For Leah Blevins, songwriting is no mere hobby or pastime—it’s a natural extension of how she lives, a fact that becomes obvious when you listen to the 31-year-old Nashvillian’s debut record, First Time Feeling.
Out August 6 via Thirty Tigers, the album is a heartfelt compilation of memories, themes, and episodes from throughout Blevins’ life, wrapped up in a blanket of irresistible alt-country. With a nimble, gorgeous voice, she delivers soaring melodies over well-crafted arrangements, almost akin to Dolly Parton reborn. And like a lot of great country music, Blevins’ approach to her artistry all comes back to the simple fact that songwriting is a way of life for her. For years, she’s been turning her experiences into songs, waiting for the right moment to string them all together into a proper debut.
“It’s kinda all over the place so far as when all of the songs were first put onto paper,” she tells American Songwriter. “For example, I first wrote ‘First Time Feeling’ back when I was fresh onto the Music Row scene, just writing a lot within that world. So, that one’s pretty old, but it found a way to come back around full circle, as most things often do. The production aspect of things has finally been able to align with the songs themselves. Now, it’s a record, in my opinion.”
In that sense, the songs lining First Time Feeling come together to paint a comprehensive picture of modern life. Tunes like the aforementioned title track hit the perfect balance of catchy, candid, and blissfully produced all at the same time. Seriously—listen to the way Blevins’ vocals get a bit dirty when she hits belts those high notes into the microphone… it captures all the nostalgia and warmth of 20th century-inspired lo-fi recording without diluting from her honest point-of-view as a writer. And logistically, writing all these songs over the years has been an entirely holistic process, albeit spontaneous at times—perhaps that’s the sign of a writer who’s in touch with their own creativity.
“I don’t have a set format for how I like to write songs, but sometimes you get something stirring inside of you to where it’s like ‘Wait, I need to do this right now,’” she explained. “It really comes about just when something’s impactful or inspires me, more so than any system. I know how things like that work, but I choose to turn a blind eye to them. I just don’t think I’m a consistent enough human being to be able to hone in on any other method.”
To this end, her process of utilizing her creative intuition when inspiration strikes have actually merited some pretty profound results. Writing about the real moments from her life that shaped who she is, she bares her soul throughout First Time Feel. Folks talk about the therapeutic quality of music, especially country music—Blevins’ tunes embody the strongest aspects of that.
“I feel as though we, as human beings, carry a lot of guilt,” she said. “Guilt or shame from things that we’ve done or decisions we’ve made. But instead, we could take it as a lesson, putting it out there for others to feel, so they can be equally vulnerable with their guilt and shame. I’m not trying to be a beacon of light for people or change anything, it’s more or less just me coming to terms with my own life, just being unapologetic about it, you know?”
Now, after years of writing and paying her dues with solo acoustic shows across the country, Blevins can feel the excitement of her debut coming into focus. With a string of tour dates lined up, she’s ready to take on whatever lies ahead… with some wiggle room for unexpected developments, of course (a hard-earned headspace that many artists have stepped into after the COVID pandemic).
“Gosh, I’m hoping that there’s happiness in the future,” she said. “We’ve all been through something together, which is the part that’s so mind-boggling. So, I’m just holding onto hope and faith that there’s goodness in all of this, we just have to dig a little deeper to find it and share it with others. And with live music coming back… that just gives me all the happiness that I could exude. It’s what I know best and it’s an ultimate feeling.”
Concluding, Blevins made note of the complex emotion that comes along with releasing such genuine expressions into the world. Almost as a testament to the devotion she has for pursuing her craft in earnest, she revealed how deeply she cares for them.
“As far as the record goes, it just feels like I’m their parent and I’m sending them off,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t want to let my kid get on the bus, I want to keep them at home with me!’ But I know that they have to go. So, that’s my metaphor. I’m excited but a little nervous, all in the best way.”
Leah Blevins’ debut LP First Time Feeling is out now—watch the music video for the title track below: