Newtownabbey singer-songwriter Leah McFall has opened up about what her faith means to her and her experiences during and after becoming a runner-up on The Voice.
It comes as Leah releases her new memoir, titled More > Trust: Giving our dreams to the trustworthy one, which takes readers on a journey through her faith in God, and how it played a massive part in her life, including her experiences on the UK talent show.
The book also gives a personal insight into some of the experiences which shaped Leah from a young age. These include her upbringing in a Christian family, how her world was shattered when her parents announced they were separating when she was 14 and how she coped with her sister dying in a car accident when Leah was just 16.
Not only that, Leah explores how she was writing the book at a time of great personal change in the present – the singer is now married, and even penned her memoirs while on maternity leave with her first child, baby Judah.
Speaking to Belfast Live, Leah told us she was first put onto the idea of writing the book when speaking at a conference back in 2017.
“I was speaking at the Hillsong conference in London in 2017, about being an independent artist and about my journey through the music industry with faith,” she explained.
“I was approached by publishers there and we talked about it over the next few years. I actually signed up to write the book on my maternity, because I thought I’d be able to write it all throughout the day while my baby was napping. That obviously isn’t the way it works when you have a newborn baby! But I managed to get it finished in the end.”
More > Trust: Giving our dreams to the trustworthy one, by Leah McFall
The memoir is incredibly personal, delving into some tough issues from Leah’s childhood, including her parents’ marriage breakdown and the death of her 19-year-old sister. Was it difficult to turn to family members and friends and tell them that she’d be sharing these stories?
“I think that, being on The Voice, I protected my family story. They wanted to know about family heartbreak and all that, to make a good show, but I refused to shared that. I spent a long time working with the press team to ensure stories about my family didn’t go public, because it involved a lot of people and a lot of people’s lives. It didn’t seem like the right platform to share that, but with this book, it did feel like the right platform. It’s me getting a chance to tell it, and it’s also me speaking out to people who may have had to deal with family bereavement or family breakup or the whole pain of having to go through the music industry. With this book, I knew I’d be able to encourage people and speak a bit more hope into that situation.”
Leah said that writing about family separation and bereavement was like “opening a wound again”, but that it allowed her to tell her story more truthfully.
“I think with any heartbreak in life, a lot of people say time will heal things. I don’t know what I think about that sentence just yet, I think you just get used to living with that pain in many ways. So I think that when it comes to going back to write about it, it feels like it happened yesterday. It’s opening a wound again, and that can hurt. But you have to let your heart break a bit to tell things more truthfully. And this book was all about sharing that there is hope. For me, that was having faith in God.”
Leah details in the book how she went through the experience of The Voice with her faith in God as strong as ever. She told us she never had an issue with being someone with deep religious faith while on the show.
“I’ve been asked to speak about this a lot in church environments over the last few years,” she said. “I actually found it very easy. I didn’t worry about speaking about my faith at all. The things I worried about were things like going from no one knowing who you are to being in front of 9 million people every night, or worrying about how the show producer’s are going to edit things to make you come across, or how the press are going to perceive you, that’s all a worry. But having a faith got me through. I spent the entire time with scripture, with prayer. I had this silent confidence and told myself that this was all bigger than me.”
The book also documents Leah’s whirlwind, shot-to-stardom experiences after The Voice ended. She recounts recording and touring in America with Will.i.am, performing on stage in stadiums across the world, meeting her music icons and rubbing shoulders with them at parties, and she even shares what it was like to perform at the Grammys and be congratulated on her performance by Tom Hanks (“I only watched Tom Hanks movies for about two years after that,” she joked).
The downside of this, however, was that Leah was part of an unforgiving music industry. She vividly describes how people in the business wanted to “control” her, then “scapegoated” her when they thought she was no longer valuable. What was it like diving back into those struggles?
“Those downsides sort of happen alongside a lot of your highs,” she admitted, “which in many ways stops you being able to enjoy your big moments”.
“It’s always in the background. I can’t speak for everyone in the industry but I have a lot of talented friends and it has been a similar experience for them as well. You have other people deciding your fate and your worth.
“There’s a warped view in the music industry that you are the product – you need to be packaged up and ready to be sold. For someone like me, coming out of The Voice, it’s so easy to fall into that situation. I think that singers who take the independent route get a chance to build up their own following and gain ownership over themselves, whereas a lot of what was happening with me was just me being marketed without much say or ownership over things. I think artists need to get educated, almost as business owners, so that they have more of understanding of how the industry works and how they can avoid some of the things that happened to me.”
Despite this, Leah is the furthest thing from bitter you could imagine. Now happily married (and yes, she’s happy to admit that she met her husband on a dating app) and with a new baby, Leah is probably the most content she’s ever been in her life, ending her memoir on a hopeful note.
Leah with her husband
(Image: Leah McFall Instagram)
She told us: “There’s something I explore at the end of the book, about how we live these extraordinary lives. We’re always challenging ourselves to be the best that we can be, but actually there’s so much contentment in these lovely normalities of life, without this need to be striving to become famous.
“You can be happy just enjoying seeing your friends or spending time with the people who care about you the most. A lot of the A-listers I met along the way were very lonely, they have the same insecurities as us, except maybe multiplied by x1000 because they’re on such a higher platform. But if the last few years have taught me anything, it’s to appreciate the small, wee treasures that we have in our own lives.”
Leah McFall’s new book, More Trust: Trusting Our Dreams to the Trustworthy One, is out now. Find out more here.