Leah West: Popular, independent, singer-songwriter, multi-disciplinary artist, and award winner…. There are many ways to describe Leah West. I would describe her as humble and inspirational. Now, you might think those two adjectives don’t work well together, but I talked to Leah in great depth about her music and I listened to her name off other artists who inspire her. I began to see that it probably never occurred to Leah how much she inspires other artists.It also never occurred to Leah that she would be nominated for the 2011 BCIMA “People’s Choice Award,” let alone that she would win. Leah recalls that she was shaking right before her name was announced. She was up for a total of three other awards. She was nominated for “Single of the Year”, “Pop/Contemporary Recording of the Year” and for “Singer/Songwriter of the Year.” She made it to the top 3 among approximately 700 other artists. She was up against a 2x JUNO Award Winner in all three categories. Although she did not win, she felt honored just to be in the top 3 with such formidable talent. When Leah’s name was called for the 2011 BCIMA “People’s Choice Award,” she recalls this rush of energy. “It was surreal. Everyone was cheering and clapping for me. I was shaking and crying.”
Leah has been practically singing since she was born. She even has a video of herself at two-and-a-half-years-old singing with a mic. When she was around seven years old, she began writing poetry. She really liked literature. When she was a teenager, her first boyfriend was the son of Jimmy Webb, the multi-platinum-selling singer, songwriter and composer. This planted a seed. His whole family was very musical, and it gave Leah an idea that it was possible to make a living in music.
But Leah went through different phases of her life. Though it was “intuitive” that she would eventually return to work in this field, she didn’t always know what she wanted to do and even veered away from piano and guitar for several years. In fact, she cheered and ran track for a period of time while in High School. She even got into acting at one point.
Around age 22, Leah got back in to writing. She started searching for the right producer. After working with several producers and many unhappy experiences, a mutual friend led her to Marty Rifkin, a very successful producer, who has worked with many talented artists like Bruce Springsteen, Jewel, Tom Petty, Ryan Adams, etc. Leah was looking for a very specific sound for years and was grateful to finally find Marty. Marty is also a phenomenal multi-instrumentalist, and he really made her songs shine. Leah feels honored that someone of Marty’s caliber likes her songs. Leah stated:
“We each have the power and will to change and make decisions, but if you are walking your own path, and doors don’t open, you should never force a door to open. It either wasn’t meant to be or the timing isn’t right. Marty respects and genuinely believes in what I’m doing.”
Some people that Leah admires are: Sarah McLachlan (she loves the music community she has created and feels McLachlan is both generous and authentic), Celine Dion (who has a drive that never stops and she feels Dion is a hard-worker, who has persevered), Loreena McKennitt (who has carved out her own path with her beautiful voice and Celtic vibe music that did not mold into any other style when the record industry did not initially embrace her).
Though Leah has had a lot of success, she has had to work hard to promote herself. Social media has helped, though her music didn’t “spread like wildfire,” her profile on MySpace took off and she established over 50,000 fans. Since the move over to Facebook, most of her fans have followed her over there as well. In addition to social media, Leah has done a lot of work on her own, such as interviews and radio appearances.
Leah has written and composed over one hundred songs. Her songs tend to be very light and springy. Songs like ReLOVEution, Spring, Toothbrush, Simple Love are very upbeat and relatable. Leah feels like she has been entrusted with a gift and the ability to compose music. She started playing piano at the age of 8, which is when she began composing her own stuff. In an odd sense, she really doesn’t feel like she writes her songs herself, they somehow just come to her. “Inspiration”, she says, “just happens”.
Leah’s second album titled “Speechless” will hit the mainstream in November. She is also currently writing and recording for her 3rd album, “Storm Stories”, which will likely be released in 2013 or 2014. Leah is the sole author-composer for all three of these albums. While her first two albums remain light-hearted, “Storm Stories” will be more reflective, somewhat moody, and darker. She is working with Marty Rifkin on this, and is just “allowing herself to go there” and explore her “dark side.”
