Leland Jacobs is an Atlanta-based singer-songwriter emerging on the independent/alternative scene. After spending the last few years working on a variety of different projects with different line-ups, Jacobs decided to pursue music as a solo venture. His first release “Soul” is a three song EP that combines 90’s alternative sensibilities with a more modern bent, although subsequent releases will span a variety of genres.
Sounds Like: Foo Fighters, Ryan Adams, Kings Of Leon, Sunny Day Real Estate, Third Eye Blind
Leland is a man of many talents and a strong passion for music. After being in various bands and projects that all seemed to fall apart due to lack of commitment with the other parties involved, Leland yearned for something concrete so he took matters into his own hands. Grasping the reigns, Leland buckled down and was dedicated to see this project through to fruition. The result is the Soul, a 3 track EP released earlier this year.
The songs have such a smooth quality that’s accessible to any type of listener. They’re rich with sharp melodies and just the right amount of complexity to keep your ear from start to finish. Soul is a great debut from this rock prodigy and definitely puts Leland Jacobs on the radar of key players that are changing the landscape of rock music.
I got a chance to interview Leland and talk to him about his musical past and his new EP Soul. Lets learn a little bit more about him.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up? How does that differ from what you listen to now?
I was born and raised on Gospel and Country music. I came from a pretty traditional Southern Baptist background, so I knew the hymnal like the back of my hand. Oddly enough, my parents’ divorce was essentially the catalyst for exploring all kinds of new music. Whenever I was introduced to one of my parents’ new love interests, I was being exposed their music collection as well. I remember early on it was Queen, Genesis, George Michael, Michael Jackson – a lot of fantastic classic stuff. From there it was really my older brother and friends at school who turned me on to 90’s alternative: Third Eye Blind, The Verve Pipe, Live, Oasis, Nine Inch Nails…pretty much the soundtrack for that decade. That is and always has been my favorite era in modern music.
My current listening really is a mash-up of what has really caught my attention over the last 10 years or so. I think there was a solid 2 years where I listened to nothing but Ryan Adams. No one could even touch his catalog in my mind at that time. Same thing in shorter stints with Muse, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Mew, Jeff Buckley, Ours – I could go on. I really just find something that catches me and I won’t stop listening for weeks.
Early Days: What were some of the first cover songs you even played/recorded?
The first covers I ever played were with a neighborhood friend. We wore out Oasis’ “What’s the Story (Morning Glory)?” on repeat just trying to hash out the chords. I remember being so proud the first time I played Wonderwall start to finish with no huge mess-ups. That’s when I realized that you could play most of that record with the same few chords. I guess I’ve been working off that model ever since.
Where did your passion from music stem from when you were younger? What’s your first musical memory?
I come from a musical background. My mom used to make her living as a professional singer/storyteller. We were always forced to be in the church choir, mostly because my mom would be directing. Music has been a part of my life since the first day I can remember. I think more as a teenager music began to be the outlet for my frustrations and emotions about things I was processing that were going on in my life, and that’s just naturally stayed with me. I would have to say my first musical memory is from a piano recital I was playing in around 4 or 5 years old. I remember practicing for hours only to freeze up during the performance. I ran out of the performance hall in tears. It was highly embarrassing.
Your bio says you’ve spent the last few years in different projects and different people. What kinds of things were you working on? Why did you decide to go solo as opposed to continuing with one of those projects? How did that experience shape the songs on the Soul EP?
I started taking music seriously in college. That’s where I met one of my best friends that essentially became my musical partner for a period of about 6 years. There were different configurations of groups we put together that sort of morphed with whatever writing style we were keen to at the time (Marcellus, The New Citizens). Things just sort of fizzled with those projects, and once we parted ways, it took a year or so before I really had the confidence to think about how to begin a project on my own. It felt like such foreign territory that I wasn’t sure where to start. I decided to keep it a solo venture because I looked at all the projects around me that had difficulty with commitment from one band member or another. It seemed like that structure really allowed one or two less ambitious members of the group to hold the others hostage. With the solo venture, I really just have to get someone pumped enough about an idea to follow through with a project. Whether that is one show or recording a whole record, it gives a finish line for someone to look forward to, not to mention there is no expectation on either end that they are bound to stay with the project as their top priority.
