Leila Alcasid on family, K-pop & finding her voice

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Leila Alcasid has the musical pedigree but she appreciates that her father, singer-songwriter Ogie Alcasid, “lets me do my own thing.”

Asked what it is like growing up as the daughter of an OPM icon no less, Leila told The STAR in a recent virtual one-on-one: “I don’t know, I guess, I just look at my parents like my parents, you know. Growing up, I mean obviously, I knew that their job was to be musicians, but I don’t know. I look at my dad like my dad and I look at my stepmom (Regine Velasquez) like my stepmom.”

She said that it’s only when they’re in public and performing that she’s reminded that people know them. “But in terms of them being my parents, the best way I can look at it is that they give me a lot of inspiration, especially since we are in the same industry,” she added.

“It’s nice to have sources of inspiration constantly, even if they’re just singing, because I’ve been doing a lot of singing in the house now because of what’s happening. So, it’s nice to have that inspiration, to see just how resilient they are, and that regardless of whatever’s going on, they still find a way to do their job.”

The 21 year old is using that inspiration as she continues to make a name for herself as a singer-songwriter. She’s one of the featured artists in the mixtape semilucent by Paradise Rising, a new music label established by Globe Telecom with 88Rising, a US-based media and entertainment company that champions Asian-American and Asian artists. Clouds, the semilucent song she wrote with Chris Lopez a.k.a. DJ Moophs (the founder/head of Tarsier Records), is a dreamy number that you can imagine playing while taking a long drive or watching the rain pouring outside, as one of the comments pointed out. With Clouds, Leila appeared to have stayed on course from Better Weather, her five-track EP released this year, continuing on with the weather theme and metaphor, and just bringing on that chill, sultry vibe.

She shared that dad Ogie helped her “a lot” with the recording of her latest song. “Every now and then (he helps me), like with Clouds, he was quite involved, just because he recorded my vocals because I’m at his house. So he has a studio which is really great. And so during that process of recording my vocals he was able to give me a lot of input into a lot of different things.”

In general though, he has taken a hands-off approach when it comes to her music-making. “I feel like he’s taken this position of, you know, I’ll just let her do her thing and usually he sees it when it’s already the end product,” she shared.

“He’ll still give me comments or whatever he thinks about the track but I like that he’s kind of given me the space to express myself however I want to.”

The STAR asked Leila about the inspiration behind Clouds and she said it’s one of those songs that came out “organically”. She also hinted that the song came from her past struggles of trying to find her place in the music scene: “I was coming from a place of — I wasn’t going through a very good time in my life and it was like, I guess, a bad season where I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and I was just feeling really down. And I was looking at, you know, what do I need to feel better… and what I say in the song is that you just need whoever it is around you, whether it be family or a romantic relationship or friends, just to be there to support you, you know, regardless of what happens. And so I wanted to find a way where I could translate that into something that I wasn’t saying it so literally, but it captured the sentiment.”

She hopes listeners will find something to relate to in her song. “Because I feel like everything is very cloudy at the moment, I mean, it kind of relates to everyone, too, during this pandemic. I feel like everyone to some extent is feeling like that, you know, struggling with stress and anxiety and I’m sure some people, depression, and we’re all just kind of waiting for the sun to come out again.

“In terms of what I want for people to feel when they hear it, is just for them to relate to it. I think I was very vulnerable in this track. So, it means a lot to me when I see people saying that, you know, they connect to the lyrics and they feel like I’m speaking to them.”

Leila also revealed that nowadays she’s been listening to a lot of Korean music and drawing inspiration from how K-pop has broken cultural and language barriers to conquer the global music business.

“I listen to a lot of Korean music. Since we’re talking about Paradise Rising and how (this music label) focuses on Asian talent, I think the first example of seeing Asians connect with the West successfully is through K-pop and through Korean artists, not even just K-pop but you know Korean R&B, Korean hip-hop. And you know, me as a Filipino artist looking at them and seeing people appreciate them without them even having to sing in English, people loving them even though they’re singing in Korean, I feel like that’s such a big inspiration to all Asian artists because it shows that we also have the opportunity to make that connection with the rest of the world through our music and we can do it without having to sacrifice who we are.”

Apart from her music, Leila is currently finishing a bachelor of interior design at a Sydney university via distance learning. “Within the next couple of years, I’ll probably spend a little bit of time in Sydney just to finish up my degree.”

Her course is not related to music but it’s still in the creative business as she believes that in the modern-day, one doesn’t really need to stick to one thing. “I think my mom is a perfect example. You know, she’s had three different careers,” she said of the former Miss Australia Michelle Van Eimeren, who did TV hosting when she was still living in the country, but is now running a successful floral design studio in Sydney.

Leila herself decided to move back to the Philippines in 2017 from Australia (where she’s been since she was five) because she wanted to spend time with her father.

“I’m really enjoying it. I feel very at home here and I’ve made beautiful friends and I’m glad that I have been able to build a tight bond with my family here. That was the main point of me coming here — to, you know, spend time with my dad and my stepmom and my extended family. So, I’m really glad that I was able to do that and have, you know, been able to do that.”

(You can listen to the tracks from semilucent at bit.ly/semilucentmixtape.)