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Leah Turner Interview: Rodeo-Raised Newcomer Is Equal Parts Grit and Glamour

Leah Turner
Sony Music Nashville

Country newcomer Leah Turner has it right when she says she has Tabasco running through her veins. “But it’s a sweet Tabasco,” she adds with a laugh. The California-born, rodeo-raised ‘Take the Keys’ singer is equal parts grit and glamour.

Turner loves looking back at her childhood chores of milking goats, collecting eggs and feeding the horses, but also remembers that she hated getting up so early, because it already took her long enough to get ready for school.

Turner talked to Taste of Country on the second day of her radio tour. For those not familiar, this is how new artists are introduced. They physically travel to dozens of stations across the country over the span of several months. It’s shaking hands, playing songs, kissing babies and trying to act like you’re not missing home. It’s a grind, but Turner is prepared. Her record label representatives often prep her for who she is going to meet, and where she is going to be playing.

“Some of the rooms are like, um … ‘OK,’” she adds when asked about trying to make magic in glorified conference rooms. “But you know what, I just personally step back and say, ‘If I wasn’t here, that means I wouldn’t be one step closer to my dream, so who the hell the cares about the lighting.’” At this, she lets out a loud, proud, country girl belly-roll — not one of those silly, demure tee-hees a more reserved newcomer would offer. It’s refreshing.

Turner moved to Nashville less than a year ago, after finding success in Los Angeles. “I stopped trying to pull out my roots, and started to water them,” she writes of her transition on her Facebook page. In addition to ‘Take the Keys’ (available now at iTunes), she’s helped write everything that will make her record, but she is quick to heap praise on the songwriters of Nashville.

“I would say that songwriters — kind of like pickup men in the rodeo are the unsung heroes of the rodeo — I would say songwriters are the unsung heroes of the music business,” she dishes. It’s with the songwriters that she feels most comfortable.

ToC: Do you have a favorite place to hang in Nashville?

Leah Turner: I do. The Bluebird is always amazing. You get to see like amazing, crazy … you’re just like ‘What? You wrote that song?’

If we’re sitting around having a drink, what are you drinking?

Whiskey on the rocks. Jack on the rocks.

As a songwriter, do you struggle with recording or singing someone else’s songs?

I do. I do. Right now I do. I don’t wanna say that because there are so many songwriters out there that are way better writers than I am, and I look up to those writers. I think that once you find that niche with those people that really get you, then they’re just like an extension of who you are. If you see some of these other artists, they stick with certain writers that really write what they feel.

Tell the story behind ‘Take the Keys.’

You always want a strong man that’s behind you, you know. We all get down and we all have times where it’s like, ‘Man I gotta get the heck out of here.’ And it’s so nice to be able to rest in a partner … that’s kind of what that’s (the song) saying there: ‘We’ve been through so much and I know it feels like we get stuck in the same everyday life, but for today let’s just pretend we’re on an open road and let’s get the heck out of here.’

Did anyone specific inspire it?

There are people. There was a person that was specific. It was just nice to have someone that you can lean on. And a lot of times, too, it goes to my father. The only reason I know how to love and how to be loved is because of the unconditional love that he showed me and my mom.

What is one talent or skill that you wish you had?

I wish I knew how to play the violin. I’ve always seen people play and I’m like, ‘Gosh that is such an amazing … and it’s so hard.’ There are no frets, it is all muscle memory in your fingers and it is just — I love watching them play the violin, but we’re in country music, so the fiddle.

When you make your first million dollars, what vice will you blow a lot of money on?

Well, I’m a girl, so shopping [laughs]. I am an all types of clothes girl. It is like if I like it, I want it!

Listen to Leah Turner, ‘Take the Keys’

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Next: Learn What Other Country Artists Did Before They Were Famous

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