Coffee in Kelowna: Leila Neverland

Coffee in Kelowna: Leila Neverland

Photo credit and copyrights to Shane Collins & Gonzo Okanagan

Lightning ripped across the blackened sky last night. I was out in Lake Country watching KENTUCKY EILEEN and MOONTRICKS when it was announced that the performance was going to have to be shut down. The threat of lightning had become a little too real. Lightning stabbed across the sky in five directions. In West Kelowna, LEILA NEVERLAND had to cut her performance short as well. There was nothing little about this storm.

Leila has been busy. Last year, she released her album, ‘Little Big Storm,’ and ever since, she’s been holding on for the wild ride her music has become. In the aftermath of COVID-19, she has been hard at work, allowing herself to learn, to write, to disconnect from distraction and to create. She is now preparing to record a unique, 10 song album that will be an orchestral opus, navigated through the trust of those who collaborate on this album with her. I met up with Leila at the Bean Scene as the sun began to warm up the pavement along Pandosy St. 

“I saw online that you took some time to go on a little retreat. To unplug. Is that important for someone writing music… to disconnect so you can focus on what needs to get done?” 

“I had to make that retreat happen.” She said. “Life is a bombardment of the phone and work and distraction so to sit in a quiet space, away from sound, I’m allowing myself to turn something invisible into a sound of my own.” Leila withdrew a pad of paper, lined and scrawled with music. 

As I sipped my coffee, she explained to me that the new album will be recorded live in September. I look at the sheet of paper. I see the headings reading, VIOLIN, VIOLA, CELLO, TRUMPET, TENOR SAX… there were many more. As a layman, my eyes crossed a little trying to understand the depths of such a thought process. I love music, but I’ve always sat in awe at the magic of music and the artists who can somehow decode its mystique. 

One page of Leila’s plan

Leila also informs me that she has been offered another music licensing deal. “I’ve been approached to set my music to film. Nothing is set in stone yet but even if nothing comes of it, it’d be a great experience.” 

“Have you ever had to deal with this kind of thing before? Isn’t it a little… daunting?” I sipped the coffee and burned my tongue. 

She just shrugged her shoulders. “I have to ready myself to receive whatever is coming. I really have no idea how to go about it. All I know is that it’s happening and I have to hold on for whatever transpires. It’s like following a light and that light is getting brighter.” 

If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing Leila perform, her music is full of fire, soul and rhythm and she isn’t afraid to get the crowd into it when she’s live on stage. Since the age of four, her fingers have aligned with the keyboards throughout her life and an array of instruments are now commanded by those same fingers. A powerful voice and a strong stage presence is what keeps me coming back to see artists like Leila. She even spits some rap when her music flows into the waters of hip hop.  

Leila live on stage (2019)

Not only is she working on this album, but she is also homeschooling her two children; she’s teaching and working with kids while being in nature. I made a note in my little book and shook my head in amazement. “Isn’t it incredible what’s come your way by dedicating yourself to your music? To not work some mundane, mindless day job you don’t give a shit about. Work with your passions. The universe will open doors you didn’t know were there. It’s hard to have faith in a world so full of fear.”

Leila nodded her head. “It’s kind of terrifying,” she said. “In my spare time I research music and law, trying to understand more of where I stand as a musician. I try to be a good entrepreneur. I have enough experience now to see my music work for me. This summer has been so busy. I’m just holding on best I can.” 

Leila is truly on a wild ride. She will play at the Rotary Center for the Arts September 17, 2022. You won’t want to miss this one. It’s a live recording after all and I’m excited to check in on her as she continues her journey. 

We finished our coffee and walked out into the sunshine of a Saturday morning. 

“Can I hire you to take photos of the show? Maybe even come to a rehearsal?” she asks me and I smile, nodding in agreement. 

“It’d be an honour.” I give her a hug and we agree to keep one another up to date as she presses on in her quest to complete the songs for the album. Like lightning in a storm cloud, somewhere inside the mind, music is awaiting to light up the darkness. It’s like alchemy. Pure magic. The need to be silent. To hear the distant thunder of songs that will one day be presented to an awaiting audience is why artists like Leila Neverland are so electrifying to see live.

Check out her show September 17, 2022 at the Rotary Center for the Arts. I’ll see you there. 

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The Okanagan’s been my home since I was born. Life has taken me across the planet several times and through that transient lifestyle I developed a journalistic style to my photography and to my writing. My influences would be that of James Nachtwey, Annie Lebovitz, Ashley Maile, Hunter S Thompson, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Tom Robbins, Wes Anderson and Charles Bukowski. The world outside this incredible valley, its cultures and its mystery is what’s kept me working and trying to save my money, so I can keep getting back into the world. That’s the way it used to be. Covid has opened my eyes to the land I call my home and there are so many tales to tell right here in BC. From tales of the impoverished to the neglected to those who overcome adversity, to the spirit to overcome fear, the power of storytelling has never been more relevant. I’ve always been a storyteller. There’s a tale worth telling in every neighborhood. I just happen to write about what happens to me along the way and I’ve kept them close to my heart, hoping one day I’ll have an outlet so I can tell those stories the best way I know how; by writing them down. From adventures of long ago, both here or maybe far away, future interviews with musicians, artists of all kinds, the coverage of events, the people I meet along the way, whatever I get up to I intend to have you as my guest as I go back in time and dig up the bones of those old adventures or chase down new ones. Through the alchemy of storytelling, you can come along with me if you like. Before Covid-19 I was really coming into my own photographing live shows; punk rock bands, hip hop showcases, tattoo portraits, rock climbing adventures, Femme Fatale burlesque performances you name it, the phone was finally beginning to ring. Then Covid showed up like a hurricane and I guess it wiped us all out in one way or another. I have a real bone to pick with Covid-19 and if I can share some stories for our readers to enjoy, I’ll do that and when we can return to live music and to foreign travel and we can safely get to working on mending what’s been damaged I tell you I want to be ringside like Joe Rogan commentating on Covid getting its ass whooped. I want to see it tap out and watch us overcome this hardship, raise our collective hands triumphantly and move on into whatever new normal is waiting for us. I’ll be there and through my eyes, just like the boss man, Hunter himself, I’ll do it in Gonzo fashion and bring you kicking and screaming along with me. So hold on tight and dig in. It might not always be pretty but I won’t call it all ugly, neither. That’s for you to decide. My name is Shane Collins and I hope you’ll read along with me and our team here at


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