Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Cy Leo interview

October 26, 2021 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 48
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Cy Leo interview
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Cy Leo joins me on episode 48.
Leo is from Hong Kong, where he started learning to play classical chromatic harmonica from age 6, under the direction of his father, who is an accomplished player himself, having won the ensemble category at the 1997 World Harmonica Championship with his quintet, helping to raise interest in the harmonica throughout Asia.
Leo quickly gained recognition in his own right, winning the World Championship youth category at age 15 before taking the adult crown at age 19.
Still only 27, Leo has built on his early success with some notable studio sessions and two albums under his own name. Leo also spent a few years on cruise ships which helped him hone his stagecraft.
Currently living in New York, Leo is studying Jazz Performance at NYU. And watch out on your TV screens for Leo as he is about to audition for America’s Got Talent!


Leo's website:

Kings Harmonica Quintet:

Ginger Muse record label:

Love of Chromatic Harmonica book:

Cremona chromatic:

Pollestad chromatic:



World Championship entry 2013:

Playing Flight of the Bumble Bee on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship:

Performing at Chinese New Year celebrations in London:

Song with Sandy Lam:

Tuition video on YouTube:

Podcast website:



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Podcast sponsor:

This podcast is sponsored by SEYDEL harmonicas - visit the oldest harmonica factory in the world at www.seydel1847.com  or on Facebook or Instagram at SEYDEL HARMONICAS

From Hong Kong but now currently in New York
Comes from musical family, with a father who plays harmonica
Started out learning classical harmonica music
Father’s harmonica quintet won a competition at World harmonica festival in 1997, gaining recognition for Asian harmonica
Leo grew up to witness this rise in Asian harmonica popularity via father’s quintet
Leo started playing harmonica age 6. Father took a photo of him with harmonica day he was born
How Leo learnt from the classical chromatic recordings and teacher
Hong Kong government started supporting harmonica community due to success at Trossingen, which led other Asian countries to follow their lead
Popularity of the harmonica in Asia now, with chromatic being more popular than diatonic, inspired by Tommy Reilly
The current harmonica festivals in Asia
At 27 years of age, Leo is the youngest interviewee on the podcast so far
Leo’s classical training helped develop his amazing technique on the harmonica
Leo first tried improvising when put on stage with a blues band at school
Has won numerous competitions, which were an important part of his development
At what stage did Leo decide to become a full-time musician
Spent a lot of time busking while at university
Recorded with first well known singer in Asia at age 19
Leo spent a few years playing on cruise ships, which helped his stagecraft
First album from Leo was Lost In Time in 2019
Released a pop single in 2019, I Won’t Let You Go, where Leo sings
Angel and Demon album released in 2020, all originals written by Leo about the social movement recently in Hong Kong
Released the album Smash Originals on his own label, Ginger Muse, and his need to forge his own path
Away single, is a tribute to his recently passed grandmother, which incorporates strings
Breathless single is more experimental with the use of effects on the harmonica
Recorded with various well known Hong Kong artists
Leo’s music has appeared on various commercials in Hong Kong, and some film soundtracks
Recently moved to New York to expand his musical horizons, and is studying Jazz Performance at NYU
Teaching videos on YouTube and used to run the Hong Kong City University harmonica team, but now wants to focus on being a performer
10 minute question
How Leo practises improvisation
How Leo approaches composition
Cremona chromatic is now instrument of choice
Doesn’t do his own harmonica maintenance
Plays a 16 hole chromatic since seriously studying jazz
Only plays C tuned chromatic
Diatonic model of choice
Embouchre: demos use of tongue block and pucker for different effects
Effects pedals: has been exploring them recently
Uses wireless mic on stage when moving around a lot
Future plans
Just auditioned for America’s Got Talent TV show