I have uploaded new promotional photoshoots of Leighton Meester for “Jimmy Choo” Spring/Summer 2015 collection to the gallery.
Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs star in the new romantic comedy, Life Partners, about the platonic and adorably sweet friendship between Paige, a straight and successful lawyer, and Sasha, a gay, “still figuring it out” receptionist trying to follow her musical ambitions.
Photography by Michael Dallatorre
Leighton Meester came to fame playing Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl, but in the two years since that hit CW series went off the air, she’s become so much more than even industry watchers expected. This year alone spent months as a lead in Broadway’s Of Mice and Men (alongside James Franco and Chris O’Dowd), starred in three films (including her wonderful lesbian lead role in the upcoming Life Partners), and married The OC’s Adam Brody (a.k.a. geeky boy Seth). With the release of her solo debut album, the cynics will be on the attack, but the wonderful Heartstrings (available Oct. 28)—which will surely draw comparisons to Tori Amos and Joni Mitchell—means Meester should also be lauded gorgeous lyricism and throaty, haunting vocals you can’t easily tune out. We caught up with her to find out why the actress decided she needed to add singer-songwriter to her long list of accomplishments.
I think a lot of critics will be surprised when they hear Heartstrings. It’s a really intriguing and atmospheric album. Tell me a little bit about “Blue Afternoon.” It’s one of my favorite tracks.
Oh, thanks! I actually wrote it before I even had the melody or the music. I wrote it as a kind of a long poem. And I wrote it when I was visiting — this sounds so silly — I was visiting Barcelona for a friend’s wedding and I missed my flight and so I basically just went back to the hotel and had to spend the night. Luckily, I had my guitar with me, and I had the words to this poem and basically just rearranged it and put it to music. I think it was sort of just an amalgamation of experiences in love. It’s definitely the most romantic or at least wholeheartedly romantic song on the record. I think that even the songs that sort — they’re not necessarily sad, but they have a touch of irony, even the ones that are about being in love. It’s mostly me questioning love, even at its best. So that’s kind of what it’s about, and it’s just about the corny idea of being lost in someone and not being able to get yourself out and being OK with that.
A lot of the songs are about questioning love, which is funny and ironic since you and Adam got married this year. Are the songs autobiographical?
Absolutely. Totally. Yeah, I think it’s good — this is not necessarily an answer to that topic, but it’s just drawing from years of experience. I’m finally putting it out now but you know, I’ve been working on it quite a while.
Tell me a little bit about “Runaway.”
That I wrote when I was visiting Budapest, doing a movie there. I think it was…it sort of just has a pace and a feeling of traveling, just being on the road and away from home and away from the person that you are at home and away from the person that you’re with at home. Also at the time I think I just wanted to convey an idea or capture an idea of when it’s all wrong and it’s over with someone how desperate you feel to keep it going, even if it’s not right. Maybe if you can start fresh again, or if you can get away together, or you can just say: “Let’s hit the reset button and go back to where we started. ” That’s not possible, but the idea is nice.
This was an amazing year for you: You made your Broadway debut, you dropped a new album, plus you have several films coming out, and you got married. With so much happening, how are you balancing all of this?
It’s weird, I think it sounds like a lot, but everything doesn’t come at once. You can sort of space it out. If you’re lucky, there are waves of good times when you’re working a lot and then a month here or there where you have nothing. Then you don’t have to do anything and you can spend time at home or go on vacation or whatever. That’s sort of the nature of this business. I’m just happy to be working, and it doesn’t seem like it’s a lot. Now, I don’t necessarily want to do more than one thing at a time. I used to say I could; I was trying to sort of keep it going. So I would be doing a show and then I’d be doing a movie on the weekend, and then I’d be making music at night. Now, when I was doing the play [Of Mice and Men] in New York, that’s all I did. I wanted to focus on that. I think it’s really helpful because then you really do have your free time when you have it so you can decompress instead of just running somewhere else and doing other work. I don’t know that I’ll always have that luxury. My writing is very therapeutic—which is pretty chill, pretty nice. I spend a lot of time at home and luckily in the last couple of years, the projects that I’ve been doing and the things that I’ve been working on, I’m super happy with and proud of. So it doesn’t necessarily feel like work. And then doing something like this, like an interview, I don’t know if you could tell, but I could talk for hours about these things because I’m so proud of them and really excited about it.
