Singer songwriter Yhan Leal walks the line with light feet. The Colombian born, now Bellingen based musician, dedicates his waking hours to honing his artistic craft, doing so in his humble way – busking daily in his local community.
After 20 years of performing, Yhan – a truly gifted guitarist and angelic singer songwriter, has found his musical identity. Yhan Leal represents a new direction of Folk. Wilderness is his new album and you will find him performing at this year’s Dorrigo Folk & Bluegrass Festival, October 27-29, 2017.
“Reminiscent of Jeff Buckley, pure and haunting, whispering, soaring, and his dreamy lyrics paint images of boundless freedom and unending love.”
Nick Atkins, themusic.com.au
Yhan settled in the Bellingen Shire just six years ago, which he says has “flown by, but I’ve had such a wondrous time here”.
Although born in Colombia, Yhan’s memories are very dreamlike, recalling ‘enormous white houses and wild rivers’. But at age five he remembers leaving for Australia in the middle of the night in a very confused state. Despite what must have been a traumatic event, his childhood memories are overwhelmingly and fondly associated with music.
“My mother sang Spanish love songs and nursery rhymes to me. My three older brothers had very diverse tastes in music – from Opera to Metal – and we always had the record player going”. At 8 years of age he became formally trained at a classical guitar school, then started learning electric guitar at his local music shop. “I loved hanging around in that shop and eventually ended up teaching there myself.”
At about the same time as this classical training, Yhan also started singing pop songs with his guitar in hand, which led to professional singing lessons when he was about 17. After a period of learning everything he could about music – including buying countless books and videos on the subject and embracing lessons from a range of teachers – he discovered the Bellingen Shire…
“I had a few friends who recommended this place. I visited the region twice then realised I’d better buy a busking amp and move to Bello!”
Many of us have had the pleasure of watching and listening to Yhan as he busks and performs around the Shire. “Busking on the street puts you in the public domain, you become available to people in a very unique way. You’re saying ‘I’m singing for free, for the love of it, come and listen, talk to me, share with me’.” He describes his music as ‘folk’, because it means ‘people’ and his ideas for songs are always about the experience of the individual. Yhan says intimacy and an acoustic guitar is also very folk, but because he also embraces modern sounds – like samples and effects – in his creations, he describes his genre as ‘modern folk’.
As a singer songwriter, Yhan reveals that his musical inspiration isn’t from a mainstream artist, but his high school music teacher. “Mr Grace smoked Marlboros and played a genuine USA white Gibson Les Paul. He wrote his own songs and helped me put my first band together. He also introduced me to Simon & Garfunkel and he’d say things like ‘you can do whatever you want, just believe in yourself’.”
During one of his Bellingen street busking sessions, one particular piece of music (in which Yhan fingerpicks unusual and haunting arpegios in 6/8) captured the imagination of Dave Horsley from Screenwave. After buying Yhan’s CD, David approached him about using this piece in the promotional trailer for the 2017 Screenwave event. “We talked about altering it to make it more cinematic so I recommended Bello based sound guru and Wilderness producer, Rob Wolfe. Rob and Dave worked the final ideas together and created something very special.” This piece also features in Yhan’s current record Wilderness.
See singer songwriter Yhan Leal perform…
There are two upcoming events at which you can catch Yhan Leal:
- The Dorrigo Folk & Bluegrass Festival between October 27-29 (tickets on sale now at http://www.dorrigofolkbluegrass.com.au/)
- The Bellingen Memorial Hall for his album release on November 11 (tickets on sale now at Yhan’s website http://yhanleal.com/ and from Roots Records and Soul Kindle in Bellingen) .
“This is my first time performing at the Dorrigo Bluegrass Festival and I’m excited to be playing to this audience. I’m going to play as stripped back as possible but give my songs everything I’ve got. And at the album launch at the Bellingen Mem Hall I’ll be performing my entire new self-titled album, recreating its production with the support of mostly local musicians, including an electronic score.”
Written over a three day winter storm at the summit of the Blue Mountains, Up On The Mountain delves into a 10 year spiritual journey of truth, love and mystic places.