Leighton Meester Photo Shoot - JustJared.com Exclusive!
The 26-year-old Gossip Girl actress and singer will be heading out on a five-city concert tour next week with the band Check in the Dark!
Just Jared talked with Leighton and some of the bandmates from Check in the Dark: Mike Frieman (vocals/ rhythm guitar), George Laird (lead guitar), and Eli Hludzik (drums). Unfortunately Etienne Franc (bass) wasn’t able to make the shoot!
Click inside Leighton and Check in the Dark‘s full interview…
LEIGHTON MEESTER – EXCLUSIVE JUSTJARED.COM INTERVIEW
JJ: How did all of you start working together?
LM: Well, they landed out of an alien spaceship into my yard… (laughs) Basically it started because my friend, their manager, lived with Mike and George. They had Check in the Dark, their band. I was always a big fan of theirs and had gone to see them perform and got up on stage and sang. Then I started writing music that was more in their style and started sending them my little voice memos about everything and then after that the rest is history. They started putting their magic onto all my songs, which were mostly just simple progressions, my lyrics, and melodies. Then George added lead guitar and Mike added beautiful harmonies and his lead guitar. Then Eli is like the glue that keeps everyone together. He keeps the beat and he also does the keyboard at times and he can play pretty much every instrument I can think of.
Etienne couldn’t be here today, he doesn’t live here, but he will be on tour with us. He’s really great. He brings so much soul vibe to the music. It’s a really well-rounded sound and it’s exactly what I wanted. They really complement my style of music.
JJ: What’s the chemistry like when you’re all in the studio recording?
Mike Freeman: We haven’t done too much recording – mostly demos. The first demos we did… we were all in there together and this last set of demos has been kind of separated. George and I laid down guitar and vocals and then Leighton put vocals on and then a couple weeks later Eli would come on. But when we’ve been there all together, it’s been super painless, you know? And I’ve had some painful times in the studio. I guess it’s organic.
JJ: Have you guys finished the album?
LM: We finished recording everything that’s going to make it onto the album, but we want to go back in probably within the next few months and record everything again. I feel like you just find different things when you record a demo and then go back to it. We have like 18 songs to work with so we’ll probably only record like 10 or 11 of them for the actual album.
JJ: Are there any producers you guys want to work with?
LM: Not at the moment, but we’ve been going from studio to studio. We’ll probably just end up doing it at my house.
MF: We’re always talking about the album Raising Sand. That was like one of the first talks. Something like that. Some of our favorite albums over the past 10 years are people like are not doing much lately, that we’d like to maybe call and get them back into the mix of things. So if you’re reading this, please just call us. (laughs) That’d be great!
JJ: What would you say is the concept of the album?
LM: I don’t think I’m going to say the name of the album yet. (laughs) You’ll hear first, I promise. It’s really just from the last two years of my life, like love and a lot of heartache, emotions, and having it all brim over. Some of it is just straight love songs, but it’s a mixture of totally personal. We should call the album Regurgitation of Feelings (laughs). It started about two years ago, I was here and I performed with them and I had written this one song, “Jenny”, which will most likely be on the set. It just felt right to perform together and do my sound with their sound. It works good together. That was such an emotional experience, The Who performance, and then after that, George and Mike sent me an instructional video on how to play it on the guitar. From then on, I just started playing and after that everything that I wrote was on the guitar and sent over to them. That’s just how it all got started.
I took a trip to Europe and I wrote a huge bulk of the songs that we’re doing on the tour. Since then we’ve come up with a lot more stuff. But a huge portion of it is sort of driven from personal experiences both good and bad.
JJ: Is there a song that will definitely be on the album?
LM: There are a few. There’s one called “Entitled”. That’s a perfect representation of what the whole album is about. It’s about the heartache and sadness and you know all of those feelings that come along with being in love helplessly, then moving on and knowing that you’re better and entitled to something more. That was sort of the before and after of just me as a person to be honest.
JJ: Are you ready to tour? It’s coming up soon!
MF: I’m just excited that our first is in Seattle because it was such a huge impact on me getting into music at all. So it’s cool that we’re going to be hitting Seattle.
