Interview: Lisa LeBlanc

At a Lisa LeBlanc show, you won’t see four white dudes in cowboy hats gathered around a lone microphone plying the crowd with high lonesome wails. Indeed, Canadian banjo shredder LeBlanc isn’t your typical bluegrass or roots ambassador, and she has been turning the stereotypical idea of what that even is on its head for almost a decade.

LeBlanc’s music is a spicy cultural blend, one which marries the Franco-Canadian and Acadian roots sounds of her of upbringing with her love for electrified, irreverent classic rock. “I actually started out on guitar,” she recalls of her initial foray into the music world. “I found that I didn’t like bluegrass very much, and I started out as a rock n’ roller. I grew up listening to classic rock, but bluegrass was all around. There’s a really big bluegrass festival in my hometown in Canada.  It was in the background. Those traditional influences were there, but I didn’t really listen to it until I moved away and started missing it,” she recalls. “I was tired of playing rhythm guitar, everybody was better than me,” she says with a laugh. “I was like, ‘What can I play that will bring new color to the jams?’ and that’s how it started. I love the energy and rawness of rock n’ roll. I also love country and bluegrass, it feels like home. It’s a melting pot. My songwriting is on the folky side, telling stories about everyday life, conversations,” she explains of her frank lyricism. “And, a lot of heartbreak. I started writing because of heartbreak, and it’s followed me through the years. I love listening to what people have to say,” she adds. “There’s something to be learned from everybody.”

She’s currently on the road, spreading her signature Joan Jett-style of traditional roots, still supporting her latest release, Why You Wanna Leave Runaway Queen,” and just finished her first stint at the annual Folk Alliance International conference. “We’re touring the shit out of this record,” she laughs. “I’m thinking of taking some time off to write next year. I’ve been going nonstop for like seven years, I think I owe it to myself to take a bit of a break to do that, and not push it.”

Her travels will bring her to Nashville’s City Winery on March 10th, her first full-length show in the Music City. “I’ve only played AmericanaFest there, and that was a 30-minute showcase,” she reveals. “I’m used to playing in Montreal and having a lot of people judge me for my performance, I’m used to having to play to a room of people who are listening and judging,” she adds about her thoughts on playing to a notoriously scrutinizing Nashville crowd. “I love Nashville, I come here a lot, I like to just take it all in and hang out, seeing and being inspired by the crazy amazing players all over the place. Actually, it’s like I get super depressed and super inspired all at the same time,” she laughs. “Everybody is so much better than you, it’s humbling but awesome too, that level of musicianship. It’s going to be really fun.”

[Click HERE for tickets and show information.]

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Susan Hubbard

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