I had the opportunity to sit down with Leah Barley from the Converse Cowboys. A unique band that remind me of old cowboy singers such as Roy Rogers and Dale Events, I’m so happy were able to sit down and have a great conversation about the band and what they have been up to.
Who’s in the band? There is singer-songwriter, banjo and guitar player Leah Barley, violist John Kastelic, and multi-instrumentalist Ross Christopher Fairbairn. They are based in East Vancouver.
Natalia: How long have you guys been playing together?
Leah: I started singing in my early twenties when I lived in Alberta. I bought a banjo soon after and taught myself how to play. I was writing songs and performing within two months. A few years later I brought home my sisters guitar and taught myself how to play that too. It’s been just over 11 years now.
John is a ridiculously talented violist and composer. We met at an open mic at his old house in Kitsilano and I had to have him play with me. I’m such a sucker for strings. It doesn’t matter what I write, John just gets it. He knows exactly what each songs needs and can figure out what I’m trying to express. He’s been performing with me for six years.
Ross joined us almost four years ago. I was planning a tour and put a post on FaceBook to see if anyone with a car wanted to join and he messaged me within five minutes.
He can pretty much play any instrument you put in front of him. He switches between banjo and guitar for my songs and now has taught himself how to play stand up bass.
Both the guys can sing as well so when the time comes we bust out some killer harmonies.
Natalia: Do you write your own material? If so what’s your writing process?
Leah: I write all the songs and the guys help me tweak a few things. I tend to write about my life and personal experiences. Love, loss, travel, or about the people I see around me.
I don’t really have a process. Sometimes a tune sticks in my head and turns into a song, sometimes I’ll find a chord combination on the guitar and make it into something, and sometimes I’ll sit down and the song just pukes out of me in five minutes.
There are times where it takes months to finish a song because it’s filled with such deep seeded emotion. Those are the ones I sometimes wish I didn’t write because then I have to share it. It’s like holding your heart in your hand for everyone to see. But those are the songs that get through to people, those are the songs that bring people to tears, those are the ones that help others, and myself, heal and grow.
Natalia: What was your favorite gig?
Leah: Anytime the guys play with me is my favourite. It’s definitely my happy place. However if I had to choose one I’d say playing at CBC Vancouver in 2017.
To play outside on a big stage with so many different types of people is the best. Grandmas smiling, babies dancing, fans front and centre, children being exposed to live music, and people taking a break from their offices to be outside, it’s a great gig to play.
4. You mentioned you have an upcoming show — tell us all about it and how we can get tickets?
Leah: The guys and I are playing at the Heatley on Saturday, March 3rd. Doors are at 8pm and music will be from 9-11. It’s a by donation event with a suggested donation of $10.
Natalia: Since some of our readers are just starting out in the music industry — what kind of advice can you give our readers?
Leah: Get out there. Go to shows, open mics, and make friends with people who have similar dreams and passions. Its way easier to put on a show if you know different bands to play with, create community and share tips and information. It’s a tough industry to be in and there’s no need for competition. Know your worth. I don’t play gigs for beer and a burger. If that’s your thing then by all means, go for it. I prefer to invest in my craft, record, tour, and eat vegetables.
Most importantly, take breaks. Performing takes a lot of energy, make sure you’re giving yourself time to take care of yourself. Sleep, eat well, you know; adulting.