Andrew Leahey and The Homestead: Singing From The Heartland
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Andrew Leahey’s musical journey has taken him across 4 different states as he sought to find the right home for his brand of music. Now firmly settled in Nashville, the capital of country music, Andrew Leahey and his band, The Homestead, are spreading their version of Heartland Rock across the U.S. With a spring tour kicking off soon to promote the new EP, “Summer Sleeves,” Andrew took a moment to chat with Progressive Man about how he got to where he is and the road he still has to travel.
Hi Andrew, thank you for speaking with us! Let’s just start off by getting to know a little bit about your musical background and how Andrew Leahey and the Homestead first came together?
My parents have a collection of homemade cassette tapes from the mid-’80s, where my mom is playing piano and I’m singing along as a four year-old. I was always obsessed with music. Luckily, my family saw that and helped encourage it, even if they didn’t always understand it. They bought me a guitar when I was six and forced me to join the school choir in 8th grade, which was TOTAL social suicide… but a worthwhile thing to do.
The Homestead was formed by accident in early 2011, when I flew back to my hometown (Richmond, VA) to record a solo album. A few friends decided to help… and a few of THEIR friends decided to help, too… and suddenly we had a six-piece band in the studio. We recorded 10 songs in 3 days.
When it came time to play those songs live, it just made sense to give those guys a call and take the whole group on the road. The lineup has changed a bit since then, but the idea remains the same.
It’s interesting to see that your music could probably best be classified as Heartland Rock despite you having gone to a classical institute (Jiulliard). Has heartland rock always been something you’ve been interested in or did it develop while you were in New York?
I auditioned for Juilliard as a “community member,” meaning I sang with one of the school’s choirs but didn’t pay tuition or take classes. It was prestigious, but it wasn’t for me. Choirs are sort of like extremely refined cover bands, where you sing Brahms instead of “Brown Eyed Girl.” You’re performing somebody else’s stuff, and the whole idea is to do the same thing every time. I get it, I understand it, I appreciate it… but it doesn’t provide a musical release for me.
When I started writing songs for the Homestead, I was living in a town that I wasn’t crazy about, and I could feel the rest of the country pulling at me. I felt like Sal Paradise in “On The Road.” There was an entire country spread out in front of me, and I wanted to go see it. Eventually, I did. And to me, heartland rock & roll is the kind of music you wanna hear when you hit the road and light out for the territory.
Tell us a little about the Homestead, are they musicians you regularly play with or is it a rotating line-up?
A bit of both, actually. I think it’s important to have a consistent band. We’ve been working on that for two years, just trying to piece together a stable group of people who don’t mind leaving their homes/wives/kids/jobs and traveling the country in a $5,000 passenger van for a few weeks at a time. Not everyone is willing to do it. Not everyone CAN do it.
In the past two months, though, the Homestead has solidified around a core group of people — some great friends/players from Nashville and a crazy Virginia-based guitarist named Phil Heesen. Phil has co-produced both of our records with me, too, and he’s played a big role in shaping our sound.
What projects do you have lined up? Are you recording anything new right now or lining up show dates?
We’ve got an EP that just came out on April 2. It’s called “Summer Sleeves,” and we’re hitting the road three days after its release for a spring tour. I’ve been writing material for a new album, too, and we just recorded three new songs in Nashville.
You’re currently based in Nashville after having gone from Virginia to New York to Michigan. What made you settle on Nashville?
Next to health care, Nashville’s biggest industry is music. Not textiles, not tobacco, not rubber or cotton or agriculture or airplane manufacturing. Just music. That’s mind boggling!
A city whose financial model relies on shaggy-haired, denim-clad, boot-wearing dudes who stay out too late and drink too much Yazoo beer and then go home to write a killer song about their girlfriend. I’m glad a place like this is able to exist in the modern world.
Of course there’s a strong country music scene in Nashville, being the hot bed for upcoming country artists. Do you feel like the strong country culture influences your songwriting process?
Sure. I think it’s part of a songwriter’s job to look at his surroundings — whether it’s a town or a bar or a bedroom — and figure out which parts of that environment are worth writing about. Nashville is a great muse. When you start talking about modern country music, though, it’s important to draw a line between the stuff that’s inspiring and the stuff that isn’t. For me, a person like Gillian Welch wields far more than influence than a person like Jason Aldean.
Do you find that your particular brand of music fits in nicely in Nashville?
It does. Nashville has a good community of bands making some very American-sounding rock & roll, and I think we’re part of that.
Are there any particular themes you try to stick to when writing music and lyrics?
People and places. Heartbreak. The human condition. We also have a song about Miranda Lambert.
Of all the shows you’ve played, are there any that are particularly memorable for you?
Playing New York City is always great. Getting there is such an involved process — tolls, turnpikes, terrible cab drivers — but it’s hard to beat an evening that involves playing a solid show, catching up with old friends, closing down a Lower East Side bar, eating Peruvian food or something exotic at 3:30 a.m. and then leaving town without having to pay NYC rent prices.
Where can people go to find your music?
www.AndrewLeaheyMusic.com. We’re also on iTunes and Spotify.