Dylan LeBlanc has always been in the right place at the right time—and that right place, apparently, is Muscle Shoals, Ala. Given the fact that he grew up alongside the mixing boards and microphones of Fame Studios, where Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Al Green laid their talents to tape before him, it’s no shocker that LeBlanc’s Cast The Same Old Shadow is a soulful rumination on American Gothic and a worthy addition to a regional soundscape most recently made famous by the Civil Wars and Alabama Shakes.
After Shadow’s release this week, LeBlanc will be heading out on his fall tour, playing a handful of dates with First Aid Kit and beginning and ending it in Nashville, where he currently spends a hefty portion of his time. Despite the hours he’s clocked on the stages there and elsewhere the road, it’s clear that LeBlanc is ready to move beyond Muscle Shoals without leaving his musical hometown behind.
You’ve credited dreams you’ve had and George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass as influences on Cast The Same Old Shadow. What else were you listening to while you were writing the record?
LeBlanc: I definitely listen to and get inspired by new music. I just bought this album by Patrick Watson, you ever heard of him? He’s really, really good. Adventures In Your Own Backyard is great. I was also listening to Italian film composers, like [Ennio] Morricone. He’s probably one of my favorites. I love his film music.
How would you define a great record?
LeBlanc: I mean, I’m weird—if every song has a different kind of feel, and if the record has a bunch of good songs on it, I’ll buy it. Beggars Banquet is a really good record. I listen to a lot of music that puts me in a certain place—John Marshall, Allison Duke, The Kinks …
Are you a tough critic?
LeBlanc: I have high standards for myself, because living where I live, there are so many good musicians. You don’t want to come out half with it; you want to really keep the standard up, especially for Muscle Shoals. I try not to think about it too much. I try to write a record that I like, something I’d like to hear.
Compared with your local contemporaries—Alabama Shakes, The Civil Wars—your music is so different when it comes to style and delivery. How has Muscle Shoals influenced your music? Can you hear Muscle Shoals in the music your friends make?
LeBlanc: Muscle Shoals is defined by the musicians and the fact that there’s nothing else to do here but make music. We have a bowling alley, and a Pizza Hut, and that’s about it. This town is full of art. There are really good writers here, people who write great stories—it’s kind of like an eccentric southern town. Since there’s nothing to do, people make things to do: we hang out and listen to records and drink beer, you know? We all hang out together and all the artists band together to help each other out.
You had the opportunity to get familiar with the studio long before a lot of kids know what a studio is. Has this upbringing and the role of the recording industry in your life influenced the way you write?
LeBlanc: Yeah, yeah—a lot of soul music was made [at Fame Studios]. All the local bands played a lot of soul covers. I grew up listening to a ton of soul music. A ton. Al Green, artists like that. I think that everyone has to figure out [the studio] for themselves. I didn’t just wake up one day and say, “I can record this!” I started recording stuff around the age of 15, and Ben Tanner, he plays with Alabama Shakes now, he was working at the studio then and he would work with me, after hours, and we’d record my demos and stuff. He was really nice about it. He’d buy me cigarettes and get me drunk (laughs) … I remember the first time I recorded in the studio, I played it back, and I was like, “This is terrible.” And I thought to myself, “Oh, next time I have to get to work on this, it’s not gonna happen overnight.” You figure out that playing live and recording in the studio are completely different processes.
Dylan LeBlanc Fall Tour Dates
14 – Nashville, Tenn. @ Mercy Lounge
?25 – Ann Arbor, Mich. @ The Blind Pig*?
26 – Toronto, Ontario @ Danforth Music Hall*?
28 – Boston, Mass. @ Royale*?
29 – New York, N.Y. @ Irving Plaza*
?30 – Brooklyn, N.Y. @ Music Hall of Williamsburg*
2 – Washington, D.C. @ Sixth & I Historic Synagogue*
3 – Asheville, N.C. @ Orange Peel*?
4 – Atlanta, Ga. @ Buckhead Theatre*?
5 – Nashville, Tenn. @ 3rd & Lindsay*?
6 – St Louis, Mo. @ Firebird*?
8 – Omaha, Neb. @ Waiting Room*?
9 – Lawrence, Kan. @ The Granada Theater*?
13 – Dallas, Texas @ The Kessler Theater*
16 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ The Fonda Theatre*?
17 – San Francisco, Calif. @ The Fillmore Auditorium*?
19 – Portland, Ore. @ Roseland Theater*?
24 – Nashville, Tenn. @ Loveless Barn
*-with First Aid Kit