Leah Kate: “By the time I was 5, I knew I wanted to be a pop star”
Leah Kate always knew she was destined to become a pop star. While the road to success had its fair share of bumps, with determination and self-confidence, Kate turned her dreams into reality. After gaining viral success on TikTok with her song “Fuck Up The Friendship,” Kate doubled down on penning infectious pop songs that not only hit hard but portray a powerful message and presence. With high-profile tours supporting artists such as Chase Atlantic and Madison Beer, and the recent radio success of her latest single “10 Things I Hate About You,” Kate is headed for the stars.
Where are you from, and how did you discover that music was the path you wanted to follow?
I grew up in LA, born and raised here. Music has always been my dream. Even when I was a 3-year-old, I was singing. I started taking voice lessons at 5 years old, and my family works in radio, so I was always around so much music. My brother plays instruments and produces, and my aunts are singer-songwriters, so there was music everywhere. By the time I was 5, I knew I wanted to be a pop star. I started making music with my little brother, and the first song we ever made was called “Afterparty.” It was basically a fuck-you song about a guy who broke my heart. Clearly what I like to write about hasn’t changed. [Laughs.]
How did things progress from there as you started getting a little older and experiencing life?
My family always had the mentality that you should get a job and do music on the side. It was always what my heart wanted the most, but I was afraid to go after it. Before Spotify, you needed a record label, so as a 13-year-old, I started reaching out to producers through their emails I found on Wikipedia, and I surprisingly got a lot of responses, but nothing really came from it. I was this little annoying hustler child trying to figure out the music industry. As I was growing up, I still had pressure to get a job, so I got a job at an agency and was still doing music full time on the side, but I was still unhappy because I just wanted music to be my main career. I decided to leave LA and start fresh where I didn’t know anyone, so I moved to New York and got a remote job that allowed me to be in the studio all day. From there, I started releasing music independently, DMing producers and slowly gaining traction on my own.
I understand that things did eventually start to really pick up when you moved back to LA.
I moved back to LA right before the pandemic and was just locked at home for a year. Right before that, I wrote the song “Fuck Up The Friendship” and thought it was really good, and I sent it to a few producers. Eventually we got it right, and I knew it would change my career. I asked my dad for a few thousand bucks to do a TikTok campaign, and it flopped. Growing up, I had so many people telling me no and being concerned about me, so I had a lot of insecurity. I still knew that I could make this song a hit, and so I messaged creators on TikTok eventually. One video blew up and started getting hundreds of thousands of streams. I then linked up with [internet entrepreneur] Alexis Ohanian, and he wanted to invest in me, so we partnered and it was perfect. That really launched everything for me. This year, I wrote the song “10 Things I hate About You,” and now that song has really changed my life.
It seems like you are dialed in on all aspects of the creative process for your music, aesthetic, visuals and just about everything else. Would you agree?
For the last five years, I feel like I have basically been running a record label out of my house, from music videos to A&R work, DMing journalists, buying the props for my videos and all of my stylings, so I have always been really involved. I do work with a stylist named Tabitha now, but it’s very collaborative.
Who were your musical influences growing up?
I can see the Gwen Stefani influence in how strong your point of view is with your music. It’s super powerful. Who is currently inspiring you now from the newer generation?
You are set to go on tour with Chase Atlantic soon. Do you love the performing aspect of music? To me, it seems like you belong onstage.
I used to be so scared to be onstage because I hadn’t been on tour before, but now it’s absolutely my favorite part of the whole thing. I have the time of my life when I perform.
What’s next for Leah Kate this year and into the future?
Tons of music, so many tours and shows, merch and a project later in the year. I want to dive into other industries like fashion and beauty as well. You’re going to be hearing a lot from me.
SONG RECOMMENDATION: “10 Things I Hate About You”
This feature appeared in issue #407, available below.