The next new project Leah is working on will be all in French. For the first time, Leah will not be the sole author-composer. She will write about 2/3 of the songs herself. She is collaborating with other amazing artists, composers and lyricists from Quebec, New Brunswick, and France. She has also already chosen a producer, called “réalisateur” in French, whose name she is keeping a secret for the time being. They are already about 6 songs deep into this album that will probably feature 11 -12 songs. This album currently has no title. She and the collaborators are just taking their time and making it their own.
When asked what advice Leah would give to aspiring artists looking to break into the industry, Leah gave this advice:
“Always try to figure out how to continue in this industry. You have to be creative and business-like. At the end of the day, you have to make a living. It’s got to be a goal. You don’t have to be business-minded as long as you surround yourself with business-minded people you trust. Listen to your heart and intuition and follow your own path. It’s good to have role-models, but be yourself. Be creative and believe in what you’re doing. Stay true to yourself and what you believe in. We all have gifts in life. If it’s meant to be in music, believe in that and embrace it.”
Thank you, Leah West, for spending time with me that afternoon. We, at MaxMoon Entertainment, believe in you and can’t wait to hear your new albums. Thank you for sharing your talent and inspiration with the world. You truly live our theme where “it’s the music that brings us altogether!!!”
I had the pleasure of chatting with Joram Nathan from Jimmy Bazil Project (JBP). Jimmy Bazil Project is local in New South Wales, Australia, and I traveled overseas on my wide world of web to get a little insight on JBPs progressive blues style and soulful sound. Joram Nathan was kind enough endure my intense questioning about the beginnings of Jimmy Bazil Project and the formation of this dynamic trio.
Q: I was really drawn to your group when I first heard it because your alternative interpretation of blues music, and given that I live in the Ozarks of Missouri it struck a chord. Naturally, the lyrics kept me tuned in. There’s a soulful longing expressed through your music and that could create a vast expanse of listeners who can either relate or empathize. The song “Ultimatums” is one of my favorites.
What inspired Jimmy Bazil Project to hone in on progressive blues?
JN: I found the blues through Stevie Ray Vaughn. Specifically it was his version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” It was after that that I started experimenting with the sounds I wanted. I didn’t want to play straight 12 bar blues all the time so I made the unconscious decision to use more augmented sounding progressions. It was more about writing for myself than anyone else. A form of therapy, I guess. I entertained the idea of getting together a power trio in the vein of Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and SRV & Double Trouble. Nothing really came of that idea till later.
The whole progressive blues style developed on its own. We have an eclectic range as far as our song writing is concerned. Ken, Dom and I all had different backgrounds in music. All drawing from what we already knew, while at the same time, learning a different style from the ground up. It was in no means a bad thing. Without stone set rules and structures to bind you in a particular way, you have free range over what you can do artistically. Now that Dom has left us and Feheely (Our current Bassist Chris Feheely) has joined, he is bringing a new range stylistically to the music.
The thing is, while what we do is rooted in the blues, the songs would not all fall into that genre. We felt that Progressive Blues was the best way to cover everything we do. The songs have always started as a basic guitar progression or riff, then lyrics that I’ve been playing around with. The boys have responded to these structural skeletons and we’ve built from there. That being said we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. We go away and listen to everything. I have a playlist that is about six hours of Buddy Guy, BB King, Albert King, Stevie Ray. Clapton (With and Without Cream), Robert Johnson, Albert Collins, the majority of the blues greats.
We do however, have other artists from outside the blues circle that influence us heavily. For instance one of my all time favourite records is “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. We all love Dave Matthews Band, there is so much out there. Why not draw from everything?
Q: I am also curious as to what really brought the group together. What keeps the group so in sync? What gives you energy to play on??
JN: As far as what keeps us together goes. Sheer force of will? Just kidding. It’s without a doubt the love of music. If you love doing something in particular, why do anything else? Nothing will satisfy you the way working at your passion will. What helps is the fact that I am fortunate enough to work with two of my best friends. Common ground seems to be the glue which holds us together. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and we take on the load that appropriately suits us. It makes it really easy to work together and continue to get onstage and do our thing.
