Andrew Leahey has always been something of a multitasker. It’s not necessarily an acquired skill, but rather a habit he acquired early on. He gleaned his love for making music after sharing traveling time with his mother, a music teacher, classical singer, and Mary Kay Cosmetics salesperson, who took him and his brother on sales calls while keeping the car radio on to assuage her impatient passengers.
Later, he plied his skills in a series of high school bands, but once he reached his early twenties, he was recruited by the Juilliard Choral Union, an outgrowth of the Juilliard School of Music. Eventually, he would diversify his efforts yet again while crossing over to another side of the artistic divide, becoming an English major at the University of Virginia and eventually a budding music writer and critic. The experience allowed him the opportunity to hew his analytical skills and exercise his ambitions at the same time.
These days, Leahey continues to multi-task, maintaining his role at the helm of his band The Homestead, while also serving as lead guitarist for Elizabeth Cook’s backing band. Nevertheless, these dual responsibilities haven’t deterred Leahey from finding success on his own. His last album, American Static Vol. 1, won a wealth of critical kudos, including an album of the year nod from this particular publication. A tough and tenacious set of songs stirred from a heartland sensibility, it spawned a sequel in the recently-released American Static Vol. 2, an album that relays songs spun from a decidedly personal perspective.
Leahey says that while his experience performing with the Juilliard chorale offered him the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall and Rockefeller Center, it was the lure of rock and roll that truly enticed him.
“I found myself climbing the ladder of classical music,” Leahey recalls. “And yet I was at the point where I realized, that if this is the view from the top, this isn’t necessarily what I want. I craved the flexibility of playing in a band. With classical music, you’re performing what’s on the written page, and you perform it the exact same way every time. That is what makes a good performance. After a couple of years of that, I realized, this is not really where I want to be. So I left classical music behind and went back to rock and roll.”
That dedication to his muse also inspired him to pick up his pen and share other observations as well.
“I think part of the reason why I pursued music journalism was that I wanted to be in that world,” he reflects. “I felt kind of silly about the idea that I could exist in that world as a performer. So I pursued the next avenue, which was to write about it. I figured I could try and be a cheerleader for the good music that existed in the world.”
Unfortunately, Leahey’s life took an unexpected turn when doctors discovered he had a brain tumor that could have killed him. Happily, the surgery was successful, and in its aftermath, he gained a new outlook on life. In effect, it helped him realize the need to accomplish all one can in the here and now. After all, there’s no assurance of what, if anything, tomorrow may bring.
“It’s given me this attitude that we have to go in and record a given song like right now,” Leahey suggests. “Tomorrow, we could be told that we have a life-threatening condition. And so it’s made me more driven, which can be invaluable. But I also have to watch to make sure that it doesn’t make me manic, which isn’t as valuable. Ultimately, I have to look at silver linings and the lessons I learned as a result of that whole experience. I have to allow those things to infiltrate my life, and improve my life, because if I don’t, then it’s simply just a bad thing that happened. I’m trying to focus on the good lessons, about using your time wisely and enjoying everything— enjoying the gigs, enjoying every time that I play a show.”
That’s a perspective that Leahey knows all too well. Prior to the pandemic, it was common for Leahey & The Homestead to play 175 gigs a year.
Nevertheless, Leahey doesn’t take his success in stride, viewing it instead from a somewhat starry-eyed perspective. “It’s almost as if I step outside of myself, and kind of say, ‘Look at what this is. You booked a show, and you really drove people to come to hear you. That in itself is amazing. But I only look at it in the eye like that for a minute, because then it becomes overwhelming. At that point, I have to go back into performance mode. I’d say I’m learning to enjoy the moment a bit more, which is good because these are good moments.”
Photos by Chad Cochran.