LM: I’ve never been to Seattle, I’m very excited!
GL: We’re definitely going to change the set up a little bit. Every show is going to be a little bit different. We’re not going to play the same show every time. Every city will have their own taste.
LM: Including cover songs that fit the cities well!
JJ: How are rehearsals going? You’ve done six or seven days?
LM: Yeah, seven days. So we’ve been rehearsing for a week straight. It’s also like at my house and we’ve been having BBQs and stuff. It’s been really great! It works perfectly; we usually rehearse in a little place in Burbank. Moving everything to my house has just made me feel so much more relaxed. It’s been good for me to be in my own environment. It’s a bigger space…
JJ: Do you guys have any music rituals?
LM: We’ve gone and had good vibe moments in my tepee. I have one in my backyard. So we’ve gone in there and put good vibes and energy into the tour. I think it really does work. We just talk everything through and get really excited when we talk about the music. We bounce off of each other really well and nobody’s opinion isn’t overheard.
MF: It’s fun to just arrange our music and bring us something new. It’s been cool to just get something bare bones and be like, “What do we do with this to make it different than the other one?” So we’ll take it and George and I’ll kind of dissect it and that’s always fun.
LM: Yeah, I recently got to see it because they videotaped one of their sessions without me. I sent them a song and they turned it into something so beautiful. It was really interesting because I hadn’t seen that before.
JJ: What’s going to motivate someone to buy your album or buy a ticket to see you on tour?
MF: Once we do this tour, there’s going to be more buzz. I think people are going to be surprised with how good it’s going to be. Not to toot our own horn, but I think when people hear us at these shows they’ll be like, “Oh, s–t…This is legit.”
Shahine Ezell (producer): If people really want to get to know Leighton, she puts all of herself into every lyric, every performance and it’s different every time she sings every single song. So if you really want to know a person a little better and you want to get a better outlook on her and the band, just listen to the music on the album or see her live and you’ll get a better view on that.
LM: Before, I was doing pop music and as much as I love that and am totally proud of it and think it’s great, I’ve just moved on from it. I think at that time, to be honest, I was writing it not totally for myself. It was the idea that other people will be listening and ‘will this be a hit’ type of thing? And with this music, there’s no judgment whatsoever. I don’t judge a single lyric, I don’t judge anything. It’s just how I feel coming out from the beginning to the end. I’m not ever worried and also not trying to move around anyone else’s music. It’s not like doing a beat on a computer. It’s just completely complementary toward my voice and how I feel. It just works.
GL: It’s just real. A lot of music, when you see it live, there’s program tracks and something else going on. This is all organic. We’re all playing real instruments, there’s no track, no backing, anything. It’s real what you’re seeing. It’s just us playing. Leighton is playing the guitar and there’s no safety net. That’s why every show’s going to be different. You’re not going to hear any backing beats or vocals.
LM: I also feel so grateful for these guys because it’s such a good vibe. I’m sure even men can relate, but my songs are a lot about being a woman in every aspect…in love or not in love or whatever. I’m glad they can relate to it and vibe with it.
MF: That’s a cool dynamic, because while she’s grateful we’re doing this for her, we’re also extremely grateful. She’s always thanking us and maybe we don’t thank her enough – for having faith in us enough to let us try to do this with you and it’s been so successful. But you first had to take the leap and be like, “I’m going to have these guys …you know you picked us.”
LM: We picked each other.
LM: Right. It’s worked out well.
JJ: What’s the vibe on the set of Gossip Girl like now that it’s coming to an end? The last season!
LM: Well, we found out while we were on break, so I’m sure everyone has mixed feelings like I do. It’s bittersweet. It’s the end of a hugely important time in my life, but also it’s good because I get to move on and grow and change. You wanna be able to move on. It’s of course sad, but I think the hardest thing is going to be leaving the crew and the cast and everybody that has become like a family to me.
JJ: Has your trailer become your second home?