Q: Lastly, if I could get a little insight on your song “Ultimatums” that would be fabulous. What were the events that sparked this song?
JN: We find what we like musically and bend it to our needs. I have tried to keep lyrical content as honest as possible; everything was from a very blunt perspective. Most of the songs are small embellishments of true stories and experiences.
“Ultimatums” is no different. A relationship turned sour and I wasn’t happy. She put it to me that if I wasn’t going bow to her will, then we would be over. I’d been given an ultimatum like that in a prior relationship, it lead to a long year of perpetual torment for me. Since then I had stood firmly on how I feel about that kind of manipulation. It wasn’t for a while until I wrote that song, I had a real SRV boogie thing going on and it seemed to need some lyrics that weren’t at all subtle. I used the argument as a basis, and my distaste for the whole situation as fuel. It was a good vent and it’s super fun to play.
Thank you Joram and Jimmy Bazil Project.
“It’s the music that brings us together!”
I am a creative writing student at Missouri State University with an attempt to leave that fine establishment with my Bachelor’s degree. I have been perfecting my craft for four years now, but I have decided to extend my studies to five years total, ya know… to really achieve greatness. I have always dwelled in the Midwest, from St. Louis to Springfield, Missouri (where I currently reside), and it’s rather pleasant. Nice people, minimal to moderate traffic, depending on where you are exactly in the center of the country, and not to mention, seasons.
Anyway, I am breeching my level of comfort right now, as you read this. I am projecting myself and my thoughts on the World Wide Web. This is all very new to me. I started my “bloodinmymouth” WordPress blog site months before I ever posted anything- and not just anything worth reading, I mean I haven’t typed one blog post. I like to think I can take my online writing excursions a little further than just filling my basic information boxes and successfully becoming a member of the wild world of WordPress.com. Satisfying enough for six months, I guess, but now I’m ready. I will stand up and stand strong as an up-and-coming writer and publish my midnight thoughts, words of wisdom, bathroom epiphanies (location varies), and of course my general insight/complaints about friends, family, boyfriend, etc.
Oh, one last thing. Not only am I stepping into the ever expanding and ever connected land of opportunity to write for my own benefit or amusement, but I am also starting my journey as a music correspondent for MaxMoon Entertainment & MaxMoon Entertainment Encore. Don’t let the double Ms and double Es frighten you. I am not here to saturate you with my endless knowledge of “bands you’ve never heard of”, I am here to share with you, my friend. I am here to open the doors wide for you and others who desire to be able to say, “Oh, you haven’t heard of Insert Band Name Here” with that condescension you’ve always wanted. Alright, maybe that’s not your goal, but take my hand, grab your ear buds, and walk with me (or just read what I write) to experience blossoming artists and underground entertainers that confidently await your beckoning ear holes. Remember folks, “It’s the music that brings us together“!
I’ve been writing my whole life but on paper only since I was thirteen. I study Professional and Creative writing. My writing experience ranges from Sci-fi thriller, to young adult fiction, to comic book, and now, music blogging. My love of music first developed as a result of love for a family member. I saw how New Kids on the Block changed my sister into a happier, more carefree version of herself. Not only did I want to be connected to this side of my sister, I wanted to feel this same happiness. Therefore, I also loved New Kids on the Block. For the next few years, music would come to represent a certain oppression. I would listen only to what my parents approved for me to listen to or nothing at all. To this day, I can sing conservative lyrics from the 80s or name the song by the tune.
“DUDE, DON’T TOUCH MY STEREO!” You’ve all heard it or said it before. The purchase of my first car brought a combination of music and freedom. My car, my stereo. I could choose the song, the audio level, and my response. My conservative family could no longer sensor me. Suzanne Vega, Live, Green Day, Seal, Bonnie Tyler, Faith Hill, Dave Matthews Band, Ace of Base… am I dating myself?
It is now time to put my two loves together. I am joining a new adventure as the Lead Correspondent for MaxMoon Entertainment Encore where I, along with a team of writers, will take a deeper look at the music, the musician behind the music, and how that music fits into our lives. After all, “It’s the music that brings us together.”
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