Like many musical stylists before her, Danni Leigh’s voice conveys the kind of pain and joy that can only come from real life experience. She has put her heart on the line and has had it broken. She has taken chances and risked it all. And she knows all too well the elation of seeing her musical dream come true and the searing pain of seeing it turn to ruin. Leigh’s journey to realizing her musical dream was never easy but helped mold her into a uniquely mesmerizing artist.
Born in the small town of Strasburg, Virginia, she was reared on Buck Owens, Kitty Wells, and of course, Patsy Cline, who came from the nearby “big city” of Winchester. When Leigh was in her teens she took her first job at a record store exposing her to every form of music under the sun.
Singing came naturally to Leigh, and she hooked up with a variety of country bands, playing up and down the east coast. After a stint in Orlando working with both country and rock bands, she headed to Nashville, taking a waitress job at the legendary Bluebird Café.
In her characteristic rebellious style, Leigh went against the grain when it came to establishing herself as a recording artist. Instead of networking with the musical powers-that-be right away, Leigh took the time to learn the ropes of the business and to gain knowledge of the power structure of the industry.
“Everyone goes to the Bluebird – artists, songwriters, people who head up record labels and publishing companies,” says Leigh. “I really kept my ears open and just shut up and listened while I was working there.”
Then one Bluebird regular by the name of Michael Knox with Warner Chappell Music challenged her to show him her songs. The sort of woman who can’t turn down a dare – especially a career turning one – Leigh unveiled some of her wares and soon found herself with a publishing deal.
Though Leigh’s talent for song craft paid off (she co-wrote “I Want To Feel that Way Again,” a top five single for Tracy Byrd that stuck to the charts for some 28 weeks), she viewed this phase as yet another learning experience. “Songwriting is a very important form of expression for me, no doubt about it,” she explains. “But what drives me, what burns my soul, is performing live.”
She continued honing her sound and her style and signed with Decca Records in 1997. After many years of watching and learning, tears and prayers and good old-fashioned talent and hard work, it appeared that the singer had finally realized her dream. But her joy was short-lived when a corporate merger forced Decca to fold. Needless to say, the label closing came as a crushing disappointment for the singer who had only released one single from her long dreamed of album.
“We cut the album 29 Nights and we got one song out — and then the damn thing closed!” Leigh says, referring to the infamous Universal Records merger that folded labels like a house of cards. “When everything you always wanted in life is yanked out from underneath you, it pretty much sucks!”
Shaking off her setback, Leigh was quickly welcomed to the Monument Records roster. Richard Bennett and Emory Gordy, Jr., the production team behind Steve Earle’s heralded Guitar Town disc, came aboard to produce A Shot Of Whiskey & A Prayer. “Those two men have made some of the best records ever,” Leigh says. “I felt like I had lucky charms hanging all over me. It took longer to find the right songs than it did to record the album. That process really moved right along.”
In November 2000, after the release of two singles on the Monument imprint met less than expected radio success, Danni Leigh once again found herself without a label deal. However, since there was great interest from her fans for the CD, Sony decided to release the disc in their Fan Demand program in February 2001. It has since met with Top 10 Internet success in the U.S., Great Britain, The Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.
After meeting with Sony Records, Danni looked at the mutual decision to “part company” as an opportunity to come full circle and work with the producer she felt could bring out her best. The same month Monument released her CD, Leigh signed with Audium Records. “Creative freedom, integrity and individuality are not scary words at Audium,” says Leigh. “I feel I am about to embark on the most honest music making process of my life.”
By July 2001, Danni Leigh and Pete Anderson had completed Divide And Conquer. Finally, I got to make the album I always dreamed of making,” says Leigh. “This album is more me than anything I have ever done. Working with Pete was a wonderful experience. He cares about the country format and he cares about artists who love country music. I can’t wait until my fans and radio can hear this album.”
Leigh co-wrote two songs for the new album and selected songs from writers such as Jim Lauderdale (three tunes), Phil Lee, Malcolm Holcombe, and Lucky Lawrence, lead singer and guitarist with The Souvenirs, the band Leigh has been touring with and backing her for the past year.
Currently spending much of her time abroad, Danni continues a busy touring schedule promoting her latest album “Masquerade of a Fool” on AGR/Universal. With a straight ahead honky tonk sound, thanks to old friend and award winning producer Michael Knox, the first single, “A Quarter Over You”, reached number 1 on European country music charts. Wasting no time, she is already hard at work writing and recording new songs for her next CD release. Whether old fan or new, rest assured, there will be much more to come from Danni Leigh.
Danni Leigh is equal parts poet, fearless entertainer, sexy chanteuse and rebellious non-conformist. She is an artist who infuses her music with all the passion and conviction of someone who can give no less than her all.