You may not recognise the name, but you know the talent behind it, and you’re sure to have already heard his enchanting way with a melody.
Rodrigo Leão was one of the musicians and composers behind the extraordinarily successful Portuguese ensemble Madredeus; he was in the band for nearly 10 years before leaving to focus on his own solo career.
Madredeus had written the music for a Wim Wenders movie and many of his own instrumental pieces seemed like soundtrack music in search of a film; Rodrigo’s 2004 album was called “Cinema”, and from then on his backing group became the Cinema Ensemble.
And, as he moved further in his explorations of instrumental textures, he felt the need to return to the simplicity of the pop song. Yet, Madredeus was only one of the many stops of an incredible 30-year journey that has seen Rodrigo Leão invite internationally acclaimed singers such as Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon or Tindersticks’ Stuart Staples to sing on his albums and live shows; perform with Ryuichi Sakamoto or Ludovico Einaudi with whom he toured in a joint project in Portugal, Spain and Italy.
In 2013 he composed the music score for two major blockbusters: the french “La Cage Dorée” (The Gilded Cage) by Ruben Alves and the North American “The Butler” feature film by Lee Daniels. Rodrigo Leão remains, though, the same quietly spoken, modestly and talented Lisboner who started out as a bassist in an indie-rock band before moving into Madredeus’ chamber-pop and into the neo-classical textures of his own early solo material. He has done so over the past ten years, inviting others to lend their voices to his music. Portuguese stars such as The Gift’s Sónia Tavares or alt-Fado singer Lula Pena; Brazilian singers such as Rosa Passos or Adriana Calcanhoto, or the São Paulo newcomer Thiago Pethit.
More recently, new collaborations with Joan Wasser (Joan as Policewoman), the Australian singer Scott Mathew or Ólafur Arnalds, the BAFTA winning multi-instrumentalist have enriched Rodrigo’s songs and taken his work on voyages to new and more exciting places, depending on which side of his creativity you want to tap into…
Either way, let Rodrigo Leão’s wondrous talent show you the way!