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NewTracks New Artist: Alma Leta

NewTracks New Artist: Alma Leta

Which famous literary character is Alma Leta’s name inspired by – can you guess? The California-born, Kaipara Flats-raised, Wellington-based newcomer collaborates on her music with producer and songwriter Nik Brinkman (Josie Moon, Mitch James), including her new single Cross My Heart which was featured on NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation this February.

What’s your full name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My full name is Emmanuelle Alma-Rose Baur or Emmi for short. I was born in California but have lived in NZ since I was 7, grew up in Kaipara Flats (north of Auckland) but moved to Wellington two years ago. I sing and write songs but have never properly learned an instrument! 2020 goal maybe!

Was high school or any other music training important to you?

I took singing lessons from 7 to about 15. I also participated in school productions, choir, harmony group and was a member of my school’s Performing Arts Academy.

What other projects might we know you from?

So far I have two other songs out; 18 and Flowers. Both were produced and mixed by my favourite, Nik Brinkman!

How has your music evolved to what it is right now?

Ever since I was little I’ve been singing and writing songs. There are so many videos of me at like 4 years old singing indecipherable nonsense with glitter on my face and a runny nose! At 20 I went to live in the States with my dad. That’s where I bought my first mic and laptop and started to create and record my originals. Just on good ol’ Garageband. When I moved back to NZ I showed my music around to a few producers. It wasn’t until I met Nik that I felt I found my sound and started to deeply love the music we created. With each song I release I feel I harness my own sound more and more.

How did you come up with the stage name “Alma Leta”?

It’s kind of an odd one. Alma was easy as it’s my middle name, but the Leta part was inspired by Lolita. Controversial I know!!! But I just love the 1997 movie – everything she wears and her personality. There’s a zestiness about her character that I try to channel when I start to doubt myself.

What makes Cross My Heart stand out for you as a single?

For me, I was trying a new perspective. It’s got a simplicity and rawness that maybe my previous tracks don’t have.

What’s the story behind Cross My Heart?

It’s about the vulnerability that comes from admitting your wrongs, while juxtaposed with the quiet delight of falling in love with someone new. The verses revolve around the guilt of having hurt someone previously where the chorus absorbs the feeling of promise to protect this new love. It always fascinates me how we can feel two opposing emotions at once.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

I love the bridge! I enjoy its change in melody, the rhythm and the way I try to cram as many lyrics in as possible. It’s like the shift in a story where the character finally professes their love to someone as it has become too heavy to carry around anymore.

Who did you write/record/produce the single with? 

Nik Brinkman! Or as I like to call him Niko Brinko (the loveliest person ever). When we went in for recording the song wasn’t even fully finished lyrically in parts, so we did some last-minute writing! But it was our last chance to borrow a really beautiful microphone, so we just had to go for it. It’s kinda funny how sometimes I need perfect conditions to get some feeling behind my vocals. So Nik and I have discovered that when the lights are dimmed or turned blue, in the recording room, only then will my body be like ‘Okay, I can sing now.’

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

Hmmm. Maybe it’s within our humanness to make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes hurt other people. It hurts to hurt others. But we can learn something from it. And shape how we love next. I’m not justifying bad decision-making, but I think the best way to move on and start treating people better is to start with being gentle to yourself.

In general, how do you work out what song would make a good single?

At this stage, all my songs have been singles! But I kind’a like that as I can put all my energy and focus into one little baby at a time. I feel a thousand songs humming under my skin though, so it’s definitely a dream to write an album one day.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

I definitely have more songs coming this year! So stay tuned. Music videos and live videos in the works too!

Can you please tell us three other local tunes that should be on a playlist alongside your song.

To be honest, I feel like my sound is different to all my favourite local musicians, but I’ll take this chance to make a shout out to the Kiwi musicians who inspire me;

  • Leisure All Over You – their live performance is immersive and hypnotic!
  • Aldous Harding Horizon– I adore her lyrics and how they come alive with her unique melodies. Her words are so tenderly chosen!
  • Marlon WilliamsWhat’s Chasing You – there’s a freedom and timelessness to his music that I love.

Have any of your previous applications not been selected for NewTracks? 

My last two songs haven’t been included but it’s definitely not something to take to heart! Just keep making music that resonates with you because undoubtedly it will eventually resonate with someone else too.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

I just enjoy following my favourite musicians on their social media accounts. It’s a kind reminder that successful musicians are people who also balance their career with ordinary life things. It’s refreshing and helps me focus on my long term goals with my music.

How can we find you on social media?

Instagram

Any last words?

Pippy McClenaghan does all the styling and photography for Alma Leta projects – including the artist image I’ve sent you.