LEO Is Taking It All In Stride—The Good And The Bad

Living his best life.

Years of hard work and a couple of detours later, LEO comes closer than ever before to living his dreams.

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While some might think that the road to being a K-pop idol is as simple as training in a company for a few years and then debuting, that is far from the case. Aside from how difficult life as a K-pop trainee can be, trainees can end up in a training period that lasts years while others move from company to company before finding a permanent home. These false starts can be discouraging to anyone hoping to live their dreams. But, at the end of the day, there is always light at the end of a dark tunnel. Just ask LEO.


To the casual K-pop fan, LEO might be known as a former BIGHIT trainee and member of the pre-debut group Trainee A. But after that chapter of his life closed, the Korean-Australian idol is now embarking on a full-fledged career as a solo artist signed to B.I’s label 131 Label. “It’s been an absolute rush but I’ve been enjoying every moment,” LEO tells NYLON Manila on his recent experiences as an idol.

Spending four years as a trainee to only not see your debut fulfilled can feel like a gut punch. But as LEO sees it, he looks back on those memories as lessons to learn from. “The experiences of the present help mold the person of tomorrow. I’m always learning as much as possible and I think I’ve learned to embrace everything head on.” 

This level of maturity of learning and growing is what fuels who LEO is now as an artist, and it is confidently found all over his debut EP COME CLOSER. Released last May 9, the album is a display of his refined skills in music production and songwriting through four tracks that feel male pop star-coded. “My hope was for this project to have a safe landing so I could properly embark on my adventure.” 

The R&B and pop productions compliment his mesmerizing soft and low-pitched vocals as the music speaks to his status as an emerging star on the rise. And for good measure, COME CLOSER also includes a feature from his labelmate B.I in Pretty Plzzz. “It was a massive honor,” he gushes on working with B.I, who LEO is set to join as a special guest for the Manila stop of B.I’s HYPE UP tour this June. “I’ve been a fan of his since I was young so that in itself was so crazy to me.” 

LEO’s path has not been without its challenges, but with the runway now clear, this talented rookie is ready to take off. Read our full interview with LEO below as he opens up about his new music, the solo life, and more. 

It’s been an eventful year and a half for you. How have you been taking it all in?

I didn’t realize how fast time moves. It’s been an absolute rush but I’ve been enjoying every moment. There were definite challenges, but I think that’s all part of the growing process. It’s funny because at the time it felt as if the world might end but the next week I feel it wasn’t that big of a deal. Now, I’m embracing all the experiences as a whole, the good and the bad! 

How has the solo career life been like so far?  

Solo career life for me has been amazing. I’ve always been a bit of a control freak and my label really supports my decisions on different aspects of my career. I think more so I’ve learned the importance of teamwork and the synergy you have to have with the people closest to you! 

Your journey to where you are now has had its twists and turns. How do you think those past experiences shaped you into the artist you are today?  

I think the meaning of a journey is to welcome both the good and the bad. The experiences of the present help mold the person of tomorrow. I’m always learning as much as possible and I think I’ve learned to embrace everything head on. I’ve grown the mentality of Why not? Instead of why. For example, if something difficult happens instead of feeling as if why me, I want to be strong and say why not me? I can handle it at the minimum grow from it! 

What’s it like being in a new company and starting a new chapter with 131 LABEL?

I think 131 was the next chapter for me, the team makes me feel as if I’m home. I’m so grateful because they always consider my thoughts and respect my opinions as well. I’m so excited and pumped to write the next chapters of my life and career with the 131 family.  


How are you feeling now that COME CLOSER is out there for the world to enjoy?

I’m relieved more than anything, it’s been a journey for sure! It’s like my first step as an artist, so whatever the outcome may be I know it’s a huge step for me career-wise. I hope the people enjoy it as much as I do!

As you were working on your COME CLOSER EP, what were you hoping to achieve with the album?

I wanted to get closer to the fans and get closer to the world. I felt like I was a bit too out of touch in the months leading into the release, so I just wanted to have my two feet solid on the ground with this EP. My hope was for this project to have a safe landing so I could properly embark on my adventure.

How would you describe your songwriting process? Is there a specific routine you like to do when you pen down lyrics?  

There’s no real set answer for this I guess, it’s always different! The majority of the time I’ll hear a track and kind of come up with melodies on the spot, then start writing from there. Other times I might have a topic in mind and try to fit the song to the topic. For the song ‘Pretty Plzzz’, I already had the title in mind before I made the song, and I made the song according to the title, so there are many different ways of writing!

What was it like getting to work with B.I on Pretty Plzzz?  

It was a massive honor. I’ve been a fan of his since I was young so that in itself was so crazy to me. Also, the verse he sent me was amazing and I fell in love on the first listen. I hope to pay his services back one day!

What’s the most surprising thing you learned about yourself being a solo artist?  

I learned that I value my work more than I thought. I’ve always thought that I didn’t like my songs, but these days I’m realizing that I’m someone who takes big pride in my own work, and I became kind of emotional when I figured that out.


While it’s just the start of your solo career, do you have an image or vision in mind on what you want to be as an artist?

Of course, I have big dreams and a lot of ambition! I wouldn’t have started this at all if I didn’t have any. I want to make a lot of hits, perform in front of large venues, and venture into other fields whilst doing music too. 

If you could travel back in time and talk to trainee Leo, what would you tell him?

That while not everything may go according to plan, you’ll get there in the end. The roads will definitely be rocky, but those bumps in the road will not be the end of the world. There’s a reason for everything so don’t question everything too much and just be humble and work hard! 

Photos courtesy of 131 Label

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