It’s been about ten years since Andrew Leahey landed in Nashville. The Richmond, Virginia native spent time in New York City and Ann Arbor working on his music and his career as a music journalist; you’ve likely seen his byline in Rolling Stone or American Songwriter. He’s a gifted wordsmith and melody maker, and an ace guitarist. In 2013 he underwent a twelve hour surgery to remove a tumor in his brain near or on his hearing nerve. It took some time, but he’s fully recovered now and giving us some great original music! Thankfully, between writing about other musicians, playing guitar in Elizabeth Cook’s band and music directing a few of Nashville’s Tom Petty tribute concerts, he found time to release two albums, 2016’s Skyline in Central Time and 2019’s Airwaves. In 2020, he released some singles, plus took part in the virtual Tom Petty birthday celebration. I asked him about his latest single, “Until There’s Nothing But Air”, what he has in store and Petty.
AnaLee: Thanks for continuing to release music during the pandemic, Andrew. I’ve loved these songs you’ve been giving us. I think there have been five since April, starting with, “Keep The Car Running”, a straight up rocker that sounds like it could’ve been on Airwaves. It seems like the other releases this year became a little more reflective. Were these 2020 releases written during the pandemic or did you have some of these songs before lockdown?
Andrew: When 2020 began, we already had an album's worth of newly-recorded songs waiting to be released. We kept stockpiling more music throughout the year, and we thought it would be cool to share what we were working on. I was worried that releasing a bunch of rock singles like "Keep the Car Running" would come across as tone deaf, though, so we released the moody, mid-tempo songs that seemed to better reflect the year everyone was having. Meanwhile, we've been playing all of our new material during our Thursday night livestreams, which we've been broadcasting on the band's Facebook page every week since late-March.
AnaLee: Do you have any plans to put these singles together in an album or ep, or can we look forward to more single releases this year?
Andrew: Honestly, I should know better than to make plans right now, but I can't help it. Our plan is to release a full-length follow-up to Airwaves later this year. We've got enough material for a double album, but I'll probably whittle down the track list to the strongest 12 tracks. Some of the singles we released last year — particularly "Missing the Missing," "Keep the Car Running," and "Until There's Nothing But Air" — will make the cut, but we've been sitting on our best songs for months now, and those will be the real stars of this new record.
AnaLee: I’ve included both videos for your most recent single, “Until There’s Nothing But Air”; the official video and a live version where you changed it up to a solo piano performance. You’re known for your guitar playing and songwriting of course, but I never really think of you at the keys and this is just so good! Tell us a little about this song, the solo arrangement and the official video, which premieres today in Liner Notes!
Andrew: Thanks! My wife and I have a 100 year-old piano in our living room. I don't always get the chance to play it, since I'm usually on the road for 125 or so days a year. But things were different in 2020, when I had all the time in the world to sit down at the piano and rearrange my older songs — most of which are very guitar-based — as piano tunes. That's where the live video of "Until There's Nothing But Air" comes from, although I'm technically playing my videographer's piano rather than my own. When it came time to release an official music video for the song, I reached out to my friend Jeff Adamcyzk. Together, we bought a bunch of old magazines and ripped out the ads, then he spent a long time — like, a very long time — cutting out the shapes with an X-acto knife and turning the whole thing into an animated collage video. I love it. "Until There's Nothing But Air" is an atmospheric, nostalgic song, and Jeff's visuals reflect that.
AnaLee: I was happy to see that you were part of the virtual Tom Petty 70th birthday bash recently. I think we bonded over Tom Petty early on and your version of one of my favorite but not as well-known Petty songs, “Saving Grace” is stellar. The sounds you and The Homestead are getting in this session are on fire and it’s just a perfect mix, every instrument and your voice, well done! Tell us about the band, recording this performance for video and about Tom Petty’s influence on your music and what he means to you as a fan.
Andrew: We got to work with Tom Petty's estate during that event, which was amazing. I'm honored that they'd even know my name, much less like my music. That performance of "Saving Grace" is entirely live, without overdubs or AutoTuning, which is how we think Tom would've wanted it. We masked up and booked an afternoon of studio time with Airwaves' producer, Paul Ebersold. The masks came off, we played the song three times, then the masks went back on and the session was over. It was that easy. I'm a big fan of pop hooks and rock bands, and Tom Petty's music has always struck me as the perfect synthesis of the two. I really leaned into my Petty obsession with Airwaves, and although the newer songs expand far beyond that, he'll always be one of my north stars.
Andrew Leahey, “Until There’s Nothing But Air”