We had the opportunity to interview Canadian country recording artist and CMAO Awards performer Leah Daniels, hot off the release of her newest single, Your Kiss is Killin' Me. Leah tells us about her musical influences, adventures from the road and the last photo she took on her phone! Check it out!
SGC: As someone who has been involved in music from such a young age, what is it about music that really speaks to you? How did you first get into music?
LD: I always remember loving to sing and perform. At family get-togethers there was always music and people playing instruments. I remember singing in my first choir and loving the transfer of energy between the audience and the performers. I think that’s what attracted me and kept me coming back.
SGC: Was there a pivotal moment when you knew that you were going to focus on being a musician professionally?
LD: It’s funny, I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else. In high school when I formed my first band, I would always be looking for new opportunities and contests to enter. I remember the moment I quit college to pursue music full time and saying to myself I’m not gonna take any job unless it’s related somehow to music. So I got jobs as a session singer, taught music lessons & ran recording camps for kids.
SGC: With such a diverse musical background, what was it that made you fall in love with country music?
LD: What I love about country music is the lyrics and storytelling. It’s real life. When I started to get more serious about songwriting I was never writing for a specific genre, I was just writing songs from the heart. I actually didn’t realize it until a friend pointed out that my songs could be country songs. Ha! I guess it was always in me!
SGC: What influences your songwriting the most? What inspires you?
LD: Life, my relationships and the people around me. I write best when the feelings are fresh. The words flow more easily. I always keep a journal of my thoughts and am constantly recording melodies on my phone. When I have a chance to sit down at a piano and write I’ll look back on all my notes and voice memos.
SGC: Your cover of Elvis' “Suspicious Minds” helped get your music noticed, what made you decide to cover that song? How easy is it to take another artists' song and make it your own?
LD: It actually was my producer, Sam Ellis’ idea. We were working on a couple songs and one day he said, “Hey, can I show you something?” He played this amazing arrangement of “Suspicious Minds” that he had put together with me in mind. I loved it, so we recorded it! We ended up showing it to CMT Canada and they came on board to do a video for it and that was the beginning of my professional career!
SGC: How does it feel to have such a supportive and thriving country music scene in Ontario/Canada?
LD: Amazing! Country music is definitely thriving right now in Canada. We are so fortunate to also have so many amazing organizations that support up and coming artists. I have had many showcase opportunities that came as a result of being a member of the CCMA or CMAO.
SGC: We had the chance to see you perform at Boots & Hearts last year and one of our most memorable festival highlights was witnessing you yodel! How did you discover you had yodeling talent?
LD: Awe that is so cool to hear! My Grandpa loved traditional country/ western music and was an amazing yodeler. As a young child he would always try to teach me to yodel and I have to admit, at first I was quite reluctant. It wasn’t until I heard LeAnn Rimes yodel in her song “Blue” that I thought wow, maybe yodeling could be cool! I was hooked after that and so proud to show my Grandpa when I finally mastered it!
SGC: Do you have any fun tour stories or fan encounters that you can share from your adventures so far?
LD: One time we were driving back in the middle of winter from a gig in Sudbury and planning on staying the night at a friends place in Muskoka (they were not home). They have a VERY steep driveway that they don’t use in the winter. We arrived at about 4am, tired and with a van full of gear and to this day I don’t know why but we drove down the hill (bad decision!). That morning we tried to get up the hill with no luck. We all got bundled up and started chipping away at the ice, but nothing worked. It took two tow trucks and a truckload of sand to get us out. I wasn’t laughing at the time, but I can laugh now!
SGC: What advice would you give to musicians considering pursuing a career professionally?
LD: I would say keep working your craft, whether that is songwriting, singing or playing an instrument. The competition is fierce so the number one thing you can do is be the best version of yourself you can be! After that, it all comes down to the music. You have to have a great song, a plan in place and apply to an organization like FACTOR for funding right away!
SGC: You are quite active on social media and regularly reply to fans on Twitter. How important is social media as a tool to connect with your fans?
LD: It is extremely important! Social media is the number one way I connect and share my music with fans. It gives me the ability to have a conversation with my fans. I can ask them what they want more of, if they like something or not and get to know them better and it’s all instant!
SGC: Is there an artist that you would have loved to get a Tweet from when you were a kid?
LD: Oh yes!! Probably Celine Dion. I was obsessed with her music and voice!
SGC: What's on your iPod? Who have you been listening to lately that you think people should check out?
SGC: What was the last picture you took on your phone?
LD: Ok I just checked! It is a picture of a huge package of hot lips candy!! My new single is called “Your Kiss Is Killing Me” so I bought a bunch of hot lips to create promo packages for the song. Hopefully I don’t eat them all before then!
SGC: Is there something that you are obsessed with or addicted to right now? (An app? TV Show? Band? Food? Song? Activity?)
LD: The Walking Dead. I absolutely love that show. Anything about the post-apocalyptic world I am totally into!
SGC: What would you say has been one of the coolest moments/highlights in your career that really made you realize you had chosen the right path for yourself?
LD: I’ve been fortunate to have a bunch of really amazing moments in the past year. Having my first single “Go Back” reach top 20 at radio was a huge one. I also just got nominated for 5 CMAO awards, which totally blew my mind. But nothing compares to having someone tell you that a song of yours has helped them get through a tough time. That is the best reminder to me that I am on the right path.
SGC: What can people expect from you next?
LD: I’ve been working hard preparing for the release of my new video/single - “Your Kiss Is Killing Me” and it’s finally out! I spent a lot of time working on the music video with director, Tim Deegan. I had a hand in everything from concept, set construction, location hunting to editing. I love being creative visually too! Now I’m getting ready for summer shows and another trip to Nashville to start writing for a new album!
SGC: And last but not least, is there a question that you have always wanted to be asked, maybe rehearsed your answer in the mirror, and no one has ever asked it? Here's your big chance!
LD: Wow cool question! Hmm…. No one has ever asked me, “How I plan to make the world a better place.” If one day someone were, I would probably respond with... “I want to help encourage and promote being gentler to our environment. Using less plastic, reducing and reusing more. Promote self-love, real human connections and travel so that people realize that the world is so much bigger than our Instagram feed.
Thank you Leah! We're looking forward to seeing your performance at this year's CMAO Awards!!