It feels like Dylan LeBlanc should be older than 25. His debut, Paupers Field, was released when he was just 20 years old, and the Muscle Shoals singer-songwriter is now readying his third — a much quicker ascent than most of his peers in Northwest Alabama. But he’s always been around it. When Dylan was young his father James moved from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Muscle Shoals to begin a writing career at FAME Studios. LeBlanc has spent most of his life migrating between the two cities.
Now he’s found love, he’s sober and he’s begun to settle down from his nomadic lifestyle.
“[Muscle Shoals] has always been a good place to get work done,” he says. “It’s quieter. The focus is more intense here. I’m able to get away from outside circumstances that hinder me in a bigger city like Shreveport.”
That harvested Cautionary Tale, LeBlanc’s first record with Florence’s Single Lock Records, which was released on January 15. LeBlanc’s first two albums were released on Rough Trade, and the new record spent some time in limbo while both parties weighed the label’s option for two more records. They decided that a mutual separation was in everyone’s best interest.
“They sensed that Single Lock might have a better feeling for what to do with it,” he said.
Who would know what to do with the record more than the man that introduced LeBlanc to most of his favorite artists? Single Lock co-founder and Alabama Shakes touring member Ben Tanner spent long hours with musicians in the Shoals. When Dylan’s father began writing at FAME, Tanner was the studio engineer and would record sessions after hours for LeBlanc when the latter was still a teenager. LeBlanc said he had no idea that there was a market for what he was creating.
“He gave me a CD of mp3s,” said LeBlanc. “Springsteen’s catalog, Wilco’s catalog, Ryan Adams’s catalog, My Morning Jacket’s catalog — it made me feel good, and I was turned on to this music I had never heard before. It was an uplifting feeling to know that there was a market for me out there that I didn’t know existed. All I had listened to before that was classic rock or classic country. The first time Ben played me ‘Hallelujah’ by Jeff Buckley, I had hair standing on my arms for three days because I listened to it for three days straight without stopping. In Shreveport, we just listened to what was on the radio. At that time, that was Linkin Park. And I just hated it. It never connected with me. The country stuff like Alan Jackson or Toby Keith…and there was a big metal scene in Shreveport, too. I didn’t connect with that.”
When his girlfriend, musician Jenny Marie Keris, moved from New Jersey to Florence, pieces began coming together. His father was still there. And now his label is there.
“I had gotten a few other offers, but it felt like the best place to be was with people that I knew would have my back and my best interest at heart,” he said of the Single Lock deal. “I like what they’re doing — helping local artists make records.”
Cautionary Tale includes a track with Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes called “Easy Way Out.” Those pieces came together naturally through Tanner.
“We had hung out in Amsterdam and I had her number,” LeBlanc said. “We were doing ‘Easy Way Out’ and I told Ben, ‘Man, Brittany would slay on this.’ And he told me to ask her. Zac [Cockrell] was already playing bass on the record. She hopped on board really quickly and she did a great job.”
Dylan LeBlanc returns to WorkPlay Thursday, Jan. 21. The show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 on the day of the show. For more information, visit workplay.com.