May/June 2023

by Silke Hartung

Ex-Pat Files: Paddy Echo

by Silke Hartung

Ex-Pat Files: Paddy Echo

After brief stints in the UK and New York, former Tāmaki Makaurau native Paddy Leishman, aka Paddy Echo, is now based in Los Angeles, from where he released his EP ‘Stay For Dinner’, in January this year. Raised as part of a creative family, Paddy’s what you might describe as a modern creative renaissance man, with a profile in various entertainment media; acting and graphic design to name a few outside his obvious musical contributions. NZM chased him up for some LA gossip.

It’s not your first time overseas for a longer period of time, right? Where else have you chosen to reside longer than a holiday?

It is not my first overseas stint, no! I have spent quite a bit of time away from NZ with decent stints in London and New York, with a few months in LA pre-Covid, back in 2020.

I had always wanted to move to London, ever since the age of about 14. The majority of the music I listened to was from the UK and I loved the idea of being based in Europe. Two Door Cinema Club and Oasis soundtracked my high school years and I am also a diehard Arsenal FC fan, so it was hands down the place to be! I moved the second I graduated music school at the age of 21.

During 2021, when I knew I couldn’t travel anywhere, I went back to uni and did a one-year post-graduate design course that set me up quite well for a visa to the US. Uni study meant I qualified for the J1 visa, which gives you one year to live and work in the States. Uni students! Don’t sleep on the J1!

How did you end up in LA initially?

I spent most of the second half of 2022 in New York City. This was definitely a bucket list time for me – living and working in a city that has been so integral to the world of music (and everything else!). So many of my favourite artists are from New York, so it was very exciting.

I picked up a little job at a cafe on Orchard Street in the Lower East Side, which was brilliant not only for meeting new people in a big city, but also providing a bit of a daily consistency. I spent my time off both writing music and just exploring.

What I would say about New York is that although I had many fantastic friends there, it can be a pretty overwhelming place at times and can often feel somewhat solitary. As the end of the year approached I felt like it would be a good time to switch it up and go chase a bit of sun in Los Angeles!

My little sister Molly lives out here along with a number of other close friends so it felt right. I made the move in January this year, and although I do miss the East Coast I am really enjoying my time here so far!

I’ve just recently moved into a beautiful sunny house in Los Feliz in East LA with Molly and three other Kiwis. I am incredibly lucky to have been able to jump into this place. It feels very familiar being around family again and the place itself is very social and fun.

One of the flatmates is also a producer and has set up a little upstairs studio which is brilliant! I’m so grateful to be in a very creative environment, especially at home. It just eliminates the stress of finding a place to write and record on the fly.

What expectations did you have for living in LA versus what you’ve experienced?

Having spent a bit of time living here before Covid I guess I had a little bit of an idea as to what was in store. I felt very free in terms of expectations which was a real positive. I found myself in a place where all I wanted to do was to be with a bunch of close friends and family in an exciting, creative environment so it ticked all the boxes. The thing you do need though in LA is a car. I don’t have a car. You need a car.

I also work as a graphic designer and have had some pretty exciting opportunities over here. My most recent work being for Australian artist, The Kid Laroi, and his two shows at this year’s Coachella. I was extremely fortunate to be brought on to edit the animation content for his live show, working with the brilliant creative studio, Human Person, run by Ben Dalgleigh (Kiwi) and Ian Valentine.

The best things about my life in LA is…?

It is very hard to ignore the sun! I know that might sound like a bit of a boring answer but you really do feel the benefits after living in both New York and London. It really is quite calming and I can see how people can get addicted to it.

The other amazing thing about life in LA is the ability to be able to get in amongst the outdoors. We live very close to Griffith Park which is proving to be a real highlight. Whenever you need a reset, you just throw on your running shoes and head up into the hills. You get one of the best views of the city up there and it’s great for the mind!

Come on, it’s LA, after all – what’s your incredible celebrity story?

The one big story I love to tell only happened about a month ago and it was my encounter with artist and songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr. (His 2013 album ‘Goon’ is one of my all time favourite albums and I urge everyone to go and listen!)

He was sitting and having coffee in Los Feliz and I just decided in the moment to go and introduce myself. It is absolutely not something I would normally do but something came over me and I went up and said hello. He was super kind and I told him I was a songwriter and how influential he had been for me and my music. We talked about his album for 15 seconds and then that was it. Or so I thought!

