by Alana Noelle Black
Andrew Leahey and the Homestead are slated to perform 120 gigs in 2016 – an average of one about every three days. But of the band’s numerous shows, Andrew Leahey, the group’s namesake and front man, looks forward to the ones in Virginia and D.C. especially, such as their upcoming show at State Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 15.
“I guess it’s always been a hub [for me],” said the Richmond native. “I went to college at UVA, and I would constantly go to D.C. to catch bands…. I think our very first gig [as Andrew Leahey and the Homestead] was a house show in D.C., in Dupont Circle. We had like a hundred people in somebody’s living room. A killer weekend for us is playing Leesburg, then D.C., and then Richmond. It’s just a great time.”
Leahey is the vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter for the band, while “the Homestead is less of a concrete lineup and more of a community.” Due in part to the grueling – and admittedly low-paying – nature of the group’s tour, the Homestead consists currently of about eight members who cycle in and out for different shows, but by Leahey’s estimation, around thirty different musicians have been part of the Homestead over the past four years.
Though Leahey considers his group a rock band, they have been embraced by the country music community in their home base of Nashville.
“Maybe we’re the rock-and-roll gateway drug for country bands,” Leahey joked. He believes that the perception of what is truly rock has shifted over the years, suggesting that past work by Tom Petty, the musician who is his “number-one influence,” would be considered Americana if released today, though it was considered rock when originally released.
“Rock and roll these days, people tend to think of the Foo Fighters and Jack White, and that’s not what we do. When I think of our sound and how we should classify it, to me it just sounds like a modern extension of the sound that I grew up with. It could be Tom Petty, it could be Bruce Springsteen, or the Wallflowers….I think we operate between the lines a bit, and if people want to consider it country leaning or rock leaning, I guess it’s up to them as long as they’re considering us in the first place.”
When asked if he was able to parse out exactly which aspects he draws from particular genres, Leahey said that his style of storytelling is more often associated with country, citing the band’s song “Penitentiary Guys,” which he wrote from the point of view of the husband of a bank-robbing Bonnie as he thinks about his wife traversing the country with Clyde, who, contrary to what many assume today, was not her husband. The guitar parts of the band’s songs, Leahey said, tend to be in the rock and roll vein. And to further layer on the influences, he considers the hooks of some of his songs to be inspired by pop, as he writes them to “instantly grab you…easy melodies to walk around humming to yourself.”
The band’s tour is date-heavy and constant, but Leahey wouldn’t have it any other way. The discovery of a tumor that was growing on his hearing nerve – one benign by medical definition but potentially fatal to his career, as it would have eventually rendered him deaf – his subsequent surgery, and the year-plus he had to spend recovering, have led him to adopt a self-described “balls to the wall” approach with his music.
“Years ago, we had never done a big album with someone like [Wilco member and producer of their current album] Ken Coomer. My plan was always like, ‘Why blow all your money on one album?’ But when I became sick, [I wondered] why was I pinching my pennies for a rainy day? Now my plan is, do this thing, do it right, and don’t cut any corners.”
• Andrew Leahey & the Homestead will be opening for Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers at The State Theatre on October 15. For more information about Andrew Leahey & the Homestead, visit andrewleaheymusic.com.