Interview by Katherine Noble Photography by Justin Chung

Leigh Patterson & Michael Muller, Lucca and Balmorhea

Los Angeles, CA

Together with Friends of Friends, we spent an afternoon with Leigh Patterson and Michael A. Muller to learn about their partnership, the amorphous quality of their work, and why idiosyncrasy and obsession are the best defining characteristics of any artistic pursuit.

There’s a through-line of authenticity and allegiance to deeper knowledge that connects Leigh and Michael. It’s rare to meet a couple with such commitment to their independent goals, while maintaining a calm, shared enterprise as they build a thoughtful life together. There’s symmetry even in their differences, creating an energizing, confident loop. They wouldn’t say they’ve “arrived,” since finality is certainly not a concept they’re interested in, but they’ve found themselves in an evolved space, full of self- possessiveness and focus.


There’s an aphorism by the writer Annie Dillard that Leigh considers often: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” While this notion could feel accusatory to some, commitment and daily ritual seem to offer liberation to Leigh and Michael. Leigh grew up as an only child with two career-driven parents. From early on, she shaped her inevitable solitude into something delightful and manageable. She became curious about big ideas that she could entertain herself by indefatigably trying to explore. “It really wired me to find comfort in independence and solitude,” she says, “buried in books and magazines, making zines, and writing undoubtedly unhinged things (that I thought were genius) in my very earnest LiveJournal.” She has continued to spend her days asking herself and others big pointed questions, and she has made a career out of pushing individuals to think critically about their answers.


Michael’s childhood in California and Texas was also spent with a solitary, yet singular passion. “I think the same interest from my childhood defines and occupies most of my time in my adulthood: music—specifically, guitar,” Michael says. “I got my first guitar at age 5 and haven’t put it down for more than a few days at a time since. If not playing or listening to music, I am constantly thinking about music or listening to someone talk about it. As a kid, I’d sit for hours studying and listening to albums on repeat, reading the liner notes, memorizing the melodies and the lyrics. It was truly an insatiable appetite for the feeling I got that only music gave me.” This intrinsic obsessiveness is what separates hobbies from vocations. Michael constantly immerses himself in new forms of music—not as a way to become more knowledgable, but because this insatiability is the lens through which he sees the world. “For the past several months,” he says, “I’ve been captivated by the music of the kora, which is an ancient instrument primarily played in western Africa. It consists of a hollowed, bead-adorned gourd with a wooden neck suspending 21 strings vertically. Out of the top, there are two small handles which the player places in the crook of the thumb while plucking the strings with their fingers. It is most similar to a lute in timbre and has a harp-like quality to the attack of the sound that resonates from the pluck. The Malian player Ballake Sissoko is one the highest regarded contemporary players of the kora and has a handful of beautiful recordings but one I recently found on vinyl is a collaboration he did with a French cellist named Vincent Segal titled Musique de Nuit. The contrast between the two instruments is truly stunning and fully demands attention. There is an innate, fundamental, and rudimentary energy that exudes from the music; it feels like it has always existed.”

Like so many great artists, it’s the restlessness and refusal to be constrained by definitions that makes Michael and Leigh worth paying close attention to.

Read the full story available on Friends of Friends

Photographed in 2021 – Los Angeles, CA