I haven’t felt so invested in a TV show in SO LONG. I don’t even play tennis! My hands were sweaty the entire time and I was thinking about the show at really inconvenient times in my day-to-day life. I have always been terrible under pressure, especially in sports, the performance anxiety really gets to me. It feels like a superhuman power to be able to keep your shit together in such a high-stakes environment. Although, many of them do not keep their shit together which makes me feel better about myself. 10/10 highly recommend.
What’s your least favourite personality trait you like about yourself?
Okay I don’t think this is a personality trait, but I cannot, for the life of me, eat without getting food on me. It is chronic. I do all the right things to protect myself from myself and it never matters. It has brought me to tears before. I have ruined so many pieces of clothing. I’m not a clumsy person, it only translates to food. Also, and this is a personality trait, I have a hard time doing things if it can’t be done the exact way, I imagine it being done. It’s a very all or nothing vibe which can be great for quality and terrible for quantity.
Are you a valuable asset on a Pub Quiz team?
No, no I am not. But I aspire to be a valuable asset on a quiz team. I’m very impressed with people that seem to know things about stuff. All kinds of stuff. Every time I leave a trivia night, I feel like I need to spend more time just googling stuff. Is that what people are doing? How do you become a better asset for a pub quiz team? I am truly asking because fewer things seem more satisfying than having the correct answer to a niche question and impressing all your friends.
What makes you nostalgic?
So many things! I would say specific foods really do it for me, and smells! The other day I was walking to get a coffee, and someone walked by that smelled like my high school boyfriend and I felt like I was seventeen again. I really associate memories with smells, and I find scent to be an overwhelming sense, in a nice way. My family is a big food family, so certain meals transport me back in time. Liver and onions is one of them. I used to order that as a CHILD at the diner near my house when my family and I would go for dinner. Now anytime I see it on a menu, even if I don’t get it, it brings up so many specific memories. I can imagine the texture of the seats in the restaurant, and how my parents looked twenty years ago. Food and smells are interesting because you can be actively consuming something and yearning for more of it at the same time. You know when you just can’t get enough of a smell? You wish you could smell it harder? I think sometimes that’s happening with nostalgia, like you just want to be placed back in that memory so deeply, but you can’t quite get there.
If you were talking to a younger version of you, what advice would you give yourself?
I would tell myself to think less and do more! To care less about the outcome of things and trust my instincts more. To focus more on the process and less on the product. I would tell myself to get comfortable living in the grey areas of life, and to not always need an answer to everything. I would tell myself that the faster I can learn to let things go, the happier I will be. I would encourage myself to say no to things I don’t want and yes to things that sound a bit scary or challenging, because those usually turn out to be the best things. I would also tell myself that you are NOT lactose intolerant, you are actually allergic to eggs, and you should not spend 15 years avoiding ice cream because then you’re going to have to make up for all the ice cream you didn’t eat.
© 2023, Divine Magazine. All rights reserved.