Sixpence None the Richer, the band she had been a member of for nearly half of her life, thirteen years all told, was contemplating calling it quits. Leigh and high school mate, Matt Slocum, had formed the group as teenagers, touring in sedans and cramped vans, slowly building a career.
In spite of the colossal success the band enjoyed with ubiquitous pop singles like Kiss Me and There She Goes, the group was continually plagued by the business woes of the trade and finally decided to split ways amicably. Disoriented by this major change, Leigh and her husband left their Nashville home of ten years and moved to Los Angeles.
It was a major life change for Leigh who had been with Sixpence since she was fourteen. Age 27 at the time and not knowing what else to do, Leigh started writing songs, while seated on her back porch over an Easter weekend.
While in Los Angeles, Leigh penned a batch of songs that would eventually comprise her first solo record, Blue on Blue, a sweetly understated collection of musings on love and motherhood due out August 15th 2006 on One Son Records, Leigh's own imprint label through Nettwerk Productions.
Alway wanting to do a record on her own, if the band were to break up, Leigh finally had the opportunity to do so, recalls Leigh.
A few months after Sixpence None the Richer parted ways, Leigh welcomed her son, Henry, into the world, along with a new sense of creative vitality. Leigh explained that her songs were not intentionally centered on any one concept, but admited her new-found maternity was a source of inspiration.
Motherhood came pretty fast, causing her to start writing much about Henry. With a bushel of songs in tow, Leigh set up shop with Canadian producer Pierre Marchand (Sarah McLachlan, Rufus Wainwright) last winter at his barn in Milles Isle an hour outside of Montreal. Recording there with a slew of Montreal-area musicians, Leigh felt the auspices of home without the soreness of Sixpence's split. Marchand and Leigh co-wrote two songs, album opener, All Along the Wall and Between the Lines. Marchand's lush, warm production gives Leigh's songs an earthy luster that carefully cushions her sweet, lilting voice.
In the meantime, Leigh moved back to Music City and into a new community of musicians a recently formed rock collective called Movement Nashville. The group hopes to dispel the myth that musically Nashville is limited to Country or Christian.
Leigh has two distinct poles of inspiration:
- her work with Sixpence in the Christian music sphere and
- her childhood fascination with older female country artists like Tanya Tucker, Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline. In many ways Blue on Blue emanates squarely between those two regions without being pulled down by any of the inbred trappings of the genres. Leigh's faith informs her songwriting in equal measure as her affinity for country music.
Leigh started singing country music and learning old country songs on the guitar when she was twelve. Although extremely shy, but with the desire to get on stage, Leigh started calling clubs herself to ask if she could come down and sing.
Before long, the adolescent Leigh was singing Loretta Lynn's and Tanya Tucker's songs like "You Aint Woman Enough to Take My Man" and "Texas When I Die" on alcohol-free, open mike Sunday nights, and backed by a middle-aged band of town locals. In spite of her country allure, Leigh never developed an accent, and later in life her interest in pop acts like The Sundays, Innocence Mission, and The Cranberries provided more formative material for her songwriting and singing.
On Blue on Blue, Leigh's croon possesses an unadorned glisten, a sensibility that is simultaneously natural and ethereal. On the album-closing ballad, Just a Little, Leigh's voice floats through an earnest tribute to her son, Henry, while on the epic, Ocean Size Love, her voice soars and shimmers over the Coldplay-sized, piano-driven song.
My Idea of Heaven radiates a child-like simplicity with Leigh's pop awareness guided by a lyrical unfussiness and bright guitar hooks. While Nervous in the Light begins as a tender confession of love and life's fleetingness, it builds into a strong, heartfelt petition for direction, continually held together through Leigh's impassioned but effortless vocals.
With Sixpence behind her and a two-year-old son along for the ride, Leigh is prepped to return to music even though she never really left. Now perhaps a bit more career-conscious and business-weary, Leigh reveals that tired edge without losing her dainty charm. Because of this, Blue on Blue is not just a carefree jog through the present, but a vividly felt exercise wholly informed by the past. In the end, it's bliss.