Eric Leva called in from a studio session in Los Angeles, where he spent the past week writing songs and meeting with producers. The 22-year-old Berklee grad currently lives in Burlington (where he grew up), teaching piano and musical theater while pursuing his goal of becoming a full-time songwriter. While he’s active on the traditional indie music avenues of Soundcloud and Tumblr, Leva uses Instagram (@ericleva) to expand his reach to like-minded design, style, and coffee-shop enthusiasts.
Q. What’s your musical background?
A. I started playing piano when I was 8. I taught myself how to play and eventually everyone in my family said I had to take lessons. The school I originally went to said I was too far along, so I enrolled in a preparatory program at the New England Conservatory and took lessons there from 8-18.
Q. What do you mean when you say that you taught yourself?
A. I learned a lot by ear. I grew up listening to a lot of classical music in the car and I had one of those keyboards that has a screen on it with songs built in. You can queue up a song and the screen will show you what’s happening on the keys in real time. For a while, I would spend hours watching the screen, listening, and following the slowed-down version.
Q. Who have been some of your biggest influences?
A. As far as songwriting goes, I started listening to Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles in high school. I related to them because of what they were doing on the piano and they gave me the idea of trying to write songs for myself. I ended up writing my first song on ukulele, which was weird, but once I started teaching myself, that was when I felt like all the lyrics started happening, too. That made me brave enough to go for it.
Q. What was the first song you wrote?
A. It was really bad, I know that (laughs).
Q. What’s your relationship with Instagram?
A. I moved to New York for a duration of time after graduation, so I would use Instagram’s Search page to find new restaurants and coffee shops. I’m a big coffee drinker and didn’t know where to go in the city.
It was fun to see where people were going but I quickly realized everyone’s photos looked a lot better than mine. I’d notice people at coffee shops constantly taking photos, standing on tables and chairs to get aerial shots, and most people around me didn’t even acknowledge it. I felt like I was the only one who found it strange. And I thought: Maybe in New York, everyone is taking Instagram more seriously and that’s OK, and if I was having a nice lunch at a cool restaurant, I should make more of an effort to get a nice photo of it.
Q. Do you think your music and Instagram feed reflect each other?
A. I think my music reflects my personality and my Instagram reflects my personality, so, yes. It’s all related but it’s not matchy-matchy. I think music has a vibe, and visual media has a vibe, and hopefully the two align.