LM: Oh, yeah. Well, that’s like in any job. Wherever you are you kind of gotta make home. I spend a lot of time in there. They let me redecorate my dressing room a couple years ago. We have a trailer that’s away and sometimes we are at Silvercup Stages in Long Island City, Queens. We have like little rooms and they let us decorate them. Mine looks like a little garden – there are flowers everywhere and green walls. It’s going to be sort of weird to leave it and know that I’ll never come back to that, but I’m sure that I’ll shoot something in Silvercup way sooner than I even think.
JJ: Do you have a favorite Gossip Girl moment?
LM: There’s been a lot of good moments. I love when I get to do some funny stuff. I like it when Blair’s over-the-top and ordering people around. I love working with those girls…that’s the best part.
I love working with [Zuzanna Szadkowski] who plays Dorota. She’s amazing! She’s just incredible. I saw her in Love, Loss and What I Wore. It was so good. She can just do everything. She’s really intelligent and nothing like Dorota really. She’s like super young and it just completely transforms her for that role.
It’s interesting. I like some of the dramatic moments, but I think that just the shock of reading something when something crazy is happening like when you’re like, “This person is now going to date….” And you don’t really have a say in it, you just kind of have to go with it, which is kinda fun.
JJ: Do you know how Gossip Girl will end?
LM: I can tell you how I hope it’ll all end, but I don’t really have any say. I won’t know until…I think I won’t know until after I shoot. I think Blair and Chuck, that whole relationship, is probably going to keep going round and round. I like her with Dan, too. They have an interesting relationship. My real problem is that I love working with both of them and I have a connection to both of them. I have love and chemistry with both of them in completely different ways. Dan is more of an intellectual stimulating partner, where Chuck is more I guess a sexually stimulating partner. She plays her little mind games and they do weird sexy time games and it’s kind of funny. So I don’t know [who she’ll end up with].
JJ: Are there going to be any guest stars in the last season?
The fact that Chuck’s dad is alive is really weird. But I do love having him on set. It was like, “Oh, now you’re back!” It’s really cool to have him back. Maybe we’ll just bring everybody back!
JJ: What’s your favorite line that Blair has delivered?
LM: I do really distinctively remember her giving this whole speech. She’s like, “Yale’s the only place I can go. I love the bulldogs, and remember when I wanted a bulldog?” and then it turns out she’s talking to Darota and the whole time you thought she was talking to her mom, which is kind of sad, but funny.
But yeah, there’s a lot of crazy stuff she says. Actually, they let me improv a little bit. It’s rare, but sometimes they do. We did a scene at some club and we were shooting and I had to walk through the crowd and people were in my ways so I had to be bitchy Blair to everybody as I was walking through the crowd and they were like, ‘Oh, you can keep doing that.” I felt bad because it was nothing personal.
JJ: So how do you personally feel about Gossip Girl ending?
LM: Good, very good. It’s just crazy, you know? It’s a huge portion of your life.
JJ: Does it feel like graduation?
LM: It feels a little bit more… yeah to some extent, yeah, sure. It’s just really going to be weird. It’s going to be weird in every way, especially that I don’t have that to occupy my time.
JJ: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this photo shoot and interview!
LM: Thank YOU!
PHOTO SHOOT CREDITS (PICTURES BELOW) —–
Picture #1 & #7: Viktor & Rolf dress, Van Cleef & Arpels collar necklace and floral ring, Soffer Ari band ring.
Picture #2: Carolina Herrera dress, Solange Azagury Partridge earrings.
Picture #3 & #6: Blumarine dress, Baccarat necklace.
Picture #4: Calvin Klein dress, Kimberly McDonald Ring
Picture #5: Monique Lhuillier Dress, Dannijo earrings, Kara Ross ring, Eric Rutberg shoes.
Producer: Jared Eng (@JaredEng)
Model: Leighton Meester (@itsmeleighton)
Creative Director/Photographer: Justin Campbell (@JustJustinNYC)
Stylist: Sophia Banks-Coloma (@sophiabanksc)
Assistant Stylist: Ali Mandelkorn (@amandelkorn)
Makeup: Grace Phillips (@grace_phillips)
Hair: Tony Vin (@tonyvin)