About 20 minutes later he came back over to me as he was leaving and asked me to get my music up on his Spotify. This blew my mind. I chucked it in his phone and we shook hands and he walked off. I should add another cool aspect to the story and that was that he was having coffee with Alana from the band Haim. All pretty cool!

Have you had the chance yet for any LA collabs, songwriting sessions etc.?

LA is an crazy place for sessions. It often feels like every man and his dog has a studio! One that really stands out is when I worked with the Canadian indie-pop band Valley. Mickey and Rob are two members of the group and were out here before heading out on their North American tour.

It was a bit of a last-minute thing that we had organised at dinner a couple of days before, but as is often the case, the last-minute thing proved to be a winner. We set up in their West Hollywood kitchen, monitors on the counter, keys on the dining room table, mic by the living room – and in about four hours we had written a brilliant song that has one of my favourite choruses I’ve ever been a part of!

We had been talking about setting up a session for almost a year and half, so to finally get a track down was super rad.

What qualities do you reckon an artist needs to succeed in LA?

This is a tricky one for me because I don’t think I have been here quite long enough to be able to answer! From my current perspective, however, the people I have met who are doing super well and who are succeeding in their field all say the same thing, and that is just to completely focus on the work itself.

On one hand that may seem obvious, but they all say how so many people come through this city and focus on the end goal rather than focusing on the actual work that they’re doing. There is a huge amount of luck that goes into succeeding as a musician, especially in a place like this, but when that luck does strike, you really have to be able to back it up with solid, good-quality work otherwise it won’t stick.

What’s your scene, are there any bars or venues you go to more regularly than others?

I am still finding my way around the city but am slowly finding little spots that I love. I am big into markets and the Los Feliz Flee is brilliant, as is the Silverlake Market. I spend most of my time in East LA, so dance around the bars and restaurants in Sunset Junction and East Hollywood when I get the chance. It is another real benefit having my sister here as she is super familiar with LA and has endless recs!

How would you describe the aesthetic you went for with your ‘Stay For Dinner’ EP?

I read this interview once upon a time with the lead singer of Years & Years, Olly Alexander, and he had this brilliant quote when discussing the writing of their album – “I just wanted to write dance music that people could cry to.”

That really stuck with me and is something that I really wanted to incorporate in my own way with this project. It’s music that people can move to, but when you boil it down, embodies rather melancholic, heartfelt undertones.

Who did you work with on ‘Stay For Dinner’, and where did you record it?

I worked with a bunch of fantastic collaborators on this EP, but the key piece of the puzzle was close friend and star producer PJ Shepherd (Tomi Banx). He was a huge influence and produced effectively the entire EP, start to finish. I feel very at home when working with PJ and I feel that translates in the music. We wrote at least four of the songs in either my bedroom studio or his bedroom studio, along with stints in his garage. We jumped into Golden Age Studios whenever we could to do little touch-ups here and there but the bulk of the music was recorded at home.

I also want to pay special mention to the other lads who jumped on this project; Harper Finn, Will Thomas (Sachi) and Fynn Blackwood (No Comply) and also to Ben Lawson and Simon Gooding who worked on mixing the tracks.

With the whole EP being so DIY it would have been impossible without my trusty laptop. We ended up finishing a bunch of the music from afar – PJ being in NZ and me being in New York, so having everything there at your fingertips was essential.

What are your plans for the rest of 2023, Paddy? What’s coming next?

I am currently deep in amongst the writing of the next EP which is super exciting. We have a few songs lined up that I will hopefully get out into the world in the next few months along with a few potential live shows in the making. I am really enjoying the process of extending what we created with this first EP and exploring new avenues. I am loving what I’m working on at the moment, which is the best feeling.

My current US visa ends around September so it’s a bit of a ‘watch this space’ in terms of where I will be at the end of the year. I love the idea of heading back to the UK at some point to play a few shows, as well as coming home over summer. Who knows! be careful for god’s sake’, and she’s passing down this kit which is in pieces, and missing hardware. A guy from one of the other bands gets some gaffer tape from his bag and Anna and him sit there on the stage literally taping this drum kit together. Somehow it managed to last for both bands. I have no idea how.