As the former lead singer of the NYC indie band The Chordaes, Leo Sawikin brought their songs to life. But only now on his debut solo project does he allow the music to strip away the layers of his own life and show the world what an awesome life it is.
Sawikin is an old soul, one who would have thrived in the prime of the Tin Pan Alley days—tirelessly composing beautiful ballads in rooms with open windows for the music publishers whose offices lined West 28th Street in New York City. Although the city still swells with the sounds of ghosts past, the music landscape has drastically changed. Now more than ever, Sawikin finds himself longing for the days that were.
For the past decade, Leo has steadily evolved his sound, spending hours both in the studio and in writing rooms, culminating in Row Me Away—his upcoming fourth album, but the first to be released under his own name. The new record was produced by Grammy-winning producer Marc Swersky and mixed by Tony Black and Seth Von Paulus.
Prior to the pandemic, Sawikin recorded a string of anthems that seem to foreshadow life as we experienced it over the last year. Questioning whether the dystopian future we’ve all been fearing had arrived, the songs chronicle the vastly changing world, a society teetering on the edge, and the transformative power of hindsight. “It’s about letting go of the past to carve out a new future,” says Sawikin.
Like many artists, Sawikin uses his music and songwriting as his primary way to connect with the world. Since very young, he was described as having Non-Verbal Learning Disability. But because it has not yet been included in the DSM and presents in various ways, it is often overlooked and misunderstood. In Sawikin’s case, it affected his ability to receive and interpret non-verbal forms of communication. “I have always had trouble paying attention to people’s non-verbal signals. I understand them as well as anyone, but my thoughts are very scattered so I often miss them.” By the age of 5, he was getting into trouble at school. This was eventually tamed by medications, but they had a numbing effect on his mood and ability to connect with peers. At age 9, he picked up a guitar and by 12 he was immersed in workshops and music camps, where he found that songcraft came naturally. It’s proven to be his greatest strength and has become the catalyst for living his life off medication.
“Music has always been my secret weapon to combat this. It brings me to a place outside of all of my problems, and the dream I have is that when other people listen to it they will be brought to that same place. In that space we all share, none of our differences matter and understanding one another is as effortless as the sound of the music traveling through the air. My goal in life is to bring as many people to that place as possible.”
We were fortunate to feature his music video in our Monday Mashup column back in August. Now that we have had the chance to review the entire album, we stand by our original thoughts: “If the voice behind our first music video of the week sounds familiar, that’s because he was formerly the lead singer for The Chordaes. His name is Leo Sawikin, and his song is entitled “Row me Away.” We adore his voice and wish him well in his solo career. We think it will be incredibly successful.”
Each song on the album is strongly and beautifully constructed, with lyrics that reach down and directly connect the hearts of the listener to the creator. These tunes are enduring and should be heard over and over again until the words sink in. All ten tunes are memorable, but we think that the title track, “A Whole World Waiting,” All Just a Drop,” “You Love Too Much,” and “Tell me There’s an Answer” contain the message that is at the heart of the album – you are not worthless, but of immense worth, so don’t give up until you bring that light within out where the world can see it.
With the release of Row Me Away Sawikin hopes to bring comfort and consolation to listeners as we all witness the unfolding of a new world. We think he has truly succeeded in his quest.