As you can tell by reading my blog, my musical taste is a bit all over the map. I like a little bit of this and a little bit of that. My Last FM profile reads a bit like a musical smorgasbord and I'm fine with that. What it all boils down to is talent. I like talented artists, no matter what genre of music they sing. If they happened to go to my high school - even better! This is the case with Austin Hartley-Leonard, a talented singer/songwriter currently based in Los Angeles. While our social circles never really crossed (he was in band, I was in theater) I remember Hartley-Leonard's name and his talent. Looks like he's been busy since graduating in 1999.
Hartley-Leonard started out in the Austin, Texas music scene as a solo singer/songwriter, performing at the prestigious SXSW Music Festival. After doing the solo thing for a while, Hartley-Leonard went off in search for a band and St. James Inc. was born. While the group did enjoy local success in Austin (including a performance at the Austin City Limits Festival) it wasn't until after the release of their debut EP "8 Hours" back in 2006 that things really started to take off. After a performance at Lollapalooza in Chicago, the band relocated to Los Angeles, where they had their tunes featured in a film and TV series. In 2007, Solo once again, Austin met with producer Charles Newman (The Magnetic Fields) and the two started to put together his debut album, Franklin Ave. which was released in 2008. After touring extensively in 2009, Hartley-Leonard lent his songwriting talents to television, where he was commissioned to write for a few commercials. A couple of his songs were also featured on major hit shows like CBS's Ghost Whisperer and the popular NBC spy series Chuck as well as a film starring Steve Buscemi (Handsome Harry).
On November 9th, Hartley-Leonard released a new six track EP (released on Entropy Collective) called "Everywhere I've Never Been," featuring an exquisite folk cover of Harvery Danger's 1996 single "Flagpole Sitta." In looking at the EP cover art, the first thing you notice is the ink on his forearm. Looks can certainly be deceiving! Who would have thought that such a vulnerable, heart-wrenchingly soulful sound could come out of such a bad-ass looking dude? While iTunes classifies his sound as "singer/songwriter" there are other elements present here. Hartley-Leonard's sound is a little bit country, a little bit soul, a little bit rock and a little bit folk. It's always nice to see someone from your past do well, especially in an industry as notoriously difficult as the music industry. I wish Austin the best of luck and hope to hear lots more from him in the future. Download his new EP on iTunes HERE.