Brennen Leigh

Agent: Lori Peters

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“Brennen Leigh plays guitar like a motherfucker.” – Guy Clark

Brennen Leigh is an American songwriter, guitar player, mandolin player and singer whose to-the-point storytelling style has elevated her to cult icon status in Europe, Scandinavia, across the United States, South America and the United Kingdom. Her songs have been recorded by Lee Ann Womack, Rodney Crowell, Sunny Sweeney, Charley Crockett, and many others. As renowned for her musicianship as for her writing, it’s easy to see how Leigh caught the ear of greats like Guy Clark, who colorfully endorsed her flatpicking: “Brennen Leigh plays guitar like a motherfucker,” and David Olney, who described her writing as “tender, violent, sentimental, foolish and wise, she is always Brennen. Confident and at ease with herself, without being a jerk about it.”

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“I’ve been obsessed with western swing music since I was a kid and it’s always been an influence. My records in the past have ranged from bluegrass to country music to folk, butI’d never fully explored swing until now.” So says genre-busting Fargo-born, Austin- incubated, Nashville resident Brennen Leigh, whose new collaboration with the kings ofmodern-day western swing, Asleep at the Wheel, Obsessed with the West (Signature Sounds) is a showcase not just for The Wheel or Bob Wills fans, but for anyone who’s ever curled up with Lefty Frizzell, Billie Holiday, Willie Nelson or even Louis Armstrong.

Leigh’s graceful, refined voice and instrumental fluency, her interplay with Ray Benson, and the perennial brilliance of The Wheel serve up a treat on this, Leigh’s seventh album,
showcasing twelve self penned songs. With cameos from Emily Gimble and Katie Shore (all the players get their moments in the sun), Leigh demonstrates her wit and vitality on the terrific jump 40’s rhythm and blues, “Comin’ in Hot,” and the lonesome cowboy ballad
“Riding Off Onto Sunset Boulevard.” It’s no question why Rodney Crowell, Charley Crockettand Lee Ann Womack have recorded her songs. Obsessed with the West is a celebration of music for music’s sake in 2022, not just an exercise in anthropology.

“When I moved to Nashville from Texas,” she explains, “for some reason it triggered another western swing phase in my life. I was out of Texas, but something about the swing was still grabbing me; I was listening to a lot of Bob Wills, and of course The Wheel. I had first been exposed to Western swing through my parents’ Asleep At The Wheel records while I was growing up.”

Born in North Dakota and raised in Minnesota, Leigh began touring at 14, while cultivating her classic country informed songwriting. At 19, she moved to live music mecca Austin, Texas where she rubbed shoulders with and eventually inspired the esteem of Ray Benson. “I knew the band peripherally, and we’d talked about making a record years before, but I had just signed a publishing deal in Nashville and was about to move away from Texas. So for that reason our stars didn’t align until more recently.”

“I wrote thirty western swing songs in the beginning of 2021, alone and with different writer friends,” she continues, “and we culled it down to twelve. Many of the songs have a 1940s Cindy Walker type vibe — she was at the forefront of my mind for this entire process, something of a spirit guide for me — but there’s definitely a jazz influence, country, and a couple of songs that I would call cowboy or folk tunes.”

“This is my love note to western swing; to the rich culture it comes from, as I see it,” she
adds, “I listen to and have been influenced by a lot of dead people, but our genre is
important, and I think it deserves new life and new songs. The old stuff is where I come
from, my songs turn out to be a melding of the old styles, whether I like it or not. You put
cinnamon in something it’s going to taste like a snickerdoodle. I don’t know how not to put it in there.”

No need to worry about that either. Western swing is a fine genre year after year, you can’t
beat Asleep at the Wheel, and Brennen Leigh is every bit their peer. Obsessed with the West is a treat for the ears and the heart, a damn fine snickerdoodle of great songs, top-
flight instrumentalists, and the vibrant, still evolving artistry of Brennen Leigh.

Leigh’s wise-beyond-her-years perspective comes from her hard time on the road, and her accolades prove it: she is two-time Texas Music Awards Best Female Vocalist, 2018 Ameripolitan Music Honky Tonk Award winner, appeared as a finalist on USA Network’s Nashville Star television show in 2003, and most notably, was champion of the 1993 Vergas Loon Calling Contest as a child in her home state of Minnesota. On the 2008 critically acclaimed duet album Holdin’ Our Own, Leigh sang duets penned with country rockabilly giant Jesse Dayton, hailed by American Songwriter as “A combo of clever, contemporary country-wise originals.” In 2013, Leigh released the Gurf Morlix produced album Before The World Was Made, with her frequent songwriting and touring partner Noel McKay, which CMA Close Up called “Hilarious, sentimental and profound, usually all at the same time.” Leigh is a member of the band Antique Persuasion, a bluegrass side project whose 2015 album Don’t Forget Me Little Darling, Remembering the Carter Family, remains a modern day bluegrass radio standard. The same year, Leigh released a tribute to country legend Lefty Frizzell (“Brennen sings these songs with such exquisite love and passion…this album makes a brilliant vessel for her voice.” -Saving Country Music). She has been featured as an instrumentalist and singer on a myriad of releases by artists such as Jim Lauderdale, Rodney Crowell and James Hand.

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