Photography by: Nicolette Motley
Holly Peyton has stunned the Dallas music scene with her heavy-hearted lyrics and catchy pop melodies.
Ever since her debut, Peyton has been on the rise to stardom and come Friday, Aug. 11, she will release her new summer anthem "Search Party". Her head-popping new tune will be available for purchase on iTunes and streaming on Spotify the day of its release.
LEV is the stage name of Peyton’s solo project that started up 3 years ago. She describes her music as electro-pop, which is heavily inspired by 80s syntho-pop sounds. After only a year of releasing her first EP "Fear No Evil", LEV will be producing a full-length album titled "Glass Ceiling" consisting of 13 tracks. While brainstorming ideas for her stage name, Peyton told us that LEV meant lion in Czech. The moment she heard it, she knew it was the perfect match for her latest project. It’s hard not to forget her lion tattoo upon her wrist or her lioness roars in her upcoming hit track "Last Mouth Running".
As a Texas-native, it's no surprise parts of her album were recorded in Austin, Texas. With her music videos gaining collectively over a million hits, it’s easy to see why the fusion of the new-wave genre and multi-faceted lyrics have garnered so much attention. LEV told us that her biggest musical inspirations were John Denver, Blondie, The Carpenters and The Bee Gees.
On May 10, Holly Peyton hosted an exclusive sneak-preview of her first full-length album, set to release later this year. Several songs were chosen to be played for the attendees, including her new single "Search Party". The gathering consisted of small crowd of musical enthusiasts, publicists and fellow artists alike. The event took place in a candlelit recording studio, where the crowd gave their honest opinions of Peyton’s latest pieces.
Although "Glass Ceiling" has yet to be released, her newest single is just a taste of what’s instore. In this in-depth interview, LEV tells us how her career began and what some of her life-time aspirations are.
Photography by: Nicolette Motley
AU: Your music is very unique, who are some musicians that have inspired your work?
LEV: Well, I’d have to say, some of my inspirations aren’t in the same genre as me, but John Denver’s song writing has always been a huge inspiration to me. I also really like Bruce Hornsby and Simple Minds, honestly just random stuff you might not pair with the genre, but it’s stuff I grew up listening to. For instance, The Carpenters and The Bee Gees are some bands I also enjoy and grab inspiration from. In fact, I learned harmonies from The Bee Gees. Those are just a few of some of my big inspirations, I’d have to say.
AU: I listened to your Playlist you made for CultureHype, it was a little bit of everything. I love that! I see you have everything from modern hip-hop to 80’s jams such as "Don’t Forget About Me".
LEV: Yes, I love that song! I always think about the end of the movie Breakfast Club when he’s throwing his fist in the air. Honestly, 80s and 90s are the best genre of movies to watch.
AU: So, when did your musical career start?
LEV: Well I’ve been singing since I was a kid, but as far as really getting out there and recording stuff, I was about 22, so roughly 10 years ago. I was releasing tracks under my real name at that point and then my new solo act, LEV, was created about 3 years ago.
AU: So do you write and produce your own music?
LEV: I don’t produce my own music, I mean in the studio I of course have a final say of what sounds good, but I don't produce. My earlier EP however was all written by me. In my new album, there’s a few songs on there that are co-written that I wrote with some people and friends in LA, so that was tons of fun.
AU: So you have a new album coming out titled "Glass Ceiling", is there a significant reason behind this title?
LEV: "Glass Ceiling" is actually one of the title tracks. It is one of my favorites from the album. I just loved it, I knew it was going to be the title of the album from the day I wrote it. It was one of the first songs I wrote for the album actually.
AU: So, what is the song "Glass Ceiling" about?
LEV: It's about two people who have a relationship and they have come to the glass ceiling. They envision it breaking and the glass falling down, but they never quite hit it. They’re always talking about it, like, ‘we're getting this close to the glass ceiling'. It’s just about the struggles in relationships where you love each other, but you’re getting to the end of the glass ceiling where it's going to have to end. I like it, I feel like it’s relatable to so many people.
AU: I’ve listened to a few of your other songs from your first EP and I see that relationships are a huge theme in your music, for instance "Never Let You Go" was one I heard and it was definitely pretty emotional. Was that song about a particular person?
LEV: That song was actually not written about a particular person, "Glass Ceiling" however was written about an actual relationship. Most of my songs are metaphorically written, it may sound like it’s about a person, but it's technically not. But that’s the kind of stuff I love, the stuff that’s multi-faceted where you could go, ‘oh, I could apply it to this or that.’
Photography by: Rico DeLeon
AU: What do you want people to know about you and your music?
LEV: I create music from a very real serious deep thinking place, but I always translate it into fun. There’s another side of me that’s real fun loving, easy going and free-spirited. So, in my shows, I picture what the songs would be like live. I like to take people out of reality while they are at the show because that’s what music is in my eyes. There’s a lot of serious music and then there’s music you want to have fun with and not tie it to anything. That’s the side of me I want people to see through my music. I like to write deep lyrics, but I like to have fun too.
AU: So, you like to create music that's fun, but makes you think.
LEV: You know, that’s where the song writing comes in on a deeper level. I do like to write lyrics with meat to them, I don’t like the bubble gum pop stuff. I have to remind myself constantly not to write too deep for my more popy-music, cause my natural writing abilities go super deep to the left. ‘I'm like, ‘no no no, have fun have fun’. For the recording aspects as well, I want people to hear it and have fun and think, 'I would love to listen to this in the car, or at the club, or when I’m having a shitty day and just want to hear something fun', but you know, I like to have some substance behind my lyrics as well.
AU: If you could collaborate with any Artist, who would it be and why?
LEV: It would be Jack Antonoff from the Bleachers. I followed him since he was in the band FUN and I love his music and his writing. His song writing abilities are amazing. He also writes a bit more on the metaphorical side like I do, and I just love that. I just love his sound, I feel like he puts a stamp on it and makes his music unique, plus there are some 80s vibes in there that I soft-spot for.
Photography by: Will Baldwin
AU: If you had to choose, what are your top 5 favorite 80s band?
LEV: It’s so hard to choose only 5! But if I had to- Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Simple Minds, Blondie and Tears for Fears for sure.
AU: Just about a year ago you debuted your EP "Fear no Evil" and now, just year later, your signing off on your first full-length album, how does it feel?
LEV: It feels so good, it’s a great accomplishment. Ever since I was a kid, I knew it was one thing to release an EP, but I really just wanted to create a full-length album. We are taking some of the songs from my EP and adding them to the full-length album, so the album will have a total of 13 tracks. I'm excited, it's sort of like a cross off your visual ‘to-do’ board.
AU: What are some of your future life goals both as an artist and an individual?
LEV: I would love to tour and play internationally, playing in as many places and venues as I can. Id love to just really go around the world and tour honestly. I also love plant-based food, so opening up a small plant-based café one day is also a personal goal of mine. I also have as strong passion for song writing, so If I could song write on a lot of tracks for different artist, that would be awesome as well. Those are three big goals of mine I hope to one day achieve.
Photography by: Rico DeLeon