Mackenzie Leighton is a rising San Diego-born, Paris-based indie folk singer/songwriter musician and JOVM mainstay. When she was a child, Leighton’s family moved to a small, seaside town in Maine, where she grew up and spent her most other formative years. The JOVM mainstay can trace the origins of her music career to her youth: her father took her to classical piano lessons as a girl.
When Leighton turned 18, she attended my alma mater, New York University — and while in New York, she played in several jazz and folk inspired bands. Upon graduation, Leighton relocated to Paris. Leighton landed a day job as a florist and then launched a solo career with the release of 2017’s self-titled EP, a singer/songwriter folk effort that was released to praise and comparisons to Phoebe Bridgers and Julia Jacklin.
Leighton’s sophomore EP, 2020’s Tourist(e) was a decided change in sonic direction that found the rising American-born, French-based artist working with French musicians and producers while pairing folk-inspired songwriting with lush yet contemporary instrumentation and production. Leighton has supported both of her recorded efforts with shows in and around Paris, as well as with tours in Italy, Belgium and here in the States.
Last year’s Fleuriste EP thematically saw Leighton focusing on the reality of life as an expatriate in Europe: being constantly torn between two different cultures and hemispheres. Sonically, the EP continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor: Leighton pairing folk-leaning songwriting with lush and modern production.
I had previously written about three of the EP’s singles last year:
In the buildup to the EP’s release, I managed to write about two of the EP’s singles:
- “Un jour la vie,” a playful and infectious invitation to dream of an escape to Italy, to drink endless Aperol Spritzes and to dance the night away without a care in the world, centered around Leighton’s coquettish vocals, a sinuous yet propulsive bass line and shimmering guitars.
- “Flueriste,” a hook-driven pop confection that focuses on the plight of musicians unable to work because of the pandemic — but full of hopes of a bright future of live shows and all of the things we missed so much.
- “Mona by the Seaside,” another breezy, hook-driven pop confection that tells the story of the narrator’s friend Mona inviting her for a weekend at the beach. While detailing easy-going summer days and nights with friends — both old and new — the song is centered around the bittersweet and tacit acknowledgement that nothing is forever, and that the good times need to be cherished.
The EP’s latest single, EP closing track, the slow-burning and contemplative “Je ne suis poéte” was one of the first songs that Leighton wrote in French. Throughout the song, Leighton openly discusses how difficult it is to write in another language and how paradoxically, it forces a guileless and unvarnished sort of honesty: She winds up getting straight to the point and saying things frankly in a way that she couldn’t in her native English. But at its core, it’s a sweet and playful love song about the desire to write a song in French that a Francophone lover will love.
Directed by Coraline Benetti, the accompanying visual follows Leighton to a quirky book store — the sort that you’d only see in Europe or pre-Guilliani/pre-Bloomberg New York. And while in the bookstore, she winds up going on a series of endearingly awkward dates with a handful of famous French poets — François de Malherbe, Paul Verlaine and Jacques Prévert — but nothing seems to work.