Growing up, singer-songwriter Leon Markcus never had an interest in making music.
He wanted to become a competitive swimmer till he suffered a leg injury.
Today, the 21-year-old has half a dozen songs under his belt. He also just released his latest single, 'Alive', a self-love anthem that speaks of garnering hope and strength to brave through tough times.
Beneath his cheerful disposition, the Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduate has been battling suicidal thoughts and anorexia nervosa.
"A year and a half ago, I broke down during a phone call to Samaritans of Singapore (SOS). I needed someone to talk to so I called their hotline.
"Everything in my life seemed to be piecing together. I was participating in CLEO's Most Eligible Bachelor, about to release a single and put out a remix, but I didn't feel like I had my life together," recalled Leon quietly.
"The SOS volunteer affirmed me in ways that I had never been affirmed before. She told me that through all the negativity I felt, the strongest part of me was being able to live through my problems," he said, expressing his gratefulness to the volunteer who attended to his call.
A week later, he plucked up the courage to seek treatment for anorexia nervosa and began therapy soon after. He also started working on producing 'Alive', the empowering song he wrote when he was 15.
Leon's music video aims to debunk misrepresented stereotypes of people with suicidal thoughts.
How did 'Alive' come about?
"I started on the song when I was in secondary school. At the time, I struggled to find meaning in life," said Leon, who won the Freshest Face title at CLEO's Most Eligible Bachelors this year.
"I was fighting suicidal thoughts that stemmed from ongoing confidence issues I've had since young, because I never thought I was smart, good looking or popular enough.
"The theme of suicide has always been important to me. I wanted 'Alive' to encompass that theme with the idea of finding hope to stay alive," shared Leon, who has lost a number of close friends to suicide.
Through 'Alive', Leon hopes that his song could encourage listeners to remain unfazed by societal pressures and to be true to themselves.
"I wanted youths to know that they shouldn't feel pressured to prove themselves to others. Who they are now is the best version of them. They can always strive to be better tomorrow," said Leon, who collaborated with music producer Jeff Hue on the single. Hue had previously produced for local acts Gentle Bones and Ffion.
Leon turned to music when he faced problems managing his emotions.
Referencing the line "Let's get a little wrong, let's get a little reckless" from 'Alive', Leon added that the song acts as a reminder to take a chance on things that others may deem reckless.
"All my life, I've always done things to please the people I love and not because I believed in it. Music is something I took a chance on. Some may view it as a risky decision but it's something that I'm passionate about," said the bachelor.
Leon added: "If you strongly believe that you're meant to do it…even if it does turn out to be the wrong decision, it really isn't a mistake if you had learned and grown from the experience. My rationale is that you can do no wrong, even if what you're doing may seem wrong to someone else."
Unlike his debut EP Mannequin, which featured an eclectic style, Leon explores the electronic dance music (EDM) genre with 'Alive'.
Some might find the use of upbeat music rather unorthodox in delivering a heavy message, which drew inspiration from Leon's personal experiences with mental illness.
Why did Leon make the switch to EDM?
He quipped: "I've always enjoyed EDM and I think that the way it makes listeners instinctively pump their fists in the air can be empowering.
"I wrote 'Alive' at a time when I was struggling with suicidal thoughts. I wanted it to be a catchy song where people don't realise how meaningful the lyrics are till they listen closely."
Leon envisioned 'Alive' as an anthem for the masses.
PHOTO CREDITS: YOUTH.SG/STEPHANIE SOH
Leon, who is seeing a therapist and making progress with his mental health, plans to give back by donating a portion of the proceeds from 'Alive' to SOS.
"Since I made the call to SOS, they have always been in the back of my mind. I was adamant on helping them like they had helped me and donation was the best method," said the early childhood education diploma holder.
Following the release of 'Alive', the passionate artiste has plans to release a record in 2018.
Leon teased: "It's going to be quite controversial and different from 'Alive'."
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