By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com
I am so delighted to welcome Bari Leigh to Jake’s Take.
The Nashville-based singer-songwriter is the latest artist to follow in the musical footsteps of several iconic superstars such as Dolly Parton, Etta James and Bobbie Gentry. Like her heroes, Ms. Leigh took a bold step that sets herself apart from most up-and-coming artists: she has started her own record label: Starfish Music (which is a branch of the ECR Music Group family).
In addition to being in charge of her label, the Southern Rocker is busy putting the finishing touches off of her debut record: Tonight, I’m Unchained. Prior before its release, Ms. Leigh received high praise from Entertainment Tonight (ET) as the long-running entertainment news-based program declared: “Bari Leigh is set to explode with her infectious mix of pop, country, blues and soul.” ET also added that Ms. Leigh is “a buzz-worthy artist.”
In this edition of The Five Question Challenge, she opened up about the factors that made her decide to start Starfish Music and her Unchained nationwide summer tour.
Jacob Elyachar: When did you get interested in music? How did that passion turn into the desire of having a career in the recording industry?
Bari Leigh: There has never been a moment in my life where music hasn’t completely consumed me. When I was 4-years-old, I taught myself to play the piano just so I could “create” without even knowing what that meant. At age 7, I wrote my first song and my life was forever changed. It was like the world finally made sense to me. At 13, my best friends and I started a punk band, “Skiff” where I was the lead singer, writer and rhythm guitarist. After stepping on stage for the first time, as a band, I knew that this is what I was put on this earth to do. My mom always encouraged my dreams and passion and without her, that’s all it would have been. She helped me navigate an industry we knew nothing about because she truly believed in me and knew I would work hard to fulfill my dreams.
JE: You are one of the very few artists that started their music career by setting up your own record label. What drove you to make that decision?
BL: My goal from the very beginning has always been to make great music. However, lots of artists make great music. I truly believe in the power of music and I think we, as the artist/writer should have control of what we say and how we say it.
I wanted to 100-percent be in charge of my publishing, what I release, I wanted control of how it’s released and I never, EVER wanted to have to change my lyrics or my style to fit in with the “formula.” I also wanted a platform where, in time, I could eventually help other young artists reach the success they deserve. I have seen way too many talented musicians get rejected by major labels because they did not have the right “look” or they were not willing to change everything about them to sell records. I wanted to create a safe place where artists, songwriters and the music they put their heart and soul into can continue to create on their terms. My label is an “imprint” label, signed under New York City’s “ECR Music Group”. Blake Morgan (owner of ECR / my mentor) has taken me under his wing, guided me through this business and taught me not just how to be a successful artist, but a powerhouse entrepreneur as well. I am looking to expand within the next few years with Blake’s guidance.
JE: This summer, you will be traveling across the country on your “Unchained” tour. What can fans expect from your set?
BL: This tour is filled with dates where I play anywhere from 45 minutes to 4 hours. I play major venues, biker bars, charity events and everything in between. I am no stranger to touring; however, this is my first solo tour (something about lifting heavy gear by myself gives me this overwhelming sense of empowerment). As a Southern Rock artist and songwriter, you can expect to hear anything from my original songs (from my album “Tonight, I’m Unchained”) to Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones and from Patsy Cline and Bobbie Gentry to Miranda Lambert and so much more. My goal is to leave a lasting impression on the audience and keep them hooked!
JE: If you had the chance to meet with singer-songwriters who are interested in pursuing a career in the music industry, what advice would you share with them?
BL: This is one of the most difficult career paths one could possibly imagine. From the outside, it may like cool parties, fame, fortune, your name in lights, et cetera. In actuality, being a musician means constantly having to prove yourself, it means going without eating so you can afford your first EP, it means being on tour consistently for years with very little pay; I have seen so many young artists come to town with stars in their eyes, thinking they are going to get a record deal just for showing up. That is not the case for most “real” artists. In fact, it seems the more talented you are, the longer it takes to get recognition. That’s not a bad thing! I believe you have to earn your stripes to be a legitimate, worthy artist and you grow significantly during those years. My mentor once asked if I wanted to be famous or successful. That question is so profound, yet so simple. I want to be successful based on my work; I want to be recognized for my talent, not my boobs. It is very easy to get discouraged in this industry; do not let anything keep you from reaching your goals and achieving your dream. Just remember, anything worth having is worth fighting for.