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Leah Turner has a ready laugh that conveys all the joy and adventure she finds in life, and a voice with the power and grit to personify its ups and downs. The combination makes her one of country's most compelling new artists, someone with the talent and personality to own any stage--or studio--she walks onto. It's earned her a spot on Brad Paisley's 2014 tour and made her first single, her co-penned track "Take the Keys," a Top 40-and-climbing hit at country radio.
Written by Leah with Cary Barlowe and Jesse Frasure, “Take the Keys” is a song about escaping a relationship rut that is as joyous as the open road and great music it celebrates, but it could well be about Leah's ability to wring the best from every moment.
“We get caught up in so much stuff that we forget to be in the moment,” she says. “That’s what this song is saying: ‘I know life is getting the best of us right now, but let’s get out of here and just roll down the windows and fall back in love again.’”
It’s everything Leah does well in one place, and it is a testimony to the love of music that brought her from her native California to Nashville--and the leap of faith it took.
“I packed up my truck, drove cross-country with my best girlfriend, and then slept in a room on an air mattress for about 8 months. I was walking dogs, living on almost nothing--I never knew $100 could stretch so far--and not seeing my mom and dad, that’s hard.”
She began upping her commitment to an already strong songwriting talent, playing the city’s writers’ nights, when her stand out vocals, self-penned songs, and unparalleled charisma turned a meeting with Sony Music Nashville into an on-the-spot record deal. Now the rest of the country music universe gets to see what all the fuss is about.
Leah's distinctive voice and fiery personality make her unlike anyone on the current scene, and both are outgrowths of a life journey that could have led nowhere but Nashville. It began on the ranch where she grew up, the daughter of a rodeo champion, in California’s Morongo Valley. She was just three when she began sitting at her grandmother’s piano, trying with her little fingers to make real chords. When she was 5, her family bought her a piano--she still has it--and by 6, she had written her first song.
"You build memories around songs,” she says. “They become the soundtrack to your life. I remember driving with my dad and mom, singing along to Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, George Strait and Chris LeDoux. Country music is known for the way you can actually see the story unfold in front of you, like you're in the song. And that’s the beauty of the Nashville songwriting community--it's all about the song."
Her love of music stayed strong through lessons that balanced life on the ranch and led eventually to a college songwriting class, where her talent won her the attention of Kenny Loggins, who encouraged her to move to Los Angeles. There, she met and worked with music legends Humberto Gatica and David Foster, but the foundation country music built in her heart and soul tugged too strongly for her to remain on the West Coast, and with that, she booked a one-way ticket to Music City. Now, as she puts the finishing touches on her upcoming debut album on Columbia Nashville, Leah continues to hone her craft with a clear vision of what she wants to take to the listening public.
“I’ve been able to write the majority of what we’ve recorded so far,” she says. “What we’re trying to do is to be sassy and fun and be strong and emotional at the same time. And I think we’re covering all of those bases as the songs come up. It’s about showing vulnerability while still showing strength, to lift men up but still let them know, ‘Don’t mess with us!’”
Songs like "You Make Me Brave" do just that.
"'You Make Me Brave' is a track that shows a woman celebrating a strong man," says Leah, "one who can stand behind her and be a real partner with her. Then there's 'Do It Like That,' saying, 'Hey, baby, I love it when you call my name and put your hands on my waist.' That's drawing strength from love. And I never knew a man who didn't want to do those things, so both sexes can embrace that one."
Then there's pure sass, starting with "Bless My Heart."
"People have always said I've got Tabasco running through my veins, and that song really encompasses that side of things. And of course one of my favorites, and one that does really well live, is 'My Finger,' which is basically saying, 'We have rings we can give back, so don't you cheat!"
Sass, strength and the unexpected tenderness found in songs like “Beat-Up Bronco” and the notable ballad “Drunk on Jesus” combine to give country audiences a 360-view of a woman whose talent and drive have brought her worlds away from that ranch in the California desert. Along the way, she has captivated the industry’s best in L.A. and Nashville, and with the rollout of her first chart single, she has begun the inevitable process of captivating country fans everywhere.