Andrew Leahey talks with C&I about his upcoming LP, We Came Here to Run, and shares the track “Start the Dance.”
Drenched in American rock, Andrew Leahey & the Homestead’s new LP, We Came Here to Run, marks a new milestone for the Nashville-based band.
Written during a long touring period playing 175 shows a year, the album explores lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist Leahey’s “second chance” after recovering from brain surgery.
The band’s new track, “Start the Dance” — the first song they’ve released since their 2016 debut, Skyline in Central Time — features guitar work from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s Sadler Vaden.
Recently, we talked with Leahey about his new album, his new single, and his new lease on life.
Cowboys & Indians: What do you hope fans will get out of We Came Here to Run?
Andrew Leahey: It’s an American rock ’n’ roll record. I grew up listening to guys like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen on the radio in my mom’s car, and something about the size of those songs — those big rock anthems with pop hooks — never left me. We Came Here to Run occupies a similar world.
C&I: What are some memorable stories along the way of getting your LP from concept to actual release?
Leahey: Man, how much time do you have? I began writing some of these songs as far as back 2015. Since then, I’ve recovered fully from brain surgery, played somewhere around 400 shows, supported my wife through her first two years of veterinary school, feared for my life in the shotgun seat of a friend’s Jeep while speeding through the jungle in Mexico heading to a cabin to grab a few joints before heading back to the gig we were playing on the Baja Peninsula that night, landed a record deal, lost a record deal, and joined Elizabeth Cook’s band. There’s been a lot of good stuff to write songs about.
C&I: What was the writing and recording process like? Where did you draw inspiration from for the sound?
Leahey: I’m a fan of big-sounding music from the ’70s and ’80s: Petty, Springsteen, Big Star, Bob Seger, Fleetwood Mac, AC/DC, Bryan Adams. ... Electric guitars sounded huge back then, and choruses were even bigger. I wrote this music with something similar in mind. I’d finish writing a chorus for a new song; then I’d use it as a verse instead and force myself to write something better for the real chorus. Since I toured so heavily in support of Skyline in Central Time, I was able to road-test a lot of the tunes. I think that contributed to most of the songs sounding like set-openers or show-closers.
I wrote most of the songs alone, then played them for songwriters I really respect — Jon Latham, Dan Layus, Roger Clyne, Phil Heesen — and moved ahead with the songs that really resonated.
C&I: How do you think this record differs from Skyline in Central Time?
Leahey: Skyline was written and recorded during my recovery from surgery, and those songs are all about the lessons learned after you’ve come face-to-face with something that threatens your existence. It’s about getting your life back, I guess, whereas We Came Here to Run is an album about what you do with that second chance.
There’s only one ballad. Most of this stuff is fast, amplified rock ’n’ roll, filled with guitars, B3 organ, harmonies, etc. The album title sounds like I’m nodding to Springsteen, and that’s because I absolutely am.
C&I: Do you have a favorite song or track you’re most proud of?
Leahey: I can’t pick favorites yet. The single, “Start the Dance,” really sums up what we’re doing here, so I’m glad to be leading off with that one.
C&I: You have a remarkable and powerful story about battling a life-threatening brain tumor. How did that affect your music?
Leahey: During the three-month period between my diagnosis and my operation, I fell in love with music all over again. Not only music but sound. The tumor was on my hearing nerve, and there was a 50-50 chance I’d lose most of my hearing as a result. With that news hanging over me, I learned — at the 11th hour — to really appreciate how amazing music can sound.
I remember the first tour I launched after my surgery. It felt like such a relief, just to be able to hit the stage again and play these songs. I know a few people who’ve had the same operation I had, and some of them weren’t as lucky as me. Some of them haven’t fully recovered. So I feel like I’m almost obligated to make the most of my luck, and to make sure I’m writing songs that, one, are worthy of being heard, and, two, actually get heard.
C&I: Who are some of the singers and songwriters that have inspired your creative development and made you want to become an artist?
Leahey: Tom Petty. Mike Campbell. Roger Clyne. Bruce Springsteen. Ryan Adams. Jason Isbell. I think it’s really compelling when a frontman can play lead guitar, so those two final guys have become very influential recently. That said, Petty has always been the biggest influence.
C&I: Are there any songs that didn’t make it on the LP that we can expect later on down the road?
Leahey: There are always more songs brewing. I just played a brand-new one at the Bluebird Cafe last weekend.
C&I: What can we expect in terms of touring?
Leahey: A lot of it. I’m not sure where rock ’n’ roll’s audience lives these days, so I’m gonna find it. I assume it’s on the road! And I’m happy to join it there.
C&I: What’s something that fans might now know about you?
Leahey: I was raised singing classical music, which isn’t very rock ’n’ roll ... but I did sing with the mixed choir at Juilliard for two years. We performed at Carnegie Hall once. Which is very rock ’n’ roll.
Listen to Andrew Leahey & the Homestead’s new song “Start the Dance” below.
For more information on Andrew Leahey & the Homestead, their upcoming tour dates, and their new LP, visit the website.