Wednesday, May 6, 2020

LEAH INGRAM LEAV/E/ARTH Interview! 5/6/2020

(Photo credit: Justin Hustle)


As I’ve mentioned before, one of the positives of social media sites such as YouTube is that it allows talented artists a chance to be seen/heard. I was looking at cover songs one night when I stumbled upon Leah Ingram singing, “Music Of The Night”. I was floored by her rendition and I needed to know more.

It was not surprising to find out that Leah had been singing with a band called LEAV/E/ARTH for a number of years. Below is my interview with the talented Leah Ingram!



(Photo credit: Mike James)

Eclectic Arts: Greetings Leah! How are things going in Cleveland (correct me if I have the wrong location) during this pandemic?

Leah Ingram: Hi Mark! I live in the Columbus area now, but I’d say location doesn’t matter much at the moment since we’re all stuck inside! Where I live, people are definitely seeming to take precautions pretty seriously, I’ve seen a lot of masks and gloves.

EA: One of the best aspects of sites like YouTube is that it can expose people from around the world to talent anywhere and everywhere. Case in point - I went down the rabbit hole one night watching/listening to singers singing cover songs. Somehow I ended up seeing your cover of, “Music Of The Night" from the Phantom Of The Opera musical. I then listened to a few other songs on your channel and was impressed. Then I couldn’t find anything else. But I was intrigued to reach out to you to see if you would be interested in doing an interview so I could learn more. And here we are!

Let's start at the beginning please. Where are you from? What were you like growing up, how did you get into music, do you come from a musical family, etc?

LI: I grew up in a city called Mentor, Ohio. It’s right up next to the lake, I could ride my bike to the beach when it was nice outside. I have two older sisters, so I had to fight for the spotlight a lot of the time. (I think that’s where my love for being the center of attention started!) My dad was in bands his whole life, I was actually named after the song “Ah, Leah!” by Donnie Iris. He was a big reason why I got into music the way that I did, I watched him and my “uncles” and their comradery, and I thought, I want that for myself some day.

EA: When did you start singing? Did you take formal lessons (I'm guessing yes based on what I've heard)? Do you play any instruments?

LI: I started singing fairly young. I think the same way everybody does. Singing songs from the radio, songs that I heard my family listening to, songs from church, etc. My mom and dad always tried to encourage me to sing more, but I think I was shy as a kid and didn’t actually know I was any good. I started piano lessons when I was probably 5 or 6, but it was short-lived because my hands were too little. I started up again, only playing by ear when I was maybe 13. The first song I learned was “Imagine” by John Lennon. I’ve been playing by ear since then, I know my chords and all that, but my fingers are definitely not in the “proper” places. But hey, I’ve gotta make due, I have small hands! (laughs). I joined choir in the 8th grade, and when my confidence started to build and it was something that I realized I was actually pretty good at, I started formal voice lessons the next year. They were a kind of on and off thing for me until college, I had two different teachers for short periods of time. I continued to sing in the school choir and in any and every singing related extracurricular activity. I did show choir, chamber ensembles, Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus, theater, all of it. I went on to major in vocal performance with all of my eggs in the basket of a very expensive college program in Pittsburgh that I was unable to afford, even with my talent and academic scholarships. I ended up choosing to attend Cleveland State University at the last minute, where I spent 3 semesters, and then left because I was very underwhelmed with my experience.

EA: Who are some of your favorite artists?

LI: Christina Aguilera is my biggest influence vocally, as far as my favorites, I have a lot! I grew up loving classic rock. The Beatles are definitely the big one, along with Pink Floyd, The Who, AC/DC, and plenty of others. I think growing up and starting to discover stuff on my own as a pre-teen, I loved gaining influence from a lot of female voices like Avril Lavigne, The Veronicas, early Paramore, Faith Hill, Kelly Clarkson, JoJo, Alicia Keys. What I listen to now I think is pretty vastly different, I've been discovering more and more every day. Currently I'd say my most played artists are Bishop Briggs, Julien Baker, HalfNoise, Fountains of Wayne, and The Midnight, I'm sure I've forgotten plenty though!

EA: I’ll have to look into those latest ones. Haven’t heard of any of them - but that’s not surprising - I don’t know what’s current (laughs).

EA: What were your first band(s) like? What style of music were they? What worked/didn't work about them?

