From an early age, bilingual Nicaraguan singer-songwriter Leysha knew what she wanted to do with her life. The revelation of wanting to dedicate herself to music was as evident then as it is now, at the age of 25.
Without second-guessing herself, the artist did what she had to do to make it happen.
As a Brooklyn native, Leysha immersed herself in anything about music — from singing in her church’s choir to eventually going on countless singing auditions, including “American Idol” and “The Voice” tryouts.
But these efforts were collective. Leysha had the full support from her parents, especially her mother, who would accompany her everywhere.
To get a full inside look at her story as an emerging multi-genre artist, we spoke to Leysha over the phone. In the in-depth conversation, she talked to us about the importance of visiting your roots, her gratitude for her mother, who’s always supported her music career, and what she’s currently working on.
Here’s what the “Disillusion” singer had to tell us.
The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
What inspires your music?
My mom and my father are both from Nicaragua. They immigrated [to the United States], and they had me here. I grew up listening to Selena and many Spanish-speaking artists like Camila, Aventura, and Rocío Dúrcal.
Growing up in New York City, I [also] had that Brooklyn R&B influence. I grew up listening to a lot of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion.
How does coming from an immigrant family help mold you as a person and an artist?
Since I was younger, I have visited Nicaragua to visit my family. Being from New York, you always see the difference in cultures, and you see the difference in the way that people live.
My mom and my dad really come from nothing. Nicaragua is a third-world country. I would visit my aunts, uncles, and grandma out in Managua. That’s where my dad’s from. The floor in their house was literally like dirt floor when I was younger, but they had just such a sense of community, just a sense of family. And everybody was so tight-knit.
My mom is from Bluefields. My grandma had a house by a river, so I always played around. And like I said, we had a different sense of community. I would be at my neighbor’s house in Bluefields, and they have children too, and their parents would treat us like we were their kids as well.
But being here in New York, it was completely different. You just hear about so many crazy things happening in the U.S. I just got that sense of family orientation, more so in Nicaragua than I did have in New York.
Tell us about your relationship with your mother.
I remember just coming to her one day and saying, “I want to be a singer. I want to perform.” And she said, “sing for me.” At first, I was a little shy. I was like, “turn around. I don’t want you to look at me.” She’s like, “if you’re going to sing — you need to sing, don’t be afraid. You got to sing. And if you want to do this, I will support you.” So, I sang for her. And ever since, she was just on board with everything.
She’d take me to open mic nights, master classes, and vocal lessons. She’d take me to every audition, whether in Brooklyn or Manhattan or even North Carolina. My father would drive us. She was always very hands-on, with this being my dream and me wanting to pursue a career in music.
You have such a sweet, soothing voice. Tell us about your latest single, “Disillusion.” What was the process like?
I just released “Disillusion,” which I wrote back in November. I released it on SoundCloud. It’s not done, actually, but I released it so that way [my fans] can have something else to listen to. I plan on having it on my next project, but it will be completely different.
That song stemmed from a relationship I was in for about six months. You can be with someone, and it might seem so perfect in the beginning – like this honeymoon phase – and it can seem just so amazing. You can look at somebody and see just parts of them that they don’t even see in themselves. And then, after a while, you start to realize that the person you probably fell in love with never even existed, or the situation is not what you thought it was. It was just like an illusion.
What can you tell us about your upcoming EP? When’s it due?
I’ve just been writing nonstop. I want it to come out in the fall. I’m still finalizing that. I may have a little bit of Spanglish on some songs. I want to make music that everybody can listen to. I want to make stuff that everybody can enjoy. What you guys can [also] expect from me is an acoustic album, an acoustic EP, of my old songs.
Any advice for Latinas who want to jump into the music industry?
Don’t ever be afraid to stick to your roots. Trust and believe that people can hear the emotion you’re emitting from your singing. People can hear the emotion that is coming from your craft, that is coming from your art.