Courtesy of Autonomic Media
Cleveland has reputation as a great rock 'n' roll town. Sometimes, it lives up to the hype. Sometimes, it doesn’t. When Louisiana-born singer-songwriter Dylan LeBlanc passed through town earlier this year to play the Beachland Ballroom with local singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield, it certainly did. LeBlanc, who plays Music Box Supper Club tomorrow night with headliner David Ramirez, says the gig was the best date of his tour.
“The crowd was amazing,” he says in a phone interview as he’s driving from Richmond to Pittsburgh. “That show made the whole tour worthwhile.”
Set to be released in January on the Muscle Shoals label Single Lock Records, LeBlanc’s forthcoming record, Cautionary Tale,
follows his first two releases, 2010’s Pauper’s Field
and 2012’s Cast the Same Old Shadow
. The influential public radio station KCRW has already praised the album and named LeBlanc "a troubadour to keep an eye on.” The release puts LeBlanc in some good company and features a guest appearance by Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes). John Paul White (Civil Wars) and Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes) handled production duties. The opening title track features whisper-thin near-falsetto vocals and minimal strings; it sets the mood for the entire album, a contemplative effort that has a quiet intensity to it.
Inspired by his father, who was a musician, LeBlanc, 25, started writing tunes when he was 11.
“That’s why I do it — I thought he was really cool,” he says. “I just really loved music, even from an early age.”
Initially, he toured and recorded with regional acts such as Jimmy Sad Eye Blues and Abraham before embarking on a solo career.
“They were learning experiences,” he says. “Abraham toured the Southeast and made a record. That was fun. It was a good learning experience for me. When they broke up, I was really sad.”
is a real step forward. Written during a two-year hiatus, the album recounts what LeBlanc says was “a nervous breakdown period.”
“I got back into writing in late 2013,” he says. “I went on a binge and wrote a bunch of songs. I was going through a period where I became hyper aware of the world around me. It’s about getting people to look inward. You have to find that place within. It’s not something another person can do for you. The world is like an insane asylum when you think about it. People are killing everyone and no one wants to talk about the causes of why people do that. It’s about the times we live in. That’s why it’s called ‘cautionary tale.’”
He also says he had to learn to hand the reins over to his producers.
“Our resources were really slim,” he says. “We didn’t have a lot of equipment. We had a 16-channel board and a tape machine. We went in there and I’ve never had a producer but John Paul did a good job of giving me direction. I’ve never let someone guide me like that. He facilitated a good environment. It was a lot of live tracking. We did acoustic guitar and bass and drums first and then started adding things like strings and other guitars and piano, but it’s a pretty sparse record.”
The album represents a huge step forward.
"It was a learning experience,” says LeBlanc. “There were days when John Paul said I just had to trust him. He was right. I’m bad about burying my words with more instrumentation. He said the words were good and needed to be heard. They didn’t need another guitar track. I have a bad habit of mumbling words if I second-guess a lyric. He was good at making sure my diction was good. It was a really great experience.”