Dallas-based singer L25 has spent a lot of time trapped inside of her mind. Even before COVID, she had spent years reflecting on her life and undergoing necessary transformations to improve her own quality of living. Now, she is using her music as a means of recovery.
Born Sarah Ledford, L25 is a trip-hop and electro-pop artist passionate about experimenting with all different types of sounds. As a child, she grew up singing in school choirs. Her father was a guitarist, a fact she credits with spawning her love of music.
“It’s kind of ironic, because I don’t really use guitar sounds in any of my songs,” she says.
Before going solo, L25 sang in a duo called Wild Natives but parted ways after her bandmate Rachel Anne wanted to move in a different creative direction.
Ledford writes all of her own lyrics and has been producing all of her own instrumentals over the course of the past two years.
“I had been working with multiple producers, and I just wasn’t getting the sound I wanted,” she says. “So I started learning to produce myself, so that I could get exactly what I was looking for.”
With her favorite audio production software, FL Studio, Ledford produced her first EP, Paper Cages, which was released this past Valentine’s Day. She is working on her as-yet-untitled full-length album, which she plans to release next Valentine’s Day.
L25’s upcoming album will be preceded by the release of her single “Outerspace,” which is set to premiere this Halloween. With the song, Ledford adopts a hip-hop and R&B-influenced sound.
“My previous stuff was definitely me working through trauma and trying to get some healing from things that have happened in my past,” the artist says. “This song is my self-love song. It's all about me being the boss and me thinking I'm the greatest and very much a celebration of me as a woman.”
L25’s stage name represents her last name and the age when she decided to turn her life around. The 30-year-old is in her fifth year of recovery from drug addiction.
Before deciding to get clean, Ledford had a 13-month stint in jail.
“I went through three counties and I had to wait to be indicted,” she says. “They revoked my bond and said ‘You’re not getting out.’ I got arrested like five times in six months, and they said ‘We’re either going to send you to prison or judicial treatment facilities.’"
She and her lawyer worked to get her into treatment, so Ledford spent seven months in county jail and six months in a judicial treatment facility
"I had to be forced, but I was ready to change," she says, looking back.
When she got clean, Ledford knew she wanted to help and empower young women who could learn from her mistakes. While she initially planned to do this through her music, she found a way to reach young women directly by teaching voice lessons.
“I actually started during COVID,” Ledford says of teaching. “I was making my money performing and stuff, but I always wanted to work with young women, ever since I got in trouble and got rehabilitated. I didn’t know that it was going to look like this. I thought I would just be using my music as a platform to kind of tell my story and give hope to people, but for whatever reason, God or the universe or whoever’s in charge decided to put this in my path.”
As part of her recovery, Ledford has spent a lot of time taking an introspective hard look at her life. The time of COVID is no different.
Like many artists, she says COVID has allowed her more time to create, and she's using this time to figure out how she wants her upcoming album to sound. While she does have a planned release date for the album, she has only written four songs thus far.
“I’m not sticking to one genre at all,” Ledford says. “I’m making all sorts of different tracks. My old music was about getting through trauma. This one is more laid back and fun. I’m in a different season of my life, and this is reflective of that.”
Eventually, Ledford plans to record eight songs for the album. She hopes it will demonstrate everything she can do musically and sonically.
Today, the artist finds joy in the oddities of everyday life. She refuses to be beholden to a single style, aesthetic or sound, which mirrors how she’s learned to be comfortable with change over the years.
“Life gets exponentially better if you allow it to,” Ledford says. “The fear of change is not worth not changing.”