INTERVIEW: Mandi Leigh

Mandi Leigh is an up and coming independent singer/songwriter (and occasional actress) from Fullerton, California. She may be a young gun, but from her resume, you'd assume she's a veteran. Her lyrics drip with emotion in every word. In contrast to a pop world full of Auto-Tuned hipsters, Mandi stands up for herself in a very acoustic type way. However, she refuses to be compartmentalized into one genre. Her music transcends labels.

I've been a fan of Mandi's since about June 2006 when I first discovered her MySpace page. Ever since then, she's made me proud, appearing in several films as well as producing quality pop music. In early 2008, she contributed the beautiful song "Tears In A Bottle" to a mixtape project I managed to raise money for my local Relay for Life. More recently, she will soon begin shooting the romance dramedy "Serene Melody", due for September release, and was cast in a mini-series for the Lifetime network entitled "Maneater". For a full list of credits, visit her MySpace.
I was lucky enough to have Mandi answer a few questions for me about herself, her music and her acting. Read the interview below, and keep an eye out for Mandi's upcoming projects! :)
>>>Tell us a little bit about yourself.I am a girl that is simply in love with music. I have been singing all my life and working in music professionally since the age of 16. I also love the water, California, good food and traveling the world.
>>>How did you discover your love for music? Did you comefrom a musical family?I picked up my first real microphone at the age of three. My mom was an actress but I was so young I didn't know anything about Hollywood, my dad sang a bit for fun but it was just always inside me and I just grew with it.
>>>Do you write all of your own music? What is your writing process like?I do now. When I first started a couple companies didn't want me writing anything because they had some bigger writers after the project, which is why it took me a while to truly find who I am as a musician, but now I have the freedom to write what i feel and all my songs you will hear now are original and all mine :) My process varies, but it usually involves me slipping away from everyone to a room with candlelight, a glass of wine, some good music (sometimes, unless im writing melody lines), my emotions and my laptop.
>>>What three adjectives best describe your musical style? Natural, emotional, relatable. Most songs now have a pop/rock vibe and I do a lot of acoustic ballads live. But you will still hear some r&b or jazz influence on a couple tracks because its what I was feeling in the studio.
>>>You have accomplished so many amazing things as an independent artist. Is this a route you want to stay with, or are you pursuing label backing? Will you be releasing an album or EP through iTunes soon?I'm open, going with the flow. Booking shows and just continuing to write & play. I have a couple majors knocking since my press tour in California but I'm not jumping into anything. Live & learn. As far as my EP, thats the #1 goal of 09'. Get the CD into the hands of the fans.
>>>I will always be quite partial to your song "Tears In A Bottle." It's a very emotional song. What inspired this?It was actually my ex-roomate who wrote most of that and he let me tweak it and use it for my album because I myself had emotional ties to it and I knew I had to have it on my album.
>>>What is the process like in the studio? Are you more of astudiohead or a live show girl?The process in the studio for me is quick. I usually lay a track in a take or two, I LOVE the studio. Its such a comfort place for me. I adore most of the producers Ive got to work with. Do I prefer it over the stage? I don't know, its two completely different vibes. The studio I feel is just for me and I get in there, take off my shoes and just sing in my little world, the stage is all about that energy between me and the crowd. They are two different highs that I couldn't live without.
>>>What's your favorite song to perform live? Tears In A Bottle, Wrapped Around My Finger or or a cover of Ingrid Micaelson's I have in my show right now.
>>>You are also an actress. Are you a musician first and foremost, or actress, or both? Which do you enjoy most?Musician first and foremost always. Acting is fun and another outlet for creativity but I most identify with music. Which is why you will see a song of mine in most of the films I do :)
>>>On the above note, are there any projects acting wise that we can look forward to catching you in?My feature romantic comedy "References" has its premier at Harkins in Tempe, AZ on February 5th, so I'll be out there for that. We have a sold out premier so I'm very excited! It will be out on DVD soon and I am also on the soundtrack for that! (ReferencesMovie.com) (Also watch for Mandi Leigh starring as Allison Carter in "Serene Melody" shooting this summer!)
>>>For the average Mandi Leigh fan, what album(s) do you feel they should absolutely have in their collection? Besides mine ;), Oh wow, my musical taste is all over the place but my top 5 right now are: Ingrid Michaelson, Michael Buble, Lady GaGa, Jason Mraz and Josh Kelley.
>>>If you could cover any song, what would it be?Ingrid Michaelson's "The Way I Am", I cover it in my shows currently. I adore her style. My style is more mainstream pop than she is, but I love the rawness of her sound. That or "I'm Yours". The Hawaiian song that Jason Mraz is currently covering. I fell in love when I heard a band I sang with play it in Hawaii and when I flew back here this summer Jason was doing it!
>>>Is there a song on the radio right now that you've heard,love, and wish you could have recorded?Oh, this happens a bit. A few songs a year anyways. Lady GaGa's "Just Dance", I'm not a dance artist but that song puts the BIGGEST smile on my face. haha.
>>>Do you play any instruments?I'm learning piano, I studied dance for 8 years so I never learned a instrument.
>>>Perfect World Scenario: You can tour with ANYONE as a double headliner bill. Who would you most want to go on the road with?Jason Mraz or Josh Kelley. Or Maroon 5. Or John Mayer. The way those guys write is so inspirational. I'd love to sit with them after a show and just write together for hours.
>>>What's a random little known fact about you that most people don't know?When I'm home I LOVE cooking, hosting parties and cleaning my house. And organizing, everything. I love to be domesticated when I'm not out on the road. I'm Martha Stewart meets Popstar.
>>>As a young female musician, do you feel its important to be a positive role model to young women? Oh yes. Always have. The beginning of my career was doing a lot of children's charity and Disney events. Seeing the positivity that that created, I've stuck with that and Children's events are still the charity of choice. So I feel my image has to be something they can look to. Which is why I'm careful of my show content and movie roles I choose as well.
>>>What do you think is the biggest problem in the music industry right now?Illegal downloading. That's been a huge problem for a long time now. There are many other issues that has changed the industry SO much in the last ten years, but when its your passion you find the positive and work hard everyday to make a living doing what you love.
>>>Message to the fans?I adore all of you guys & dolls. I'm organizing another spring tour so check the myspace for dates. (www.myspace.com/mandileigh) and make sure you see References & Serene Melody when they come out on DVD or to a theatre near you!

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