First things first, please tell us a little about you… who are you and where are you currently based?
Thanks for having me, guys and girls! I'm Léon, and my last name is actually Dutch for PALM TREES. I'm from Amsterdam, but travel to LA, London and Stockholm all the time to collaborate with people on new music. So basically I come to all these beautiful places, but end up sitting in the studio about 99% of the time.
How long have you been making music? What made you first want to write it?
I started playing guitar when I was 6, and I still play all the instruments on my records. I think that's where the organic crossover feel comes from. After high school I joined a music academy to study guitar, but quickly found out I love creating new music in all ways – melodies, chords, lyrics, production – much more so than playing existing songs. So at one point I had all these songs on my computer waiting for a home – most had friends of mine with beautiful voices singing on them.
I remember this night when one other young guy and I weren't allowed to enter this club in Amsterdam because of our age, so we both just kind of got kicked out. Then he was like “Hey, you're Léon right?” That guy turned out to be Martin Garrix, who had heard some of my stuff in the writing scene. We started working together and that's how I got into writing dance music.
What do you enjoy most about having music as your career?
Honestly, whenever I have a day off and tell myself I'm just gonna hang out, I find myself writing a song after a couple hours. Doing nothing is boring. Songwriting is just such a great way of telling your story (which in person I'm terrible at) and getting your feelings across – and it's even more fun to see people dancing to it, singing along, having a good time. So I guess at the end of the day, it's about making everyone feel better.
Also, the music industry gets a bad rep but I've met some really amazing, intelligent and worldly people both on the creative and the business side. I just love when it clicks with someone you meet and you often end up not only working together, but helping each other out, having beers in your spare time, going to festivals, etc.
Where do you mostly draw your inspiration? How would you describe your trademark sound to those who haven’t heard it yet?
All my songs are a combination of real-life experience and just letting my imagination run wild. I imagine these stories happening – mostly based on what is going on in my life, and sometimes ones I wish were happening (hint: the ones that have champagne, models and Bentleys in them are mostly imagination). When I'm writing with other people, or artists/singers, it's a great way to get under their skin, imagine myself in their situation, and really tap into their emotions to turn them into a song.
Palm Trees clearly has a happy, tropical vibe to it – but the songs all come from a very real place and I look forward to exploring more ground in the near future.
You’ve just released “You Were The One” on Epic Amsterdam and we love it! How long did you work on it for? Are you happy with the final result?
Thank you so much, I appreciate that! “You Were The One” came to life about a year ago when I met my now good friend Chris Ayer, who's actually singing on the record. We were both going through break-ups at the exact same time and just talked about how that felt (it was all very emotional *insert crying emoji*) and I remember playing this guitar riff. We started singing some melodies and the lyrics came soon after. The song used to be much more of a ballad, but we decided later that it needed a happier groove to it to make us wanna dance.
Where do you see your sound progressing over the coming months/years?
I love the direction in which dance music has gone throughout the last couple of years – it's now so fully evolved that there is room for very real songs, great lyrics and melodies, and lots of exploring sound-wise. My musical heroes at the moment are Calvin Harris and Jack Antonoff, who are both doing this kinda vintage sound right now, but adding a modern twist to it. I think I'll listen to those records a lot, dive into the 80's for a bit and then give my personal vibe to it. Also, I'll be singing on some of the new records, so that's very exciting.
If you could work with any artist (alive or dead) on a track, who would you choose and why?
I'm the kind of person who likes to set (sometimes impossible) goals and go for them. So when I started writing, I wanted to work with two extremes in the music industry - those were David Guetta and Taylor Swift (who was still doing country music at the time). This may not be a popular opinion to hardcore EDM fans, but I respect them both a lot for their musical creativity and their ability to reinvent themselves every year or two. So actually, let's not change those two goals before I've achieved at least one of them. :)
What do you have coming up next in 2017? Are there any more releases in the pipeline you can share with us yet?
SO MUCH EXCITING STUFF! There's this song called “Missing U” on which I'm singing. Another favorite of mine is “You Can't Always Get What You Want” featuring one of the best female singers I've ever heard, and this song “Deja Vu” which is unapologetically about sex - so that's all very relatable.
Again, thanks so much for listening to me go on about what I love about music. Having said that, talking about music is like dancing to architecture, so please go check out the new single by Palm Trees, follow, subscribe, tell your mom about it etc!