LI: My first and only band was LEAV/E/ARTH, although we did start out with a totally different name and sound before evolving into what we were in our prime. We actually started off a lot heavier and had a larger lineup. Plenty of things didn’t work, but that's just the music industry in general. We were just like any other group I would say, disagreeing about stupid little things like song titles and merch design colors, we didn’t always have the same ideas or opinions all the time, but that stupid stuff always seemed like such a big deal in that moment. What worked well though was that we always put each other first. We always said that first and foremost, we were best friends. That was that. I’ll never forget a time we were on tour once in Illinois somewhere and I’d gotten the news that my grandmother had fallen after a heart attack, and my band mates drove me 4 hours to the Chicago airport to get me on a plane at like 5am so that I could go be with her. They even offered to help pay for my ticket. We had to cancel the last date of the tour and we had to rearrange a lot to make it happen, but they didn’t think twice. I’ll always be thankful for that. 

(Photo Credit: Lily McLaughlin) 

EA: You spent several years fronting the band LEAV/E/ARTH. How did you become involved in that band? The music and videos I checked out were professionally done and it looked like a lot of investment was put into the band. Why did things not work out with LEAV/E/ARTH?

LI: I met my drummer, Jared, on Facebook in 2011 and he showed my YouTube channel to our guitarist, David. I knew right away that they were all the things I’d been looking for all along. When I met them, they were in a hardcore band called Visionaries. Their vocalist was leaving and lots of things were changing, and so I stepped in with another guy and we became a melodic hardcore band, with me singing and him screaming. We continued as Visionaries for probably 2 or 3 years, and when my fellow vocalist was diagnosed with MS, he and our bassist (they’d been in bands together for many years) decided to step down at the same time. Jared, David, Benji and I were left and went on to become LEAV/E/ARTH, with a few members that came and went in between. We invested everything we had into the band. One of the guys went into debt after leaving his good “adult” job to accommodate tours, some of us moved in together to save money, we’d all lost significant others and missed numerous family events, birthdays, weddings, etc. We gave it everything. Every penny we saved went into recording, making videos, or marketing in some way. And while you’d think that giving something your all - your total and complete attention, all of your time, your money, your effort - would make you successful, it actually burnt us out in some ways. We actually became so obsessed with being successful, with reaching the right audiences and pleasing the right people and connecting to the right industry professionals, that it stopped being fun. We were let down by a lot of people that we trusted and we put our faith in the wrong people more than once. We lost sight of why we were doing it in the first place, and I think that really soiled it, whether we wanted to continue or not. One of the guys said he never wanted to tour or play shows anymore, that he was just not mentally capable anymore because of the stress it was putting on him. Another member works for a family company, and said that he is needed there in a way that he can no longer leave for weeks at a time to tour. We sold our van a few months ago, it’s been two years since we’ve played a show, and over a year since we’ve released any new material. We never officially broke up, but I’ve broken my own heart on more than a few occasions being hopeful that things will ever go back to how they were.

EA: Did LEAV/E/ARTH go on tours in the US? If so - what are your memories of being on the road (good, bad, or otherwise)?

LI: We went on a few tours over the years, some great and some not so good. I remember playing in this random guy’s living room once in Missouri and it was super weird because being a band that was signed to a label, we usually were playing at somewhat decent venues to at least a small crowd, and it was vastly different because we found ourselves at this random guy’s house, he and one other guy were the only ones there, and I remember thinking How the hell did we end up here? Fast forward to last summer, and we actually found out that guy went to jail for running the illegal concert venue out of his home and was fined. I remember driving away from that place and parking in a Walmart that night, and waking up to a tornado warning and really bad storms. We hauled ass to get inside the Walmart, where all the customers and employees were huddled in the back area in case the tornado got close enough to hit the building. Still though, being on a shitty tour was better than not being on tour. Some of my favorite memories are being on the road with my best friends, playing music, meeting people, and waking up not knowing which state we were in.

(Here is a link to the article about that man/venue: READ HERE! )

EA: Did you write or co-write any of the songs in LEAVE/E/ARTH? Do you consider yourself a songwriter?

LI: Each member wrote their respective parts for every single song. I wrote the melodies and lyrics of the vocal parts, the guys wrote their own instrumental parts, and when we all came together in the studio, we picked everything apart, polished it, and put it back together. I consider myself a songwriter not only because of LEAV/E/ARTH, but also because I’ve written my own music separately.

EA: What are you currently working on, musically?

LI: As of right now I have a solo project, “Pray Tell”. I have my personal YouTube channel that I use for things like covers, but I needed an outlet for original material that was not related to L/E. I’ve only released one song so far (I had to take a break from everything to concentrate on school), but I have a lot of things written that I need to record, or have already recorded but need to finish producing. It’s not really something that I thought about as far as having its own sound or genre, it’s really just me writing and releasing whatever I feel like creating in that moment. My very first single, “Saved” is something I wrote when I could feel the band falling away and having nowhere to put my feelings. The most recent song I’m working on now is much more light-hearted and almost completely different from that first song. I never really planned on starting a new project, so labeling it in any way feels wrong. I’m just creating freely because I need to, I’m not really worried about how it’s classified or if anybody even hears it.