What attracted you to Life Partners?
First, the script: It had me like just laughing and in tears. It really captured kind of a real friendship between two girls. I also really like the message about friendship and I love seeing too the dynamic between women in the film, especially when it’s not all centered around a guy and every conversation isn’t about a man. Just to see the genuine friendship and bond that two women can have.
Also, I was just really thrilled and excited that I would be able to play a character like this. It’s something that I’d ever done. But truthfully, the people that I know or the people that know me, my friends, who’ve seen it, they are like, “It’s so funny, this is the most like you of any character I’ve ever seen.” So it’s good to be able to play something that’s a little bit closer to myself as far as the character’s personality. And then I couldn’t be more blessed with the crew and other cast because just being onset was the best time I’ve ever had doing a movie or anything. I’m so proud of the film and the love that it’s getting and the support. It was just the best time ever with these women — exciting and fun and basically we just got to play and make our own words and just geek out and it was awesome.
Heartstrings, is available Oct. 28. Life Partners will be in theaters Dec. 5.
Leighton Meester looks great in her glam rock style with dark red lipstick as she is featured on the November cover of Nylon magazine.
Before you read our cover story on actress and musician Leighton Meester, remember: This is not about Blair. Yes, the Ft. Worth-born, LA-based gal recognized Gossip Girl is her claim to fame, but in actuality, Meester’s actual, IRL tale is far more interesting. From her tough beginning, Meester has become a refined, inspirational young woman who is totally transcending not just Blair Waldorf, but Hollywood as a whole.
With a pop-influenced rock album set to release tomorrow, a stint on Broadway, and a starring role in the forthcoming romantic comedy Life Partners, it’s safe to say that Meester has entered a whole new universe as a Hollywood starlet—and as a voice to be reckoned with.
Scoop up NYLON’s November 2014 issue, on newsstands 11/4!
On Gossip Girl:
“I started the show when I was so young, and once it was over, I wanted to do things that were more exciting and challenging and more me—more my adult taste. Of course, that’s said with nothing but gratitude and love for that experience in that time of my life.”
On roles for women in Hollywood:
“As far as scripts go, the roles of women standing alone on their own as whole, real, full people are few and far between. So with both of those roles [Life Partners and Like Sunday, Like Rain], what I loved is that neither of them are centered around romantic relationships. They’re flawed, real human beings that I could bread down and really enjoy playing. They’re like me, in a way.”
On approaching 30:
“Most people I know are starting to get married. It’ll be kids next. I like the grown-up stuff. I like having a house. I’ve got dogs.”
In 2008, at the height of her Gossip Girl fame, Leighton Meester signed a major-label recording contract with Universal Republic Records, and began work on club-friendly pop tracks, collaborating with the likes of Lil Wayne, Robin Thicke and Clinton Sparks. “At every turn I wasn’t one-hundred percent convinced that I was happy doing that,” she now says looking back. Those recording sessions? They resulted in a handful of singles, no album and and, eventually, an amicable split with her label. “That music is fun for certain times,” Meester says, “but It didn’t feel right to me.” Despite the lack of return, the experience, for Meester, makes the fact that she’s now about to release the album she always envisioned that much sweeter. “It feels so personal and so real for me,” the 28-year-old says proudly of Heartstrings, her debut album, that with its blend of folk, Americana and singer-songwriter vibes closely resembles her singing work on the 2010 filmCountry Strong.
Recording for the album, which you can exclusively stream in full below and is set to be released next week via her own Hotly Wanting Records, got underway early last year when Meester linked up with its producer, Jeff Trot. All of the tracks were recorded with a live band, and the whole vibe of the album, Meester says, felt positive from the outset.
“It really represents me,” she explains of Heartstrings. “It’s sensitive, it’s sort of guarded but also open and vulnerable and triumphant.” Working on the album amid several high-profile acting gigs—most notably a Broadway stage adaptation of Of Mice and Men opposite James Franco this year—proved challenging albeit rewarding for Meester: “You have a life outside of work—barely, but it’s there for me—so there’s plenty of material and inspiration [for my music]. Family, friends, loved ones, relationships, and everything that is happening in real life is a good source of inspiration for anybody who is writing music.”
