Leo Sawikin is a NYC-born and bred singer/songwriter, who debuted as a solo recording artist with his 2021 album, Row Me Away. While Leo often records from his home studio in New York’s Little Italy, over the last year he traveled to Seattle to work with the legendary Phil Ek, who produced breakthrough albums by Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, The Shins, and Fleet Foxes. Of the ten tracks Leo recorded with Phil, four have already been released and the rest are on the way, building up to a full album release later in 2024. Toward year end 2023, Leo toured City Wineries (and other venues) throughout the South and Northeast opening for Jon McLaughlin (“Beautiful Disaster”) and culminating in a thrilling hometown show at New York’s City Winery Main Stage.
Leo describes the aesthetic of his new recordings as “indie folk-pop with a dreamy shimmer.” It’s a guitar-driven vibe that evokes 90’s and early aughts bands as diverse as The Sundays and The Goo Goo Dolls, which Leo grew up hearing from the backseat of the family car. Songs released so far include “Hold On,” which Earmilk dubbed “a true gem… that takes listeners on an emotional rollercoaster,” and “New York I’m Coming Home,” a rollicking country-rock ode to Leo’s hometown. “The Same Mistakes,” according to Celebmix, a “gorgeous, shimmering… lusciously pensive” track, asks why so many of us, both collectively and personally, are powerless to escape cycles of self-sabotage. The message seems to resonate, as the song has racked up streams and saves globally from Indonesia to Brazil.
Musically, Leo says, he approached the sessions with Phil Ek differently from his previous ones, including those with the indie outfit he fronted in the 2010s, The Chordaes. “I’m always trying to develop and explore new musical possibilities,” he says. “For one, I wanted to do a record that showcased my chord voicings in a much more up-front way than I had in the past. And on previous recordings, I worked with a full backing band, but this time Phil encouraged me to do all the guitar parts myself and to come up with and play all the keyboard parts as well. It was quite a challenge, but I feel like there’s more of me on these new tracks, and that we really were able to distill the songs to their essence. Now, I’m just looking forward to seeing how people respond!”
Besides his excitement at sharing the rest of the Seattle tracks and the yet-to-be-titled collection later in 2024, Leo will be playing more solo and full-band live shows, both in NYC and on tour again across the country.