“To be different and set myself apart, we have to play on my strengths. I love acting. I love singing. I love dancing. So those are all incorporated into what we create,” says new artist Leya Jnyz (pronounced Leah Jenyez) of breaking through in music. And the man helping her do that is longtime behind-the-scenes music innovator John Huffman, owner of Creators Capital.
Leya’s history with Huffman dates back to before she was even born. He and her dad went to school together, with her family even taking Huffman in for a bit. Another high school buddy turned out to be Vanilla Ice and Huffman, a talented dancer and choreographer, found himself on the road, literally touring the world. As it turned out, performing wasn’t what he loved most about music; the business of it really excited him. Over the years, he has adapted to the new waves of the industry, finding increasingly unique ways to ride them, be it in marketing or in raising capital or both. So when Leya and her dad approached him, his music expertise told him they all had to go for it. Not because he and her dad go way back, but because Leya, who has no music or any other entertainment ties in her family, had done the work and has the drive to be successful.
It all started out accidentally for Leya. As a kid, she and her older brother spent their afterschool time dancing for hours under their uncle’s amateur tutelage. That lit a fire in Leya. It turned out she could sing and act as well. She got so good that she was admitted into the prestigious Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, which counts Erykah Badu, Norah Jones and Roy Hargrove among its illustrious alums. If that weren’t enough, she later earned a theater slot at USC, one of L.A.’s most renowned Hollywood pipelines.
To help her make a splash, Huffman has stacked the deck in Leya’s favor with musical assistance from heavy-hitters The Dream and Los Da Mystro. “I still can’t believe that happened,” she says of working with them.
Leya had to do her part as well. “Dream has a process,” Huffman says. “The first step of the process is discovering who she is.” That selfdiscovery was critical to the seven songs they created. In an Instagram video, Leya gives insight into how it all went down in creating her song “Both.”
“I was in the studio with Dream and he was asking me about my situations with guys and I was telling him I liked these certain qualities and characteristics of this one guy, but then I met this other guy and it was like spontaneous and there were certain things about him that I really liked. And then there were things about both of them that I didn’t like,” she shares. “And he stops me and he’s like ‘so you’re cheating’ and I’m like ‘I’m not a cheater.’”
Instead she is 21 and talented. Her singing and dancing skills are on display in the video of her performing “Broken Diamonds,” which she says on Instagram is “someone who overcomes the pressure that they have in their life” and also details the song as “being in a relationship and getting played and getting your heart broken.”
“In the process of creativity, there are no rules and so it kind of forces you to bring out parts of who you are,” she reflects.
But her acting isn’t being left out either. A web series based on her album debut, penned by screenwriter True Hinds, is also in the works. “The idea is to release them at the same time so there’s no ‘she’s a singer who wants to act’ or ‘she’s an actress who is trying to sing,’” explains Leya. “So it’s the totality of who I am.”
Being totally who she is also means sticking close to her Dallas roots, even as she has thrown herself into her studies at USC. “Home is more honest and it will force you to be great,” says Huffman. “For me, [Dallas is] home. So it wouldn’t be right to not rep it,” adds Leya.
What she hopes to bring most, however, is just herself. “I feel like the sound that ended up coming out of it, I feel like it’s who I am,” Leya says of her songs with The Dream and Los Da Mystro. “It’s all just very honest and that’s what I bring to the table.”