Auckland-based singer-songwriter Rachel Leo’s debut Conversation is a disco-pop track that’s sure to be in your head and on your next party playlist. We caught up with Rachel after she celebrated her single release to chat inspirations, musical beginnings and what’s in the works. 

Rachel tells us she’s always wanted to be a singer but it only got serious when she began a music degree at the University of Auckland. “I went from making one or two songs a year to writing constantly for assignments, it really forced me to push the creative limits and explore other genres and styles.” After completing the first year of study, Rachel started to make bigger music moves by networking and collaborating with producers. 

Conversation wasn’t a one and done sort of track, rather Rachel admitting that it took a year and a lot of back-and-forth work (16 versions to be exact!) to turn it into the song it is today. Talking about inspirations, Rachel shared that she loves writing in the car then polishing that in the studio, “I feel things quite strongly and my favourite way to process is to write a song, there’s something so therapeutic about describing the exact emotion you feel with chords, melody and lyrics.” 

Rachel collaborated with some talented creatives on Conversation, the tune was written with and produced by M Basa (Aloe Blacc, Teeks) and Joseph Corban-Banks (Niko Walters, Foley, LA Women) and mixed by Simon Gooding (P!nk, Dua Lipa, Drax Project). Rachel’s dream collab list includes writing with Mark Ronson, Dagny and Maggie Rogers. She also recently wrote with NZ group Drax Project, “they are one of my favourite kiwi acts so that was pretty awesome”.


Rachel Leo performs at Conversation release show.
Photo: Devan Narsai

Rachel celebrated her debut release in the best way – with a show! “The release show was such a blast. My favourite part of that night was definitely hearing everyone scream the lyrics, such a surreal moment.” Rachel’s band is also full of her close friends so she tells, “it’s always a good time whether we are practising or playing. I’m working on some songs that I can’t wait to share soon!” 

I told Rachel the visualiser for Conversation gave off a fun vibe, she shared that it was fun to film and a true collaborative effort! “One of my close friends Amelia Jacobson recently graduated from film school and offered to co-direct it with our DOP Calum Lyall. Since the song has disco elements to it we wanted to draw on that, we roped in a bunch of film school and dancer friends who generously volunteered their time, [I was] super grateful to have them on board. I got to step outside my comfort zone and do some dancing which was initially intimidating but the girls were so great to work with,” Rachel revealed, adding that shooting the music video was one of her 2021 highlights. 

While the near future is a bit unpredictable, Rachel shared some insight into what she’s working on including plans for more live performances over the next year alongside some possible summer festival appearances. Another single release is also on the cards and Rachel’s working towards her debut EP. If Conversation is anything to go by, Rachel Leo is definitely one to watch.

You can keep up with Rachel online and watch the music video here.