by Joe Mis
– Senior Columnist —
Canadian Symphonic Metal songstress Leah McHenry has put the finishing touches on Kings & Queens – her second full-length studio release. Leah blends elements of Celtic, World Music, and Progressive Metal influences into European-style Symphonic Metal resulting in a unique and interesting sound.
Singer Leah McHenry has graciously volunteered to answer a few questions for Hardrock Haven.
Hardrock Haven: Hi Leah! Thanks for taking the time to visit with Hardrock Haven. Congratulations on the release of Kings & Queens – a solid album all around that seems to be getting very good reviews. Please tell our readers a little more about yourself and your musical background. How would you describe your own music?
Leah McHenry: Hi HRH! I’m a Canadian songwriter, and I love to fuse my favorite inspirations, such as Celtic and world music with Heavy Metal. I often use fantasy and folklore themes for my lyrical inspiration, and I’m having a great time dong it! I just released my 3rd studio album, called Kings & Queens.
HRH: How do you feel that Kings & Queens differs from your first release, Of Earth & Angels?
Leah: Earth & Angels was my debut album and I had a total of three fans, mostly consisting of relatives! (Laughs) I was really exploring my sound with no expectation of how people might react to it. So in a way it was a very cool experience. I had no inhibitions, but I also didn’t have as much of an identity. I think on Kings & Queens I have a more certain identity in my sound, even though it is diverse at times. Kings & Queens is heavier, and more progressive while still infusing Celtic and fantasy themes… I think if you combined Of Earth & Angels and Otherworld and added more Prog riffs and heaviness, you get Kings & Queens.
HRH: Some of your band members are well known in the European Symphonic Metal scene. How did you manage to get them together?
Leah: I guess it comes down to who you know! I met Timo through Christian Moos at Spacelab Studios in Germany, who mixed Otherworld. He knew I was thinking of starting a new project and introduced Timo and I. It all took off from there.
HRH: It seems that you pretty much put Kings & Queens together on your own. Tell us a little about your songwriting process, and maybe a bit about how the album was recorded. I recall reading that most of it was done “long distance”.
Leah: Yes, this album was done in quite an unconventional manner, although it’s becoming more and more common. I basically had the main core of all the songs written. The structure of the songs, the chord progressions, and melodies were all there. Then I sent my demos to Timo via email, and he worked on them, adding sample guitars, bass and drums and then would send it back to me. It was a back and forth process. Probably more time consuming than if we were sitting in the same room, hashing it all out together, but it was still pretty effective. Of course, I completely lucked out because Timo is the kind of musician that you can pretty much hand something to and he already understands what needs to be done and can execute it right away. That was exactly what I needed. Then he produced Barend’s bass and Sander’s drums in the studio. I already knew what it was going to sound like, but didn’t get to hear it all until after the studio sessions, and it was even better!
HRH: I know that you are devoted to your family, and that they are always your first priority. How did you manage to balance both family and music? Speaking as a parent of two I know it could not have been easy.
Leah: Balancing music and family is all I know, since I sort of did things backwards. I had a family first before I really started pursuing music as a serious hobby. I still call it a serious hobby because I enjoy it so much, but it is not my full-time gig. Being a wife and mom is my full-time gig. Music is a bonus! It also helps that we educate our kids at home, and life is very relaxed, which allows for so much flexibility in our days. I also go through seasons where music is a big focus, and then other times when music is more on the back burner and I’m focusing more on family life. So you take things day by day and season by season.
HRH: Obviously your lyrics are heavily influenced by traditional Irish/Celtic literature and mythology – how do you set that to Modern Symphonic Metal music?
Leah: I think the Metal is the foundation — the heavy guitars, the riffs, the rhythms. I add Celtic and world nuances through the additional instruments woven into the mixture. Sometimes the harp and flutes are more prominent, and other times they are more hidden and part of the overall sound, but it still gives a certain vibe when you hear it.
HRH: Who would you say are the greatest musical influences to you personally?
Leah: There’s not one band or artist. I would say entire genres have influenced me. Sometimes it’s a random song I hear on YouTube by some obscure artist with 50 views. But if I had to nail down the more prominent ones, it would definitely be Loreena McKennitt, Jesse Cook, Enya, early Lacuna Coil, early Within Temptation, old school After Forever, and some Devin Townsend. But there are so many more artists that really opened my eyes to what is possible in music. I love to keep an open mind to whatever sounds good.
HRH: You’ve been compared to Enya and Leaves’ Eyes on a number of occasions. How does that make you feel – and how do you try to set yourself apart from them?
Leah: It’s a nice compliment, for sure. There’s nothing new under the sun, so it’s impossible to not sound like so-and-so if they’ve influenced you. All you can do is try to combine things and try to make it sound like something fresh. I don’t have the typical vocals that you might here in symphonic metal, which is usually operatic or classical. I sometimes have an R&B flare, and sometimes I explore my very soft, breathy side, as well as some operatic styles. But I hope to set myself apart a little bit, if I can. Ultimately, I’m just doing what sounds good to me.
HRH: What is your favorite track on the album, and your inspiration for it?
Leah: I think at the moment my favorite track is “This Present Darkness,” which I did a lyric video for on YouTube. I love the ⅞ timing in the verses and all the Symphonic elements and the melodies which seem to work together nicely. That song is about battle and warfare of the physical and supernatural kind. While writing, I pictured ancient battlefields and also the cosmic arena that is so mysterious.
HRH: You’ve used a lot of social media and word of mouth to build up a following, and a lot of new musicians are trying the same. Do you have any advice to offer those without major label support?
Leah: Each media platform has it’s pros and cons. Consistency has been my friend. Even when I notice that not many people are “seeing” my posts, it still makes a difference. You never know what might strike a chord with someone and all the sudden it gets a whole bunch of shares. Interacting on a personal level is very important. Gone are the days of musicians trying to separate themselves from their fans and put distance between them, so as to maintain some sort of “celebrity status”. People are fascinated by their favorite people and they want to know who you are. So give it to them!
HRH: Tell us a bit more about the obviously successful Indiegogo campaign that made Kings & Queens possible.
Leah: That was a crazy whirlwind. I went into it expecting success and doing the daily actions of someone who would succeed, but was often nervous at times and praying like crazy that it would really happen! Ultimately, the fans believed in the music enough to support it and they totally came through :-) I would do it again!
HRH: So what’s next for Leah McHenry?
Leah: Right now I’m working on spreading the word about my music, which is what I’ve been doing since Day 1. Not much has changed so far. I hope to continue to build my fan base around the world and then hopefully make more music!
HRH: Finally, is there anything else you like to share with our readers?
Leah: Thanks to everyone who has supported this album, whether it was through Indiegogo or a YouTube share. I couldn’t do any of this without you! A big cheers from Canada.
HRH: Thanks for taking the time to visit with Hardrock Haven. Good luck and much continued success!
For more on Leah, visit http://leahmusic.net/
For HRH’s take on Kings & Queens, visit: