Introducing Up-and-Coming Pop-Legend: Leila Pari
“I believe the challenges aren’t necessarily ‘obstacles’ along the way, they are the way.”
If you were lucky enough to score tickets to the Coldplay Music of the Spheres 2022 tour, you were probably introduced to the up-and-coming pop legend, Leila Pari whose performance on this tour was her ‘big break.’ Although Leila had somewhat of a sheltered upbringing, the young artist’s love for music and performing brought her out of her bubble. Despite not knowing where her talent would take her and if she could make her passion a career, Leila produced her own music in New York City, where she relocated in order to chase her dream. She struggled, not knowing if she would be able to afford the rent each month, but stayed optimistic, motivated by the life she imagined. Her early adult life was the rollercoaster of a soon-to-be rockstar; at times, she even slept in her car. Yet, Leila took every challenge as a lesson to learn and grow from, eventually blossoming into the rising icon she is today.
Despite the fact that Leila and her music have become recognizable, she has remained humble and true to who herself. She explains that she still sees herself as ‘that same girl’ who struggled and persevered and aims to stay authentic throughout her career. During our chat, Leila’s answers were human and honest. I was able to identify with her, not only in her calm and true demeanor but in our shared ethnicity. Leila relayed experiences that related to our Persian culture and I couldn’t help but hang on to every word. As our conversation wrapped, Leila assured me that there is plenty to look forward to within these upcoming years as she continues to produce more music and live new experiences.
Is there a particular artist that has been a role model to you and that has inspired you throughout your career as an artist?
Yes. Even when I was a little kid, whenever anyone would ask me who my favorite artist was I would give them three: Coldplay, U2, and One Republic. All three of these artists really inspired me because I felt as though they’re music told stories. They’re a little bit different than the typical pop-inspo which I love.
What was it like opening for Coldplay? Would you say that the audience your music attracts is in line with Coldplay’s audience?
It was absolutely crazy. Coldplay has been one of my favorite bands since I was 11, so it really was surreal – I still keep pinching myself! The audition submission process was so long and the chances of actually getting to perform was so small, so I knew during it that there was a good chance I would end up totally crushed. Ultimately, I knew I would rather try than not try at all, and sure enough. . . I got the offer. It truly was an incredible experience.
I understand you have undergone several hardships throughout your life, including homelessness and all that that entails – and have since built your way up to where you are now. How would you say these challenges have shaped you and the music you write today?
I have definitely experienced many hardships throughout my life – in fact, there were seasons of my life when I could not afford rent and would resort to living in my car. It was difficult. However, I had this epiphany that we as humans are simply resilient when it comes to changes and challenges. This helped me realize who I want to be – I want to be a strong, empathetic woman. However, we can’t actually be all these great things without living through the challenges. In this sense, I believe the challenges aren’t necessarily ‘obstacles’ along the way, they are the way. Challenges are supposed to exist and that is what makes us grow. So, I just embraced it all and stuck to this mindset, which eventually took hold in my music.
I am aware that you view your songs as a personal collection of stories. Your latest album ‘Modern Romantic,’ poetically depicts your romantic life and the struggles you have faced along the path of self-discovery. Given nature, these stories are of course very personal and raw. How does it feel to have this side of you and your most vulnerable thoughts accessible to the public now that your career has taken off?
I actually just had a song released which I’m really proud of, but the person who it is about may or may not know it is about them. Other people may form opinions given how my emotions are portrayed in my music; however, I realized it’s not my job to care what anyone else is thinking. As long as I’m being authentic to myself and learning from all these moments of heartbreak or disappointment, I feel like I’m growing, and that’s what really inspires me. A lot of my songs are almost like me telling myself what to hold onto and what to let go of as I continue throughout life.
Is there a particular song that you feel perfectly depicts you? Whether it be your ‘anthem,’ one of your own songs, or a song that just sums you up well?
You definitely grow as an artist – looking back at my old music I sometimes think I should take everything down because it is not a representation of who I am now or my music now. However, with my new music, every song is accurate to how I feel. There are two songs in particular: ‘Sweet Tooth’ and ‘Don’t Say It’. ‘Sweet Tooth’ is about the current chapter of my life. I grew up in a small town which led me to hold very ideal and nuclear views on love, romance, and even my overall lifestyle. Moving to New York was definitely a culture shock for me, and I loved that, but it’s also been difficult for me to figure out where to set my boundaries. I am essentially asking myself: how can I continue to grow and experience such new and exciting things without fully losing myself? ‘Don’t Say It’ hasn’t actually come out yet but I perform it at my shows. I wrote this song last summer and it’s really just about that time period and how I was feeling. This of course was previous to many of the opportunities I have been given since, so I still had no indicator that my career was going anywhere. A lot of the lyrics to the song are about how there’s a beauty in fighting for something because it proves how much you love it and how much you want it.
You have mentioned that you have a new show premiering titled, “Under the Covers,” which gives insight into the personal lives of up-and-coming legends. I find this especially intriguing given it is both entertaining as well as vulnerable. How do you plan on encouraging and guiding these aspiring artists throughout the show? Does the audience get to watch these individuals grow?
What I think is cool about human existence, and honestly what I feel most driven by in life – even more so than music – is the fact that we are all essentially the same. If we as humans could just be vulnerable and have grace for ourselves in accepting our imperfections and understand that this does not invalidate our potential to have dreams and achieve these dreams. It’s funny because one week before I was told about the Coldplay show, I was meeting with this A&R executive that was pretty much like, “you’re never going to make it, you may as well quit now.” This was super interesting because despite how that made me feel, I came to realize it doesn’t actually matter what he has to say. You don’t have to meet all the expectations that society presents, you just need to have a reason and drive. In this sense, there is space for all of us, which essentially is what the show is about. All the people I have interviewed so far have been amazing and quite literally ‘rags to riches’ – it’s incredible to see and this is what I really aim to capture.
A semi-personal question that I have for you: Has your Persian culture been of influence in your music and/or your career overall?
I want my Persian roots to inspire my music more, I would definitely say this is a life goal of mine. It has been difficult because I still produce everything myself, so I haven’t quite figured out how to get that Persian sound into my very ‘American’ music. I have recently done some work with some Persian artists and Persian rappers which was so great. I love cultural music. I think it is so interesting and unique, so my game plan is to eventually bridge the gap and incorporate more Persian sounds and dance into my music.
Let's Talk About Los Angeles . . .
What’s your favorite place to shop in LA?
I love vintage boutique stores. I like finding pieces that are unique and that you can’t find just anywhere.
What’s your favorite place to go out for nightlife?
What’s your favorite LA restaurant?
Does Erewhon count?
What’s your favorite day time activity?
I love beach volleyball, dancing, yoga – I love working out, though I’m not a huge fan of hikes.
What is one place a vacationer must visit?
My favorite part of LA is actually Palisade Park which is this little park that overlooks Santa Monica and Malibu. At sunset it is so beautiful, this spot has become extremely special to me.