From small town to big stages, this Toronto-based artist uses her music to advocate for climate action.
The entire room falls silent as she begins humming a simple melody into the peculiar device sitting in front of her. She layers her voice, one on top of the other, to create a thick chorus of interlacing melodies that fills the small room at the Mount Pleasant Rose; her voice as pure as an angel. She sang with such grace and ease that the music seemed to simply flow out of her. The seemingly shy girl with the orange beanie who had stepped on stage a moment ago was gone; eyes closed, she became lost in the music and she brought everyone with her, into the world inside her mind. After she finished performing, Leah Trottier smiled, realizing that her prepared words had been taken away by the greater powers of the universe and she had become entranced in the song.
Leah has a very peculiar way of looking and experiencing the world. She explains that the “earth is a spirit, it’s a living, breathing thing just like a human spirit…and it’s going like ‘Hello, I’m hurting and so are you’…so we need to do something about it.” Leah believes that the Earth is speaking and that it’s the responsibility of humans to protect it by learning to live and lead from the heart. Her connection to nature is very apparent in her music, which is driven by inspirations from nature and serenity. “I go to the river to lose my mind, and find my soul,” she sings in one of her songs. Her music is very vocal-driven, most of them acapella and very atmospheric. Although she currently makes most of her music on her Boss RC-505 Loop Station, she began playing music on traditional instruments like many musicians.
She explains that the “earth is a spirit, it’s a living, breathing thing just like a human spirit…and it’s going like ‘Hello, I’m hurting and so are you’…so we need to do something about it.”
Growing up in the small town of Brantford Ontario, Leah’s passion for music was nurtured as “a way of life” from a very young age. Her father was an architect and a drummer, and her mother taught music at Kindermusik. “We were always singing together, like my extended family,” she recalls. When Leah was in grade 7, her family moved to London, Ontario where she attended Lester B. Pearson School for the Arts. She received rigorous training in the arts there and fell in love with dance, drama, music and visual arts. One of her most memorable experiences was performing at her school’s annual Choral Celebration where she sang The Lion King Medley with a choir of five-hundred other children. Anyone who has ever sung in a choir can relate to how she felt when she says it was “so powerful…singing with other people.” Like many aspiring musicians, she took piano and vocal lessons when she was young, but didn’t always love them. “I did a few classes and vocal lessons but I really didn’t like the way that they were like,” she pauses and snickers, “[My teacher] was all about jazz and it was just like, not my thing.” In turn, she decided to pick up the French horn, clarinet and cello. The cello has a special place in Leah’s heart and she loves how it sounds “so close to the voice” in quality.
Leah describes growing up in her hometown as “very different than Toronto.” She spent much of her high school years creating, playing music and making films with her friends. During that time, she also began modelling at the age of 15. She worked for several agencies and travelled to Korea, Thailand, Montreal and the United Kingdom to do photoshoots. “It was cool because I love travelling, and it’s a great way to travel,” she recalls with a smile. But as she got older, Leah realized that there were many aspects of the modelling industry that didn’t align with her values. She struggles to find the right words to describe how she felt. Eventually, when she turned 19, she took a break from modelling to pursue music. However, recently, she went back to modelling as “just a job kind of thing” in order to support her career in music and as a “transition” in her journey of creative expression. Leah recently did a modelling gig for Scunci, a hair accessories brand owned by Conair Corporation. In an Instagram post, Leah confesses that “[her] face is on a billboard in Times Square.” The 12-storey tall ad in the centre of Times Square shows her posing with another girl wearing matching blue headwraps and smiling onto the busy streets of New York City. But in the ad, Leah is almost unrecognizable, both to those who know her as well as to herself. She admits to “trying to hide this ‘dark’ part of [her]self” and juggling between two realities: her stance on consumerism and what she represents as a model. She points out that consumerism is a rising problem in Canada with 9.5 million tonnes of clothing going to landfills each year, and that our “mentality to think that we never have enough is a real problem.” So, she has decided to use her platform to speak her truth and make changes in the industry.
But in the ad, Leah is almost unrecognizable, both to those who know her as well as to herself. She admits to “trying to hide this ‘dark’ part of [her]self” and juggling between two realities: her stance on consumerism and what she represents as a model.
In her free time, Leah surrounds herself in nature, dancing around the trees and advocating for climate action at protests. In five years, she sees herself living at a cottage in Algonquin Park where she can record and play music all day. She dreams of a grand piano, pottery workshop and a dance studio in her home in the middle of the forest where she will be able to play at music festivals and make films about nature and how people interact with each other.
Leah is currently working on her debut album, which will be a visual album released sometime next year. But this won’t be the first time that she has tried to release an album. Last year, she tried to rush into releasing music without much knowledge of how to do it and ended up “falling flat on [her] face.” So this time, she will take a different approach, allowing herself more time and “heart space” to do it. She plans on creating demos by herself and then bringing it into the studio to produce and edit with others. Unlike some artists, Leah enjoys collaboration and bouncing ideas off of other people. The theme of the album is “the earth,” she says rolling her eyes, and it will be titled, Earth Walker. It will be heavily based on songs that she has created in her loop station but expand on those sounds and ideas. Leah is very excited about the idea of releasing her own music and becoming a full-time musician. After all, she already acts and dresses like a true artist, sporting a spotted black and white faux wool coat, sky blue tank top and textile printed trousers on the damp September day. She’s confident, but humble, a trait that will likely take her very far in this career, and she knows who she is as a human being.
Although Leah is only 23 years old, she is clearly very thoughtful about her identity, the world around her, and what kind of art she wants to create. She expresses herself and her love for nature with whatever medium moves her at the moment, whether it’s music, dance, or modelling. Leah will definitely go far with her music in the future as she continues to develop herself as an artist.