Leonard Grandison’s is a truly unique story. Standing at his usual bus stance one morning, he spotted a flyer for guitar lessons at the local arts project in Milton, north Glasgow.
Picking it up, little did he know that what he held in his hand would give him the opportunity to write his own songs and that his name would end up on a record mastered at the historic Abbey Road Studios.
We meet in the reception area of Sunny Govan Radio in Glasgow where he will record a live version of his new single Stay A While. It’s an unusual situation for a 68-year-old, born in the South American sovereign state of Guyana, and a long-time resident of the deprived area of Milton. Yet, if Leonard Grandison is nervous, you’d never know it.
“Musically I have no background. I’m just an ordinary guy. I never sang before. As a kid, as a youngster growing up, I never did any singing whatsoever. I had never written a song before or even thought about writing a song.”
Stay A While and B-side Opportunity Knocks both showcase Leonard’s long-time love of jazz, yet there are also hints of Sam Cooke, the occasional nod to George Benson and even a subtle daud here and there of the London 80s ska movement.
He said: “Growing up I heard a lot of 60s music, Motown and so on, I love that type of song. But deep down inside I love jazz music.”
Noticing Leonard’s talent and unmistakably strong singing voice during those guitar lessons, those within Milton Arts Project asked if he’d like to attend a song-writing class. It wasn’t long before he’d penned a number of tracks and was approached by MAP 75 Records, asking if he’d be interested in recording on their label.
Iain Morrison and Jim Cuzen have been instrumental in helping Leonard reach this point. Both are professional musicians and artists in their own right and they spotted something special in Leonard early on.
Morrison, who runs MAP 75 said: “When we heard his voice for the first time we were blown away. We’re just simple music fans and we want to see Leonard do well. In the modern music world you need a good back-story and his is a great story. A true story.”
Feeling that Leonard’s voice had to be given the best chance, after recording they sent it off to Abbey Road to be mastered by mastering engineer Alex Wharton, who has worked on music by The Beatles, The Pixies and Radiohead.
Despite this, in person Leonard Grandison is no mercurial star. Even at 68, top-to-toe in denim and flat cap and sitting low in his chair, he’s cool, calm and a true gentleman. When asked to describe himself he leans in and says: “I’m a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather and even a great-grandfather.”
There is little doubt that as he continues to produce the music which had been long bottled up within him, Leonard won’t forget who he is, who he loves and why he is writing. As he explains of his song Stay A While: “It’s a song of love which shows what love can do.”
So is Leonard Grandison finding the whole promotion of his EP, the writing and recording of his upcoming album and these live recordings all a bit surreal?
He gives a wry smile before hesitantly answering: “I never expected to do this. I never expected to be writing songs, recording and all that, so you’ve just got to enjoy it.”
For more information about Leonard Grandison’s EP Stay A While visit MAP 75 Records
Watch the live version here