Analogue Music | Dylan LeBlanc

Dylan LeBlanc

By Matt Conner

Dylan LeBlanc has every reason to feel proud.

The last few years have been difficult for everyone in the music industry and that’s certainly true for LeBlanc whose incessant tour schedule has kept him from having significant downtime for a half-decade. That is, until the world shut down and he was forced to sit with the fears that such a work ethic has helped him avoid.

In the face of his “anxious” mindset, LeBlanc has experienced a new birth in more ways than one. He and his partner not only welcomed their first child into the world during the global pandemic but he also spent more time than ever on a set of songs of which he’s quite proud. He should be; Coyote is a fantastic album.

As the familiar cycles of recording, releasing, and touring begin again, we sat down with LeBlanc to hear more about the last few years and what they’ve brought his way.

Analogue: The last album came pre-pandemic and then here you are a few years later. I want to talk about Coyote, but I’m curious as you look back at these last few years and the industry shutdown, what did you gain and what did you lose?

Dylan LeBlanc: Well, I had a child during the pandemic, so that was definitely something that I gained. It was beautiful. [Laughs] For the most part, it was time that I had on my hands to write. I hadn’t had that for several years because A Cautionary Tale was so extensive. I mean, we toured that record right up until Renegade came out and that was three years between albums. Then that came out the summer before the pandemic and we were on tour through February. Then I think it was March that it all came to a halt.

Analogue: Yeah that was it.

Dylan: Suddenly I had all of this time to be creative, but there’s also a lot of fear—not because I was afraid of the pandemic, but because of the financial insecurity that goes along with being a musician. You start wishing you were a fucking doctor or lawyer or some shit. [Laughs] Then you add a baby in the mix and then you think, ‘Why the fuck didn’t I get an education?’

But I had all of this time to write and be creative and think about the story I wanted to tell. It was also nothing but reflection and I hadn’t stopped in such a long time. I always like to keep going, because the more you keep going, the less the brain operates at an anxious level—at least for me. My mind was starting to operate again at this anxious level and I knew I needed to dive into something and that’s when I dove into Coyote.

I ended up building a character around the music. I had all of these musical ideas in my phone and these lyrical ideas that I’d written down. I had a lot of time to work on it, which was great because I do think Coyote is one of my best records. The time I was afforded to work on it was in my favor because I could really focus on each and every song and say what I wanted to say without sounding too contrived or overly sophisticated. I’m not one of those guys who are trying to split the fucking atom every time I write a song, but I had a lot of time to think about it. So that’s a long answer to a short question. I lost money but gained time. [Laughs]

Analogue: I want to ask about a few things here, but were you right about what you’d find if you did slow down. If you’re afraid of stopping because of what you think your mind will do, and then you have to actually slow down, were you right?

Dylan: When it did slow down and everything came to a halt, my mind would operate on an anxious level. I always try to lose myself in the work, to keep my head down and keep moving. It definitely found me again, but also I got lucky because I found a good partner and I was with her a lot. She got pregnant and then the anxiety really came to great heights—not that I wasn’t excited to have a baby but the money wasn’t coming in like it was. That’s scary, y’know?

But again I had to bury myself in the work and just start writing things out. If I sit idle, I don’t function. I don’t think anyone functions mentally at their highest level when they’re just sitting around for no purpose. So for me, and I can’t speak for anybody else, but it’s important for me to have a purpose. Being a songwriter and a musician, I just started doing what I’ve spent my whole life trying to do and started writing a record.

Analogue: This new record is a concept record with a fictional protagonist and yet I wonder how much of this is about getting to personal things through the side door?

Dylan: I think so. I think it’s easier to tell some of your story when it’s through the eyes of a character, y’know? I think you can be even more vulnerable in situations like that. You can be more therapeutic and cathartic with yourself by just putting your experience through the eyes of a character. Also, it’s impossible for me not to. I think anyone who creates anything puts a piece of themselves in it. Even if they don’t mean to, I think it happens subconsciously. So I knew that’s what I was doing.

Some of the songs are also extremely personal for me. I’ve had a wild life and the life that I’ve lived is not normal for anybody, really. I just wanted to share my thoughts about what’s happened in my life but through the eyes of a character.

"I think it’s easier to tell some of your story when it’s through the eyes of a character, y’know?"

Analogue: When you’re channeling through a character, are there surprises that come out that way?

Dylan: Always, yeah. That’s the cool thing, and that’s a good question, but that’s the cool thing about writing is that you can add the drama. You can add these little nuances. To me, writing is all about the emotional and less about the intellectual, so I mostly try to tap, most importantly, into how the listener is feeling. That’s how music moves me. Some people are way into certain types of songwriting that are very intellectual or direct.

So I’m just trying to find a way to connect through the emotions, and I think that’s the important thing to ask if it makes the listener feel something. I think that’s where the words and music have to come together in this marriage where they speak to someone in those ways. If I can do that, that’s where I’m going to put more of my personal life into my music when I feel like I’m creating something like that. It just happens naturally.

Analogue: We haven’t talked since Pauper’s Field and each album since has featured a bigger sound or some newer instrumentation. What was the musical vision here? Did you want to go to some new places?

Dylan: You know whose records I love the sound of? J.J. Cale. I love the sound of his records and that Tulsa early ‘70s sound. Obviously, I’ve always loved the Laurel Canyon sound, but I knew immediately that was the sound I was going for. I also knew I wanted to have strings, that this would be a very string-heavy album. Also if I can’t see the songs playing out in a movie, because that’s what I see when I’m writing a song, and I can hear the instruments as I’m writing them down—so I definitely knew that’s what I wanted when I was writing and recording this album.

I have a vision for every album when we go into the studio and that’s the challenge is putting that vision into place. Sometimes it doesn’t always add up or sometimes you find things that surprise you and you like them even more. But I got lucky on this record, because I pretty much realized exactly what I was envisioning for this album and I’m very grateful for that.

Analogue: That sounds rare to be able to arrive exactly where you wanted.

Dylan: Yeah, for sure. It’s exactly what I thought it was going to be. Everything that’s on that record, that’s what I was hearing and that’s what I was feeling. I got really lucky.

Analogue: So you’re in Europe for the rest of the year?

Dylan: Yeah, I’m in Europe through January. Then we do a big U.S. tour right after that and it starts on January 17 in New Orleans. It ends in Austin, Texas and we’re doing a big circle around the country through the Midwest to the East Coast and then winding all the way back up in Austin. So that’s coming and it’s just a lot of work to get the word out there about the new album and to get people to shows. I’m trying to build on this record into something more. That’s the dream of every artist is that you’ll reach more with each record, so I’m just trying to do my part.

VISIT: Dylan LeBlanc

Credit: Abraham Rowe