Alabama singer-songwriter has roots in Louisiana
Dylan LeBlanc, a rising singer-songwriter from Alabama who specializes in exquisite melancholy, has roots in Louisiana. He’s a Shreveport native whose grandfather came from Cajun country.
At 24, the Muscle Shoals-based LeBlanc has released two well-received albums, 2010’s “Paupers Field” and 2012’s “Cast the Same Old Shadow.” Trina Shoemaker, a three-time Grammy winner and former New Orleans resident, mixed and engineered LeBlanc’s debut and produced his follow-up album. LeBlanc and Shoemaker recorded half of “Cast the Same Old Shadow” at FAME Recording Studios, the legendary Muscle Shoals space where Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Otis Redding, Clarence Carter and many more recorded soul and R&B classics. Production for “Shadow” continued at the Music Shed in New Orleans.
Shoemaker, a resident of Fairhope, Ala., suggested the move to the Music Shed.
“I said, ‘Great. That gives me an excuse to go to New Orleans and hang out for a week,” LeBlanc said from Muscle Shoals. “And I wanted Trina to go to a space where she was comfortable.”
LeBlanc has lived in Alabama since he was a child, but he feels a special connection to New Orleans. He’s always glad to return, as he’s doing for his Friday show at Mud and Water in Baton Rouge and Saturday appearance at the Circle Bar in New Orleans.
“I’m sure a lot of people say this, but I really feel like, in another life, I must have lived there,” he said. “Every time I go there, I feel at home. I love the place, and I love the people there.
“People who can’t fit in anywhere else, those people live there in New Orleans. I don’t think they could be who they are unless they were in New Orleans.”
Still, Muscle Shoals and Shreveport are the places that most shaped LeBlanc’s musical persona. As a child he often accompanied his grandmother, a blues fan, to Shreveport music venues. His guitar-playing dad was his hero.
LeBlanc was playing guitar himself at 7, but he didn’t take the instrument seriously until he was 10. A year later he was living with his professional songwriter dad, James LeBlanc, in Muscle Shoals. The elder LeBlanc signed a publishing deal with Rick Hall, founder of FAME studios. His songs have been recorded by such major country music acts as Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Jason Aldean and Travis Tritt.
Dylan LeBlanc came of age in the rich Muscle Shoals music scene.
“I got a good education in music here,” he said. “Just watching and learning from the people here and playing with a lot of older folks. Music is constantly happening here. Somebody’s always writing something, a band is playing, just always something cool.”
The cool things in LeBlanc’s future include the making of his third album with John Paul White, one half of the immensely successful but currently estranged duo, the Civil Wars, as his producer. LeBlanc has known White, one of his dad’s friends, since he was a boy.
“We’ve hung out,” he said. “I just asked him if he would do it.”
As enriching as Muscle Shoals has been for LeBlanc, he sees Alabama as an overly conservative place, especially next to the good-times state of Louisiana.
“There’s an authenticity in Louisiana that I really love, in the way people come together,” he said. “In Alabama, people watch themselves. They won’t cut look loose, even though they really want to.”