Oklahoma’s Christian Leave may have earned fame making six-second clips on an app, but it’s what lies in his family lineage that’s going to make him go down in history for far longer than that. The 21-year-old indie songwriter, like his musically inclined great-grandparents before him, has an attraction to the big and the bold. His sound hits listeners harder than any of his classic Vines could dream of, as he wants to fill up any and every inch of sonic space with vocal harmonies, runs or even the slightest instrumental lick. For Leave, nothing should ever be left untouched or feel unfinished.
After releasing his latest EP, Heavy Hitting Hurts My Head, Feb. 12, the singer already has his sights set on making even punchier choruses (as if one possible than the one on his track “Filth” could ever come to fruition) than ever before with his next effort. He’s searching for that holy moment.
When did music first enter your life? I know you grew up on a lot of gospel.
My grandparents and then their parents were in a gospel group called the Singing Gadberry’s. And if we ever went to a music store or went in a thrift store or something, we could probably find one of their records. I didn’t realize how serious it was until recently. I’ve gone on YouTube, and people have posted some of the tracks on there. They’re these gorgeous, big chorus-y sounds. It’s my great-grandmother just really singing her heart out.
I started playing for my church because they needed a bass player. And so that’s where it started, where I was introduced to playing music. But it was always a thing that I wanted to do. We had a piano in my house growing up for a year.
You listened to a lot of these super-early vocal groups growing up, the Frank Sinatras of the world, too. Do these people ever come into play in your music? What’s your sound composed of?
One of my favorite songs of all time is Ray Charles’ “Drown In My Own Tears.” There’s this point near the end of the song, and it’s the grand finale. It’s this big break of this entire choir singing what he’s been droning on about the entire song. Those are my favorite moments, historically, throughout all of that kind of music: those big, layered, stacked vocals. [My music] feels unfinished unless I’m filling up all this space with my voice. I wouldn’t say that as much for this project. There needs to be something that feels like that moment to me.
What’s been your greatest fear as an artist?
I’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately. Death is a really scary thing. I’ve been lucky enough that I have a really healthy family and to not have anything happen, but I think in that, there’s always been this secret of death. It almost doesn’t exist because I’ve never seen it. But now I’m getting older, and I’m realizing how it’s just starting to become more prevalent in my life. Not that it’s happening to me, but it’s something that I’m seeing a lot more often.
As an artist, not being self-aware [and] really, really missing the mark. Really putting a lot of effort into the wrong places over something that I think is important, then finding out later that it’s not.
What do you stand for as an artist?
I think the goal is giving people space to relate or at least listen to a story and have a fleeting moment of, whether it’s peace or relating to something, just being connected. Whatever holy moment that is. It’s the goal. Give people a little moment in time to connect these parts of their lives with what they’re listening to. Because that’s what I do.
How do you express this message through sound?
I think we put a lot of effort into the sonics of it. Even if the lyrics don’t communicate that, I feel like there’s the energy of every song. There’s this constant movement, whether it happens through the lyrics or it happens through the music itself, in any way it can happen. I want it to happen.