Lenii: “The Edge jumped up to fix a guitar strap”

A cork girl going for the big time in LA, Lenii, a starkly infectious pop singer and producer, feels like she’s on the brink of the big time. Her journey started with lockdown, a time she described as “amazing but very strange,” as she sat at home in Cork while early single ‘The Kids Are All Rebels’ went hugely viral on TikTok.

“It was only a bit of a song,” she says of the initial traction. “I had to sit down and write the rest as I felt I had to capitalise. I banged it out, and I’m really glad I did. It made me deal with the idea of having opinions as a public figure. I almost reverse engineered a hit.”

Lenii has lived her life half in Cork and half in LA, and her latest period on the sunny Pacific coast of the US has taken her still further, as she’s gathered connections in the production world and worked with David Guetta, Kenzie – a regular collaborator – and Pixie Lott. Her solo career is just kicking off – in fact, her debut solo show post lockdown was less than two weeks ago – but it’s kicking off with a bang.

“A lot of time passed between ‘The Kids Are All Rebels’ and things actually opening”, she says. “I took a while to get to that place after things had opened up, but my first show was, I think, the best night of my life. It made it real. I met a girl who had been following me since 2020, and got to hug her. My guitarist’s strap broke in the middle of the show, and this guy jumped up to fix it, and it was the Edge, from U2. The next day I met Hozier, and he’d heard all about it. It was the maddest first show I could have hoped for.”

“It’s changed how I think I’ll write my newer music,” she continues. “It was a lot of fun, and I love dancing around on stage having a good time. My set has been more guitar heavy, more of a rock show than I think you’d expect from listening on Spotify, and it’s made me want to lean into that. It’ll change my production, too.”

“Everyone has been so supportive. Before the pandemic I felt very out of touch with the scene at home. When I was at home for the pandemic, I met so many more people in the Irish industry. It was like the veil lifted, and I saw this really cool, tight-knit community. I’m very grateful for it.”

“I started playing violin when I was four,” she continues, “and as a producer I think that’s super helpful. I love playing for people when they come for sessions, and it’s a kind of unique selling point. I play it a bit on my own music, too. It makes it feel alive and real,  and it makes me feel connected to my baby self a bit.”

“I’ve been in LA almost my whole adult life, so I talk about that, about my own experiences. ‘The Kids Are All Rebels’ was entirely about American politics. I was frustrated, honestly. Living here, and not being from here, I think you see it from more of an outsider’s perspective, and some of the things about how the country works were shocking.” 

“I also have American citizenship so I feel like I can say stuff. I’m blunt in my music, with emotions and opinion. I’m not shy, and it’s definitely got me in trouble with a lot of people on the internet. I wouldn’t live here if I didn’t want to. But I’d rather be polarising than mediocre.”

“I think my poor mother wishes I was a bit shyer. It’s not performative, though, I just say how I feel. Some of it’s about having fun, some of it’s about break ups, some of it’s about friendships. And then some is about politics. My newest single is called ‘Good Life’, and that’s just about how crazy and cool the world is. I’m very grateful for how things are at the moment.”