Having just left rehearsal when she rang up ELLE, Meester is primarily occupied at the moment with getting her live chops down before her album-release gig next Tuesday at LA’s famed Troubadour, a venue where she previously performed in 2011. To that end, there’s been no time, she says, to predict how people might react to the idea of someone best known for her acting making a serious go at the world of music. Frankly, she just wants to invite everyone along for the ride.
“Anybody who has any clue who I am or my name or what I’ve done I’m so happy to bring them over to this and get them to listen to this record,” she says, her voice rising with excitement. “And for people who don’t have any clue about me, that’s great too. Welcome!”
Check the video of Leighton Meester performing “Heartstrings” on VH1’s BMB.
Step aside, Taylor Swift! Leighton Meester alluded to a “stupid” breakup during an intimate performance and Q&A at the Apple Store in Soho, NYC on Tuesday, Oct. 14. The Gossip Girl alum, promoting the release of her new album, explained to the crowd why she titled the record — and its eponymous single — Heartstrings.
“The song ‘Heartstrings’ is really special to me,” said Meester, 28, who looked pretty after being primped by DreamDry and Caption Nails. “It’s really more of a very visual: It represents the feeling of the rest of the record. It’s about hiding your feelings and smiling and pretending that you’re happy when you’re not. Actually, I’d say that it represents most of the record, because that’s what it’s about. It’s about just sort of tying your heartstrings off — not allowing yourself to be vulnerable.”
Now happily married to Adam Brody, Meester said the record was inspired by a split she endured years ago. “It used to be about some stupid breakup that I had when I was 25 or earlier,” she confessed. “But it was stupid, and I was like, ‘I have to write a song about this!’ Now, it really does have more meaning. At the time it was like,’ Screw you, I don’t care about you anymore, and it’s not going to happen! Joker.'”
She failed to mention names, but there are a few Hollywood hunks she could be referring to. The singer dated her Gossip Girl costar Sebastian Stan for two years before splitting — at age 24 — in 2010. The actress described the breakup as “really hard” and “really sad” while speaking to Seventeen magazine in December 2010. “I want a family someday,” Meester told the magazine, long before she married Brody in a top-secret ceremony in 2014. “I think there is someone out there for me,” she mused to Seventeen, “but I’m not on some crazy hunt for that right now.” She was also briefly linked to her Country Strong costar Garrett Hedlund in early 2012.
Fast-forwarding to 2014, Meester reflected that her new album was a more accurate reflection of her growth — in her personal life and career. “It’s more about coming to realize — especially growing up (and I feel like I’ve done a lot of that the last couple of years) — a juxtaposition between my day job and [my music career],” she attempted to explain on Tuesday. “No matter what you’re going through, you have to embody another character,” she said specifically of portraying Blair Waldorf. “Which can be fun, but it also can be tiring.”
Along with ‘Heartstrings,’ Meester said another single, ‘L.A.,’ represented a time in her 20s when things were very surface. “It sounds really happy, and it’s really sort of sweet — poppy, chimey and light — even the lyrics seem like it’s about something kind of nice,” she said of the single. “But it’s totally fake. It’s totally sarcastic. It’s called ‘L.A.,’ and it’s about living in L.A., and being like, ‘Oh look, I’m an adult. I have material things. I have a home and friends and I’m a grown up! But I’m just desperately lonely,'” she reflected of her past. “So thats what that’s about.”
As for life after Gossip Girl? “It seems like an instant and a million years [ago],” said Meester. “A lot has happened, mostly good.”
For the multi-hyphenate, singing and songwriting has been a deeply “personal” process. “When you’re acting, especially if you have any bit of recognition, all you ever do is try not to talk about your personal life and that’s all people want to talk about,” Meester said. “But this is very personal. As much as it’s about my specific circumstances, I try and put it into words that hopefully other people understand. And you get that feeling when you go through something, especially when its painful, or good for that matter, but mostly painful — that nobody understands. But the truth is that everyone has been through it and you’re not that special, so that’s mostly what it’s about.”