Soul was the first incarnation of my decision to move forward with Leland Jacobs solo material. At first I had eleven songs laid out to be done for a full-length. Once I realized that coordinating all the different players was going to be a challenge, I decided to cut the record into a three song EP.
What’s the story behind the song ‘Soul’?
I actually wrote the first part of ‘Soul’ after I came home let down from a pretty disappointing encounter with a girl I was seeing. I knew that there was something more behind what was bothering me. The more I thought about it that night, the more I realized that I was trying to mimic the lives of the people around me in order to achieve what I perceived as happiness. ‘Soul’ for me voiced a renewed perspective on what was truly important to focus on in my life.
How many more songs do you have completed?
Aside from the remaining 8 songs from the Soul project, I probably have another 50-60 songs completed. I am constantly writing and I have too many snippets and ideas for songs to count. Most of my songs actually fall closer to singer-songwriter than rock or alternative. I try not to set out to write a specific type of song unless I am working with someone who is asking for something specific.
Do you have plans for a tour? Do you have a live-show line up?
The more I try to plan out putting a live band or tour, the more driven I am back to writing and creating. I have met some people who are born to perform – born for the live show. I have just never felt that way about it. I usually get the urge to play live when I see friends play out or see someone play that I really admire. But when I think about the time and energy it takes to really make that a top notch show and build a fan base to come out to see you at 10:00pm on a Tuesday night…I would rather be writing and recording the next song/album/project. I could see playing out live consistently if the right situation presented itself, like joining up with an existing band or something to collaborate, but I don’t think playing live is in the near future.
Which musicians do you admire or draw inspiration from? Why?
I would say Ryan Adams and Jeff Buckley. Ryan: because of how prolific he has been and continues to be. And it’s not like he cranked out multiple albums of the same stuff over and over. He has put out punk/alternative/singer-songwriter/metal/country songs at will. In terms of a songwriting role model, it’s hard to find a modern equivalent in my opinion. Jeff: I guess in part because of how tragic a loss it was, his music has always held something special to me. You could hear in his music that he had such a unique voice, but even more so that he knew how to use it in perfect union with his writing. He wasn’t just putting on a technical showcase. I don’t think there are many artists out there who could intertwine their persona with a song like him.
What is/was your current/previous day job?
I work in patient care for one of the major hospitals in Atlanta, GA. Unlike a good number of musicians I know, I enjoy my day job. I would love to be focused on making music for a living, but I feel blessed to be able to support music with something I enjoy.
Favorite things to do NOT musically related:
I like spending time outdoors: hiking, going to the pool, golfing. I’ve always been big into sports. I’ve always loved a good book. I’m trying to read my way through the collection of Philip K. Dick at the moment. I love his work. I’m trying my hand at cooking lately as well.
If you could trade places with another musician for one month who would you choose and why?
Hmmm…that’s a tough one. Assuming I would acquire their talent as well, I would say Dave Grohl. It would be great to tour playing their catalogue, not to mention be able to play a number of instruments well (I’ve always wanted to be able to wail away on the drums – doesn’t everyone?).
Desert island top 5 albums:
1. Ryan Adams – “Love is Hell”
2. Mew – “And the Glass Handed Kites”
3. Father John Misty – “Fear Fun”
4. Jeff Buckley – “Grace”
5. The Autumns – Self-titled
Shout out! What are some other independent bands people should be paying attention to:
I personally know the guys from The Levee and Evan Andree. Both are local Atlanta acts I think are worth following. I think Jungol might be one of my favorite bands period, indie or not. I also got the pleasure of listening to Manray live for the first time last year. I went on iTunes mid-set and bought the record. The whole thing is just intense, skull.
Thanks a lot Leland!! We look forwarding to hearing more from you in the future!