Going into lockdown, Leith Ross was just Leith Ross. A college grad back at home, passing the long quarantine days amusing themselves writing songs and posting them online for friends. But when they came out the other side it was like emerging from a chrysalis: now they were Leith Ross, beloved singer and internet-famous creator with a whole new career that now needed to take root in the real world.
Ross grew up in a small town near Ottawa, Canada. Though they lived in a very conservative town, the Ross family’s homelife was idyllic, “blissful” even, Leith says, smiling as they recall the creative, musical home their parents created for them and their two siblings.
Their parents weren’t musical - Leith’s mum is a pharmacist and their dad is a teacher - but music was always playing at home, typical childhood scenes always soundtracked by Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae, Disney compilations and The Proclaimers.
The Scottish legends may seem out of place in that list but they are mandatory listening when you are half Scots - Leith’s mum was born and raised just outside Glasgow, near Motherwell after which their 2020 record is named. The family moved to Canada while Leith’s mum was still at school, but her grandparents retained their broad Glaswegian accent and Leith grew up on a steady diet of BBC kids’ TV and the idiosyncrasies of the Glasgow vernacular.
“My grandpa was a very classic, extremely musical Scot - he played five instruments but didn't know how to read sheet music because he just learned by ear from growing up around it.” Though not directly referencing it, Leith’s own songwriting has taken cues from these folk traditions.
While at college Leith came out as gay, and then, a couple of years later, as trans. To Learn, as with much of their music, draws on many of the intense emotions, unbreakable connections and strange new feelings that such a time prompts. “It’s about a period of time where everything changed for me: some really hard stuff happened. And I learned how to get through it, and how to figure out where I fit into the world as an adult.” Their songs are hugely personal and take them to vulnerable places, always rendered in folk-adjacent tones, sometimes with a pop beat or a rock riff, sometimes just their voice and their guitar dancing alone.
They may have planned the classic career trajectory - waiting tables, playing dives and sending out demos - but the world had other plans for Leith Ross. “I think it's amazing that just forcing myself to be vulnerable about things that I feel can actually be materially helpful for other people,” they say, genuinely bamboozled by the whole thing. “That's like, such a mind blowing thing, even though I know that's true from being a consumer of music. It's such a humbling experience to be on the other end of that interaction.” Now, they’re just being themselves, playing their songs and learning everything they can along the way.