ARTS Pick: Shantel Leitner

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Music is in indie folk singer-songwriter Shantel Leitner’s blood. Following in the footsteps of her mother, aunt, and grandfather (all country singers), Leitner began singing at a young age. “I was pretty bashful, so I didn’t sing with them until my grandfather lovingly nudged me to,” Leitner said during a recent phone interview. Now at the one-year anniversary of her debut album, Indigo, the 26 year-old up-and-comer continues to throw herself into her music with stunning vocals, confessional lyricisms, and a dash of soul.

Raised on the Kansas plains, Leitner’s seven-track debut speaks to her roots, based in a hearty dose of pop and folk and her signature acoustic guitar. While the dreamy sound of Indigo bears a striking resemblance to artists like Feist and Ingrid Michaelson, Leitner’s soulful, smoke-filled voice distinguishes her sound from the pack. Ranging from the breathtaking power of Adele to the subtler vibrato of Stevie Nicks, Leitner’s spine-tingling dynamics are truly captivating. “It’s a weird combination because when I write, it’s very folksy,” she says. “As soon as I open my mouth, there’s the soul influence. It surprises a lot of people.”

Leitner, who studied songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston, compliments her dramatic vocals with clever, confessional lyrics. From the bitter humor of “Love is for Losers” to the melancholy heartache of “Lovesick,” Indigo follows the emotional rollercoaster of lost love, again similar to Adele’s 21 though with a more playful touch. “This record was a release of sorts. I’d accumulated a catalog of songs written about one person. When that portion of my life ended, I wanted to commemorate it with this record,” Leitner confessed. Even with the humor and heartache, this songwriter’s aching sincerity is never less than genuine, confessing things we’ve all felt at some time in our lives but never admitted aloud.

While most of Indigo remains within the bounds Leitner’s tried-and-true recipe, there is an exception to every rule. In this case, the exception is “Deadride.” The track features fast-paced hand drumming while caustic spurts of electric guitar interspersed throughout accentuate its cathartic sound. Unlike the Sunday morning cup of coffee that pairs nicely with the rest of the album, this track, true to its title, is the kind to be blasted through your car speakers. As the most experimental, and arguably the best, track on the record, “Deadride” offers a refreshing break from the Indigo mold and the possibility for further maturation down the road.  As for what’s in store for the future, Leitner’s optimistic, “Songs are definitely brewing. My travels have already been interesting and I’m only halfway through.”

Currently in the midst of a 25-day tour, Leitner will appear at the Blue Moon Diner at 8pm on Tuesday, July 9 for a free acoustic performance, bringing some much-needed soul to Tuesday night.

-Katharyn Gadient

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