This is my first interview with a musician and it’s pretty much a dream come true. Nothing makes me happier than getting inside their brains…trying to understand how they work, why they work, where the magical tunes they create come from AND getting a peak into their daily lives! Musicians are humans, too. Who would have thought?! I have some other really exciting interviews in the works (which I can hardly wait to share with all of you!) but this is the first reach its completeness so that I can share it in its entirety with you. I hope you all appreciate how exciting this is for me. Thank you Connor for your time and music. Cheers to you and all of those who love having “music for lunch” and cheers to the others I’ve touched base with. I can’t wait to share your stories with everyone else! Anyway….here goes:
Connor Leimer, a wildly talented, life-loving, open, music-making human from Kansas City, MO willingly (more than willingly, he volunteered with enthusiasm) let me send him a few rudimentary questions I had about his music and his musical experiences.
The interview is below with my questions/comments in bold and Mr. Leimer’s answers in italics.
According to the bio on your website, you were a junior in high school February of 2014. That leads me to believe you’re currently a senior in high school this year. Is that true?
Yes this is my senior year of High School. I’m the class of 2015 from Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park, KS
If so (feel free to ignore this question because when I was a senior in high school, I dreaded this question), what do your post-graduation summer and following years have in store for you? At least what do you have planned.
After graduation I am planning on going to college in Nashville. There’s an awesome amount of talented musicians going to this school called Belmont University so I may end up there. This summer I will also release my first ever full-length album which is exciting because I’ve only done two 5 song EP’s so far. I’m working with an up and coming producer named Max Griffith who is transforming my songs and helping each song reach its full potential. This will be the first record that I’ve taken my time in producing and recording to make sure it’s the best it can be. We just released “6 Days Ago” on January 1st, 2015 at Midnight to commemorate the New Year and it’s gotten an amazing response. I’m hoping to make this record my best work yet.
I saw you were part of the Folk Alliance International Conference about a year ago AND that you were one of the youngest participants. The FAI Conference is a one of the largest folk gatherings in the world! I’d love to hear about how you were able to get involved in this conference and two (I’m sure it’s difficult to limit the highlights to two!) highlights from that experience.
Folk Alliance was an amazing experience for me not just because it was in my hometown of Kansas City but also because I had the opportunity to perform on two stages rather than just one. The first was with a local label called “Money Wolf Music” of which I had submitted a few songs into their “Young Songwriters Contest” and somehow came out victorious by winning the contest (I think I submitted my songs “doorbell” and “driving”). The reward for winning was a spot on their Folk Alliance Stage- which was actually a stripped down, acoustic performance in a hotel room so it was a very unique experience- unlike anything I’d ever done. Everyone who had a pass to the rooms upstairs rode the elevators from floor to floor wandering from room to room (it took place in The Westin Hotel). Playing in a hotel room before a live audience was super intimate. Like the most intimate show I’ve ever played probably. Almost like a living room set- dimmed lights, candles, people sitting shoulder to shoulder on beds as if they were on a sofa, very casual, and homey. The shows upstairs in the hotel rooms were my favorite. I also played the KC Radio Live stage in one of the conference rooms on the main floor that had a PA and sound system. So I had a taste of both.
The highlight for me was the hotel room shows and seeing the Kansas City community and music scene come together for a weekend of music- I’m a huge fan of some of the local bands here.
What was the very first song you wrote (that’s present on one of your two EPs)?
The first song that was good enough to put on an EP was “The Wanderer” which is the second song on “Like it’s June EP (2013)”. I actually recorded it in my friend’s basement in the dead of winter- 2012 I think… so sophomore year of High School. I played all the instruments on the track and my friend Ben Kaster who recorded it sang some backup harmonies. It’s still one of my favorites to this day.
If you were to align this “first song” with one of your most recent songs (whether it be your newest single, “6 Days Ago”, or something from ‘Coast to Sea’), what kinds of differences in sound, texture, mood would you notice? I suppose I’m wondering if looking back on your music, you can see some stark evolution in your sound! I apologize; I’ve been reading a plethora of journal articles about proteins, viruses, evolution etc for school so I feel like I’m putting music in a “science” box right now! Ha!
