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Photography by Alex Waespi

Léa Sen’s music is like flicking through the pages of an old diary

The 22-year-old songwriter – born in France and based in London – talks through her ethereal and intensely intimate new EP, You of Now Pt. 1

Reading back a journal entry from a year ago is usually painful, embarrassing and, very often, cathartic. You can track just how far you’ve come after a breakup or the way you got out of a rut, or cringe at how into someone you were for an inconceivable amount of time. For 22-year-old French-born, London-based musician Léa Sen, releasing her debut EP, You of Now Pt. 1 is kind of like flicking back through the pages of an old journal. 

Sen wrote the five-track project during the uncertainty of a global pandemic. In late 2019, she dreamt of moving to a different country and spontaneously moved from her home on the outskirts of France’s capital to London, booking her train just two weeks before. Two years later, the day before her first project’s release, she’s feeling reflective about that period of time. “I was so lost last year,” she says over Zoom from her south London home. “I was struggling to make music.”

The project’s title is a reflection of this, born from a gift she received over a year ago; musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies, a collection of over 100 little prompts to encourage creative lateral thinking which led Sen to have a sort of epiphany. “I remember seeing ‘Trust the you of now’ and I had one of those moments where you’re like, ‘I understand everything’,” she says. “I thought I was self-aware but I realised that I would constantly doubt myself with music and my personal life. It was impossible to finish a song and feel excited because [I was] doubting every single sentence, rhyme or melody. It was a killer for me and when I read that card, it made me realise that I don’t know what I’m doing, but I do. No one knows what the fuck’s going on – but your intuition does.”

The Sen of now thrives on self-reflection, speaking with a quiet certainty about herself. But this EP is a reflection of before, the period she spent unpicking the knots she had found herself tied up in to become who she is today. Between tracks like “I Like Dis”, a melancholy love song and Sen’s favourite, or the self-examination that pours out of “With or Without”, her ability to distil pure emotion into song is something that surprises even Sen herself. “This guy sent me a message and he was like, I cried on the train listening to your song. That’s crazy to me!” she says.

She’s on the other side of it all now, taking time to immerse herself in her new city – she’s already a dedicated south Londoner – and looking at her life with clearer eyes in the midst of writing Pt 2. “If I don’t get to know myself every day I’m going to get lost, and then I’m going to get in a space that’s so dangerous for myself. It’s not even worth it,” she says. “I’m always changing and always learning, even if I don’t want to. It’s impossible not to.”

Sen self-recorded, produced and mixed the entire project by herself. “[Creating] is such an intimate and sometimes intense space. There’s a whole process that I have with myself,” she says. “I’d love to have someone else but I would have to fuck with them as a person.” 

Luckily she’s cultivated a community of other artists in London – like Kwake Bass or Wu-Lu – that she can take her pick from now. For her next project, Sen is trying to go easier on herself, so has enlisted a friend to help with engineering and putting all that growth to good use. “Now that I realise that my worth is not connected to what I make, it’s unconditional and has nothing to do with anything external so I can experiment. I can go crazy, I can make weird sounds, I can make crazy sounds, I can take however long I need and that’s fine.”

After we speak, Sen has been reflecting again, this time about what her very own Oblique Strategies card might say, and emails over four simple words: “Don’t listen to yourself.” 

Lea Sen’s new EP You of Now Pt. 1 is out now