Exposure: Dylan LeBlanc
20-year-old US songwriter's debut Paupers Fields released by Rough Trade
The son of a session musician and country songwriter, 20-year-old Dylan LeBlanc spent a lot of his childhood hanging around Fame studios, Alabama, where the likes of Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Percy Sledge have all recorded. Already drawing comparisons to Neil Young and Graham Nash among others, in August LeBlanc released his Americana debut album, Paupers Fields (Rough Trade). Mary Murray Brown chatted with him about his unusual childhood, how he writes his songs, and why he's not the new Neil Young.
You've been playing and writing from a young age
I started writing when I was fourteen, really taking it seriously, playing in bars and stuff. Some songs on the album are from then. 'Low' is about three years old.
You practically grew up in Fame Studios, Alabama. Did that help your music?
Absolutely, I got a good education and it was very cool. I was hearing old soul music like Arthur Alexander and Etta James especially. I spent a lot of time there, most days and nights.
Are you excited about touring Europe with Paupers Fields?
Yeah, I'm very excited about it all. I've never been to Scotland but I love Scottish people.
And your plans after that?
I’m gonna spend Christmas down in my home town, and I'll definitely be doing some recording in December. I will try make another record, and make it better than the first record. I think it will change a bit.
Any more hints?
I don't know either, so you'll just have to wait and see. It's a heavy metal album. No, I'm just kidding.
How do you write your music?
I write whatever's in my mind at the time. I always hum little parts, and that's how I figure it out. Musically, I already have it all lined up in my head how I want to do it. That's why it's so hard for me to let go and let other people take control. Every little detail – I can already hear it, and picture how I want to paint it.
Are you working on new material?
I have this one song which is pretty new. It's about innocence and wisdom, a metaphor of how these translate into the way you feel through life. Things that you can't get back that you've left behind, and how devastating it can be if you let your conscience get the best of you.
Do you think it's fair that some reviewers have made issue about your young age?
No, you should just listen to the music. [Bob] Dylan was what, nineteen, when he made his first record? What's the different between that and anything else?
Some reviews label you as the new Neil Young. Is that fair?
I would definitely disagree. There's only one Neil Young. To say something like that you'd have to study something way closer, in real detail. Obviously I love Neil Young. I love his work, but I would never go as far to say that. There's no new anybody, there's only a new you. Nobody's completely unique, but you want to be appreciated for what you do and not what somebody else has done.
What's the best gig you've been to?
I saw Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Bob Dylan in Florida last year. That was pretty awesome. Bob Dylan wasn't that good, Willie Nelson was pretty great.
And a good song to recommend?
There was a song in Starbucks in the airport, I don't know the name but it was awesome. It was an old bluesy song; let’s call it 'There is No Tomorrow' by old blues man? But seriously, 'Half of You' by Cat Power.