Dylan LeBlanc possesses a wisdom beyond his 24 years that is indescribable. In conversation with the Louisiana native about songwriting, he reminded me that one should “never edit when you’re writing.” So here is the unedited and captured description of the beautifully eloquent and somberly melodic singer-songwriter that dropped out of high school to pursue his “dream,” of the young man with two released albums and a third on its way, of the Muscle Shoals inhabitant that swims in the depths of Steinbeck and Tennessee Williams, of the young man with a glassy-eyed sound that makes you reach for the bottle and sway to the sighs of human experience and haunting sounds. LeBlanc is something beyond special and something before depressive, and in his case the medium becomes a different kind of soul music that seeps into your blood and stays there for awhile until you go back to get your next audible fix. And you can get yours tomorrow night at the 5 Spot along with Great Peacock, Sam Lewis, and Kim Logan.
“I don’t claim to be an original, “ LeBlanc says as he quotes his literary and musical inspirations, giving credit to idols like Flannery O’Connor, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan. The Americana influences further his Southern story of a young boy born into a musician family and handed a guitar at the age of seven. His childhood was molded by the divorce of his parents and the multiple homes, which included recording studios where he would stay when his father was working on sessions and the magnetic city of Muscle Shoals. With the moving back and forth between Muscle Shoals and Shreveport, his personal evolution took a different turn and did a few dances with several devils. His past was certainly colored with darker experiences and emotions that pervade his music, and he alludes to these in conversation and through his music, even in his bios. The details remain vague, touching on time in rehab and broken heart syndrome, but LeBlanc took influence from his artistic guides, dropped out of high school, and started a career of aged honesty and musicality that is intoxicating in a water-downed musical culture.
LeBlanc’s two releases, Paupers Field (2010) and Cast The Same Old Shadow (2012), are nostalgic for previous musical standards and ring with the vibrato of steel and sadness that lasts the night. “Everyone is looking outward these days, and I guess I’m just looking inward…we are responsible for the way we feel, and I guess I like to bask in the glory of misery.” And one might think it’s a depressing notion, but as LeBlanc puts it, “I want people to wake up on a spiritual level in a world that is sound asleep.” As he comments on his songwriting style, he mentions that melody always comes first, but “there is not a right way to write a song.” He abandons formulas and sugarcoated phrases and interruptive edits that break the fluidity of creation, but never without the acknowledgement that writing is work. LeBlanc is currently working on his third album, and in relation to his previous releases, he emphasizes that this new record took a long time to write. “With the first two albums, I had nothing to compare them to, so I just wrote. But now it’s work,” and by the sounds of it, it’s a work of more upbeat art that is accessible and beautifully detailed. Produced by Ben Tanner and John Paul White (Civil Wars) in the enigmatic enclave that is Muscle Shoals, the album blends recording expertise with the stirring sounds of the well-versed LeBlanc that can be heard tomorrow night.
He’s opened for Lucinda Williams, The Civil Wars, The Drive By Truckers, Alabama Shakes, and others, and Emmylou Harris has accompanied him on his track, “If The Creek Don’t Rise.” And despite sharing stages and creative moments with such treasured idols, LeBlanc remains an unaffected and a kind soul that thanks you for every micro-compliment you give him and speaks with utmost humility that breaks your heart more than his singing does. When asked how he would describe his music, he says, “I think it’s pretty music. Good melodies. I guess…soul music?” And the inquisitive ending to his answer should be a statement. It is soul music. It is music that translates words into a state of being and melodies into inward reminders to experience the capabilities of emotional realities in a world numb and rushed to feel less and drink more.
Show starts at 9pm tomorrow night (August 30) at the 5 Spot with the fine acts of LeBlanc, Great Peacock, Sam Lewis, and Kim Logan.