Léa Sen’s music is like leafing through the pages of an old newspaper

The 22-year-old singer-songwriter – born in France and based in London – speaks through her ethereal and intensely intimate new EP, You of Now Pt 1

Re-reading a journal entry from a year ago is usually painful, embarrassing, and very often cathartic. You can track how far you got after a breakup or how you got out of a rut, or cringe at how in love you were with someone for an inconceivable length of time. For 22-year-old London musician Léa Sen, who is releasing her first EP, You from Now Pt. 1 is like leafing through the pages of an old newspaper.

Sen wrote the five-part project during the uncertainty of a global pandemic. At the end of 2019, she dreamed of moving to another country and spontaneously moved from her home on the outskirts of the French capital to London, booking her train two weeks before. Two years later, the day before the release of her first project, she reflects on this period. “I was so lost last year,” she says on Zoom from her south London home. “I had a hard time making music.”

The title of the project reflects this, born of a gift she received more than a year ago; musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt Oblique strategies, a collection of over 100 short prompts to encourage creative lateral thinking that led Sen to have a sort of epiphany. “I remember seeing ‘Trust Yourself Now’ and I had one of those moments where you were like, ‘I get it all,'” she says. “I thought I was self-aware but realized I would constantly doubt myself with music and my personal life. It was impossible to finish a song and feel excited because [I was] doubt every sentence, rhyme or melody. It was a killer for me and when I read this card it made me realize that I don’t know what I’m doing, but I do. No one knows what’s going on, but your intuition does.

The Sen of now feeds on self-reflection, speaking with quiet certainty of itself. But this EP is a reflection of before, the time she spent untying the knots she had found herself in to become who she is today. Between tracks like “I Like Dis,” a melancholy love song and Sen’s favorite, or the self-examination that pours into “With or Without,” his ability to distil pure emotion into song. is something that surprises even Sen herself. “This guy texted me and he said, I cried on the train listening to your song. It’s crazy for me! she says.

She’s on the other side of it all now, taking time to immerse herself in her new city – she’s already a dedicated South Londoner – and looking back at her life with clearer eyes amid the writing Part 2. “If I don’t get to know myself every day, I’m going to get lost, and then I’m going to step into such a dangerous space for me. It’s not even worth it,” she says. “I’m always changing and I’m still learning, even if I don’t want to. It’s impossible not to.

Sen self-recorded, produced and mixed the entire project on her own. “[Creating] is such an intimate and sometimes intense space. There’s a whole process that I have with myself,” she says. “I would love to have someone else but I would have to fuck with them as a person.”

Fortunately, she has cultivated a community of other artists in London – like Kwake Bass or Wu-Lu – from whom she can now choose. For her next project, Sen is trying to be easier on herself, so she’s enlisted a friend to help with the engineering and put all that growth to good use. “Now that I realize that my value is not related to what I do, it is unconditional and has nothing to do with anything external, so I can experiment. I can go crazy, I can make weird sounds, I can make crazy sounds, I can take the time I need and that’s fine.

After our conversation, Sen thinks again, this time about what his own Oblique Strategies card might say, and emails four simple words: “Don’t listen to you.”

Lea Sen’s new EP You from Now Pt. 1 is out now