Andrew Leahey has always been a multi-tasker. It’s not necessarily a learned skill, but rather a habit he picked up early on. He gleaned his love for music after sharing travel time with his mother, a music teacher, classical singer and Mary Kay Cosmetics saleswoman, who took him and his brother on business calls while keeping the car radio on to appease his impatient passengers.
Later he practiced his skills in a series of high school bands, but once he reached his early twenties he was recruited by the Juilliard Choral Union, an outgrowth of the Juilliard School of Music. Eventually, he would again diversify his efforts while moving to another side of the artistic divide, becoming an English student at the University of Virginia and eventually a budding writer and music critic. The experience allowed him to refine his analytical skills and exercise his ambitions at the same time.
These days, Leahey continues to multi-task, maintaining his role as frontman of his band The Homestead, while also serving as lead guitarist for Elizabeth Cook’s backing band. Nevertheless, these dual responsibilities did not deter Leahey from succeeding on his own. His last album, American static flight. 1, won a host of accolades from critics, including a nod to that particular publication’s album of the year. A set of tough and tenacious songs inspired by a sensibility of the heart, it spawned a sequel in the recent American static flight. 2an album that relays songs shot from a resolutely personal point of view.
Leahey says that while his experience with the Juilliard Choir gave him the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall and Rockefeller Center, it was the lure of rock and roll that really drew him.
“I found myself climbing the classical music ladder,” Leahey recalled. “And yet I was at the point where I realized that if it’s the view from above, it’s not necessarily what I want. I wanted the flexibility of playing in a band. With classical music, you interpret what’s on the written page, and you interpret it exactly the same way every time. That’s what makes a good performance. After a few years, I realized it wasn’t really where I wanted to be. So I left classical music behind and went back to rock and roll.
This devotion to his muse also inspired him to pick up his pen and share other observations as well.
“I think part of the reason I pursued music journalism was that I wanted to be in this world,” he recalls. “I felt a bit silly that I could exist in this world as a performer. So I pursued the next path, which was to write about it. I thought I might try to be a cheerleader for the good music that existed in the world.
Unfortunately, Leahey’s life took an unexpected turn when doctors discovered he had a brain tumor that could have killed him. Fortunately, the operation was successful, and as a result of this he gained a new outlook on life. Indeed, it helped him realize the need to accomplish everything one can here and now. After all, there is no assurance of what tomorrow may bring, if anything.
“It gave me this attitude that we have to come in and record any given song like right now,” suggests Leahey. “Tomorrow we might be told that we have a life-threatening disease. And so it made me more motivated, which can be invaluable. But I also have to watch to make sure it doesn’t make me manic, which isn’t as valuable. Ultimately, I have to look at the silver linings and the lessons I learned as a result of this whole experience. I have to allow these things to seep into my life and make my life better, because if I don’t, it’s just a bad thing that happened. I try to focus on the right lessons, use your time wisely, and enjoy everything – enjoy the gigs, enjoy every time I play a show.
It’s a prospect Leahey knows all too well. Before the pandemic, it was common for Leahey & The Homestead to play 175 gigs a year.
Nonetheless, Leahey doesn’t take his success lightly, instead seeing it from a somewhat starry point of view. “It’s almost like I’m coming out of myself and saying, ‘Look what it is. You booked a show and you really got people to come hear you. That in itself is amazing. But I only look him in the eye like that for a minute, because then it gets overwhelming. At that point, I have to go back into performance mode. I’d say I’m learning to enjoy the moment a bit more, which is good because these are good times.
Photos by Chad Cochran.