(Photo credit: Keith Bryce)

EA: Do you have an interest in musicals? How did you choose “Music Of The Night” and the cover from “Little Mermaid” on your YouTube channel?

LI: I grew up absolutely loving musicals, even some of which I’ve never had the pleasure to see. My favorites are "Les Miserables" and "Phantom of the Opera", but I also enjoy light-hearted stuff like Disney and "Wicked". Growing up, that kind of music was always playing in my house. Michael Crawford is one of the very first voices I remember hearing musically. His rendition of “Music Of The Night” will always be unmatched in my eyes. (... ears?) “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid was actually a song I’ve gotten a lot of requests to perform, probably because I’m obviously always singing, I used to have long red hair, and I’ve always loved Disney. Funny enough though, my favorite Disney Princess is "Pocahontas"; I’ve always loved Judy Kuhn’s voice in the movie as well as her performance as Cosette in "Les Miserables" in the 10th anniversary concert. Another Disney voice I’ve always loved that crossed into that musical is Lea Salonga, who voiced the singing voices for both Jasmine in "Aladdin” as well as Fa Mulan in "Mulan". She was one of my favorite performances of both Eponine in "Les Miserables" as well as Fantine later on.

EA: Working as many shows as I have now, I know that for many young bands, the music is the passion but when they’re off the road, they are doing day jobs to pay the bills. If I may ask - what do you do for a living nowadays?

LI: When I was in the band and touring I had a number of jobs. Retail, childcare, working at bars, you name it. Once it became apparent that touring was not going to be part of my schedule anymore, I decided that it was time to start paving a path for myself to nestle into a real, tangible career that would always leave me with options, no matter where I am or what I’m doing in my life. I started Cosmetology school in late November of 2018, and I just graduated on February 28th this year. I have a job at a salon here in Columbus that I was very excited to start, but unfortunately with the timing of Covid-19, I only got a chance to work for one day before the shut down! Once things are settled, I will be happy to get back to the salon, and finally get my license (a worker’s permit isn’t as exciting as the real thing!).

EA: I can relate as I started a new day job before getting sick right when the pandemic was breaking in Washington State (the first state to deal with all of this crap). I now have to re-think my day job plans for the future as IMO we’re heading for a recession that will be worse than the one in 2008.

LI: It’s definitely not a great time to be new to something! I have family and friends that have lost their jobs as well as a good handful that live paycheck to paycheck and are struggling now to make ends meet. This is a rough time for the music industry, especially! So many friends are unable to tour or play shows or do anything besides internet-based interactions. I’ve seen a ton of “concert streaming”, so to speak. It’s good to see that people are still finding ways to make it happen.

(Photo credit: Ross Theisen)

EA: For a homebody like myself - who has never been near Columbus or Cleveland - how would you describe your city?

LI: Cleveland will always be my city, even though I don’t live there anymore. Really it’s just like any city, it has good parts and not so good parts. The music community in Cleveland, however, is unlike any other. I miss my friends every single day. It ranges further than just the people performing, I have wonderful relationships with promoters, venue staff, photographers/other media creatives, and people that come to shows just to watch or hang out. I can’t even tell you how badly I’d love to be playing a show at the Foundry Concert Club in Lakewood, eating their amazing food, hanging out with my friends and band mates right now. That’s my happy place!

EA: If you were to start a new project - what would you want to do? Sing songs from movies? Rock? Dabble in some musical theatre, perhaps? 
LI: The hardest part about LEAV/E/ARTH being inactive is the fact that no matter how long it’s been, I’ve still never felt ready to move on to something else. As of right now, I don’t want to do music - not for real, anyway - unless it’s with the guys. That may never happen, and I’m sure someday maybe things will be different and that I’ll be open to the idea of something fresh and new, but I guess until I’m past it all, I don’t know. I would love to think that someday I will get together with new people to create alternative/rock music, but as of right now, it just doesn’t feel right. Singing covers for YouTube and creating original music as Pray Tell will have to do, at least for now.

EA: Leah thank you so much for taking the time to do the interview.  I'm looking forward to hearing more music, covers or otherwise, from you.  Your voice needs to be heard!

LI: Thank you so much for reaching out and wanting insight on my life and my music. I hope you are staying safe and healthy during all of this mess, and that we can all leave our houses and see some shows again very soon!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts here:
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

Connect with Leah Ingram, Pray Tell, and LEAV/E/ARTH here:

LEAV/E/ARTH "The Other Side (re-imagined)"

LEAH - "Music Of The Night (cover)"

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