Haha science rocks! My sister is a bio major so I hear ya…
There has definitely been an evolution to my sound. I make a point of it to write in various genres- like with “Coast To Sea” I wanted to make a folk record, something circa 1960’s. Almost emulating Dylan or Neil Young. So it was a record heavily influenced by that early songwriter stage I felt I was in and the modesty of folk music. (Other influences were John Mayer’s “Born & Raised”, the whole Mumford & Son craze, The Head & the Heart- & all that new age acoustic folk music that came out for a while)
I think the biggest difference between old songs and new songs is the recording process – now everything I do is in a professional studio, it’s mixed to our liking and then mastered to be highest quality. Good production goes a long way.
It’s quite obvious from the long list of band members that you work with a large group of people to create your sound. I’m extremely fascinated with the music-writing process (as I can’t really read music…or write it). How do you take so many people with so many talents, including yourself, and come up with something so cohesive and easy on the ears, like “Thinking About You”, for example? That little guitar riff twirled through my head all night last night! That is so amazing to hear! So glad you like that hook! Fantastic.
I like to write in all different styles/genres- without boundaries. For instance, sometimes the songs call for a banjo part like in “Thinking About You” and other times the songs call for a blasting horn section like in “6 Days Ago”. I simply try to find good players who can bring that instrumentation into the studio and contribute to the feel of the song. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be friends with most of these musicians so it’s always a good time and never like this weird scenario where you’re in a studio and you don’t know the musicians in the booth playing your songs. It’s been awesome to include all sorts of my friends in the recording process and to give them opportunities to contribute to an original work. It’s also a product of living in a place like Kansas City, which has a robust music scene, great talent, and tons of players to collaborate with.
Middle of the Map Fest: What a line up! Not only are there some truly fantastic musicians on there, it’s incredibly diverse and congratulations on being part of it! What are you anticipating the most in this festival?
I’m really looking forward to getting out there and meeting a bunch of the bands and watching their sets. I’m really just a huge fan of music before anything else, so it should be a great time to connect with all sorts of musicians from around the country and discover some great new music. I’ll be playing in a quaint little record store called Mills Record Company so I’m hoping to fill the place up and play some tunes that people can hum along to. Some of my favorites on the lineup are Iron & Wine, She’s A Keeper, Gracie Schram & Hembree.
Clearly music has been part of your life for a long time. Tell me about your first experiences with music and when you fell for it. Are your first memories of playing or listening to music? Feel free to be as vague or specific as you please!
Initially I was a drummer and I did that for quite a while actually, say about 7 years or so (ages 7-14). Then I started listening to this indie band from the East Coast called “Dispatch” and all I wanted to do was play guitar and write songs. So as the story typically goes, I picked up my dad’s old 1970’s Guild acoustic and started writing. By my freshmen year of high school I’d say I had about ten original songs that I had recorded on my iphone 4 and released online with the title “The Telephone Takes”. They have thus since been removed from the Internet to save my dignity, pride and reputation (haha).
Okay, I’m winding down here, I promise! Can you give me a synopsis of your inspirations (past, present or both) and influences? It’d be cool if you could create a short 5 to 10 song playlist on Soundcloud or by some other means or simply giving a list is fine as well! I’m always curious about what’s bouncing between the ears of music-makers, like yourself, I enjoy.
Here’s some links of bands I listen to! Hope you dig!
I created a small playlist of his favorites. Here it is (I didn’t alter it in any way):
Alright, Connor! I think that’s all for now. If there is anything you want to add or talk about that I didn’t touch on OR anything you don’t want me to include, just let me know! This is very casual and I just want to learn more about you and your music so I can share with whoever out there is perusing musicforlunch.
Thank you again for your time! I can’t wait to see (hear!) what you have to say!
We have a new song called “A Girl Named June” coming out on Valentines Day 2015 (this Saturday) so be on the look out for that. Much more to come in 2015! Can’t thank you enough for your time on this interview. Best of luck to the blog! I will be sharing it. xoxo -connor
OK, everyone! You heard him: keep an ear out for his new single coming out this Valentine’s Day. Yep, that’s right: February 14th, tune in.
For more of Mr. Leimer’s music, go here: A – F I have links to his Soundcloud, Facebook, and Website under the letter “C” for Connor Leimer of course!