LEAH TURNER: DEBUT SPOTLIGHT
Leah Turner was raised in California’s Morongo Valley, the daughter of a rodeo champion. She was just 3 when she began sitting at her grandmother’s piano, trying to make real chords. When she was 5, her family bought her a piano–she still has it–and by 6, she had written her first song.
“I remember driving with my dad and mom, singing along to Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, George Strait and Chris LeDoux,” she said. “Country Music is known for the way you can actually see the story unfold in front of you, like you’re in the song. And that’s the beauty of the Nashville songwriting community–it’s all about the song.”
Her love for music stayed strong through lessons that balanced life on the ranch and led eventually to a college songwriting class, where she won the attention of Kenny Loggins, who encouraged her to move to Los Angeles. There, she met and worked with Humberto Gatica and David Foster. But Country Music eventually drew her to Music City.
With the release of her five-song self-titled EP in May on Columbia Nashville, her spot on Brad Paisley’s 2014 tour and the Top 40 success of her debut single “Take the Keys,” co-penned with Cary Barlowe and Jesse Frasure, she’s already made her impact in the music she loves best.
“What we’re trying to do is to be sassy and fun and be strong and emotional at the same time,” she said. “And I think we’re covering all of those bases as the songs come up. It’s about showing vulnerability while still showing strength, to lift men up but still let them know, ‘Don’t mess with us!’”
CMA members: Read more about Leah Turner in the Aug/Sept 2014 issue of CMA Close Up.
Watch Leah Turner’s “Take the Keys” video:
Leah Turner performs at Live@CMA:
What song would you love to cover?
“Right now, I cover ‘Cowboy Take Me Away’ by the Dixie Chicks.”
What album tops your playlist now?
“I’ve been listening to David Nail’s record (I’m a Fire) over and over again – and also Lee Brice. I’m really drawn to the soulfulness in their voices. Everything that Lee sings is just ridiculous. Even if it’s just a party song, my heartstrings are pulled because he has such a conviction in his voice.”
Who is your dream duet partner?
“Male, I would have to go with George Strait. That guy was the soundtrack to my childhood, my dad being a professional team roper. And George does the same thing. And when I’m able to do a ‘Crossroads,’ I would like to do it with P!nk. We have a similar tone in our voices. And she is such an amazing singer. She doesn’t overdo it. She can just stand there with a microphone and blow you away. She’s funny, sassy and feisty, but she can still rip your heart out with a ballad.”
What do you sing in the shower?
“I just warm up my vocals because the steam opens up my vocal cords a little more.”
What is your pet peeve?
“I’m gone all the time, so I don’t unpack my suitcase. When I get home, I always like to unpack my suitcase and then come back and re-pack, so there are clothes everywhere. If you go in my spare room right now, I have halfway-unpacked and packed suitcases. I don’t have time to do it!”
What song do you wish you had written?
“I really love ‘Love Can Build a Bridge’ by the Judds. I remember singing it as a little girl. There’s so much truth in that song.”
What do you find yourself saying over and over again?
What is your favorite mode of transportation?
“I like flying because you get there quicker. But traveling by car, you can get out when you want – and you don’t have that fear of falling from the sky.”
What actress would portray you in a biopic?
“Blake Lively. She’s cute and accidentally perfect. She looks like she just woke up that way.”
What do you hope people will say about you when they look back on your life?
“She was a woman of her word with a shade of originality.”
What would you put in your personal time capsule?
“I would put in a note that says, ‘When you feel like you can’t, know that you can.’ I would put coconut oil because I use it on everything. And I would put a pair of really great boots for the guys and great pair of heels for the girls, so when you put them on, you feel like you could take on the world.”
If you weren’t a musical artist, what would you be?
“I would be a stylist and eventually have my own fashion line.”
What is your greatest performance to date?
“It was the second night of the Brad Paisley tour. The band was on. I felt on. The crowd was loving it. And I walked off of there with my band, feeling like, ‘Hell, yeah. We can do this.’”
What is your favorite food on the road?
“Pizza. It’s my favorite food anytime! I really like spinach, chicken and jalapeño pizza.”
What was your first gig?
“The first time I played guitar out was in a place in L.A. called On the Rocks, on Sunset Boulevard. My mom, dad, my uncle and three other people came. I learned right there what Garth Brooks meant when he said if there’s only one person there, play like there were thousands.”
What can you tell us about yourself that we would never guess about you?
“I’m half-Mexican, from my mother’s side. Her dad is from Spain and her mother is a Mayan.”
Leah Turner rocks the Bud Light Stage at Bridgestone Arena Plaza during the 2014 CMA Music Festival.
Photographer credit: Kayla Schoen
Leah Turner tells her own story here: