Tangents: What made you want to be a musician?
Leisure McCorkle: My father gave me an acoustic guitar when I was 5. My mom and I used to listen to beach music and 50's music in the car all the time the I was young. We were pretty poor in the early days, but we always had a record player and albums, so I spent a lot of time listening to music and thinking about the songwriting. Around the time of Billy Joel's SNL appearance for It's Still Rock and Roll to me....I knew I was in all the way and never going back. I played guitar and Ukulele early on, but i wasn't very good. It wasn't until I picked up the bass that I started singing. No one really was a singer in my younger days. I started working on songwriting. I would spend hours in my room listening to music that I liked (WDAV on Sundays comes to mind), and I couldn't really learn the songs so I would start to write my own tunes. I am really a product of the late 70's an dearly 80's New Wave. My music today has that influence. I love British music, especially from Manchester, and of course The Beatles. After reflecting on it a bit, New York and London had a cool vibe that I tapped into to early on in my life. Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, Billy Joel, a little Jackson Brown, a little Cure and Smiths and The Cars.
Tangents: Describe the Charlotte music scene that you first came into, and the local scene now.
McCorkle: The music scene here has kinda come full circle. I was coming into the scene here around the Ronald Reagan days, when we all went to the Milestone and whatever club popped up at the time and would allow alternative music to flourish. Everyone was kinda finding their way, and corporate America didn't really give a shit about our generation. They were all about the money, we were all about the passion and experiences. I can't say Charlotte has ever really had a sound. Could be one of the reasons this town never really blew up like an Athens or Seattle. People here are kinda into sounding their own way. Now The Milestone and Snug are where underground music goes to flourish. We have the Double Door (which will be closing), and we have places like the Visulite Theatre which bring fantastic touring bands to town. I think we have grown as a city. We still don't have the numbers like we did in the late 80's and 90/s for original music. Local bands could draw hundreds and hundreds of people here back in the late 80's an d90's. I think we lost a lot of people to rave and electronic music. The Dj's were and are still musicians to me playing clubs, but the crowds changed quite a bit. I think now we have a lot of strong personalities in the music scene here. We are not as "chip on our shoulder" about the Triangle. Chuck and MoRisen and Penny Craver had a lot to do with that early on. This isn't really a music business city, but we have some great musicians and artists in this town. So, now that we have the election over with and we have a new President elect, it reminds me a lot of those early Reagan years. I can almost guarantee that the music and art in this town will be amazing during this ride.
Tangents: Tell me about the new album.
McCorkle: This is the first album by the full "classic" lineup (myself, Big Mike Mitschele, Grainger Gilbert, Gary Guthrie, and Justin Faircloth will be playing piano and synths) since 1999's "American Ghetto Pop Machine" album. We have played together in various forms over the years since, but mainly I have toured as Leisure either solo, or other incarnations. We were asked to get together to play Sir Edmond Halley's 20th anniversary party back in the summer since we had our first record release there in '97 for Nappy Superstar by owner Svend Deal. It was basically our HQ back in the day. We had a lot of fun practicing and playing the show, so I asked Big Mike if he would be interested in producing another LM band album. Everyone was into it right away. The name of the album is "5000 Light Years Beyond the Speed of Sound." There will be ten new songs. We went for a more emotive British pop feel this time around. Tracking drums and acoustic pianos and mixing at Old House with Chris Garges, and everything else is being done at Big Mike's Echo Hills studio. I will also be putting this album out on my new non-profit experimental label "NappyStar Chocolates."
I kinda sped things up a bit when I saw a chance to play one of the final shows at the Double Door. We are releasing the new album at that show 12/30/16, and everyone that buys a ticket will get a free copy of the album. I am also working with various people on cool packaging. Vinyl will be released in the spring, and there will be a few special releases to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the band in 2017. We will also be recording the Double Door show live with audio and video (the Johnson bros are handling the video) and we hope to release a live DVD in 2017 of that final show with interviews and extras.
Tangents: What else are you working on?
McCorkle: I am also currently working on this album, the new label, a new electronic project called "The Electronic Park" with Whitney Bridges (who played piano and vocals with the Leisure band circa American Ghetto). On this new album Mike Mitschele and I worked together a great deal as a team to write together for this album. We both have our own strong identities, and it just made sense to create the strongest songs and album we could this time. The production of the album will be wrapped in November.
I plan to re-release Nappy Superstar for the 20th anniversary in gold sparkle this time, release the DVD from the Double Door, and release a "b-side" album of Leisure tunes with some extras.
Tangents: Contrast being a teacher with being a rock star.
McCorkle: I am an anthropologist. I didn't know all those years ago I would end up going to school and becoming a scholar/teacher/researcher but that is the way it played out. Really I was involved in anthropology from an early age by playing in bands. I was watching the people around me every time I went out. At first I tried to keep my academic life operate from my musical career. Then one day I just woke up and decided that they were basically who I am as a person. The great thing about having two careers or interests is that I can put one down when I get burned out. So, lately I have picked music up again full force. I can always do both. Both are anthropology (or perhaps ethnomusicology, ha). Belfast where I earned my PhD had an amazing ethnomusicology program.
Tangents: Tell me about your non-profit label.
McCorkle: I have been thinning about the present state of music an the future. I am currently working on an electronic project which I hope to introduce out into the world in 2017. We are not going to follow any of the corporate/commercial pathways if we can. We are going to think about songs differently than I have ever done before. I thought about people like Prince and Steve Jobs and Richard Branson and like minded futurists. What will music look like in the future? Is rock and roll dead as an art form?
My new non-profit label will be called "NappyStar Chocolates.," and my entire vision is to transform music form commodity to experience. I realize that there will still be musical artists that want to win Grammys and be superstars etc., but this label will concentrate on bending genres, categories of what popular music can be moving forward. I am starting with my own new release, but I plan to try an help bands that don't really fit into mainstream models. I hope to approach it like someone who is promoting culture rather than a product. The high arts are able to earn grants and a lot of funding from external sources. I am hopeful that I will be able to apply for grants to push music that isn't considered "high art" in mainstream society. And not just musical artists, but also visual and spoke word artists. I am still really searching for a vocabulary for what I am trying to do, because I don't want to use corporate music's categories and narratives. I really want original music to thrive. I know first hand how difficult it is to be a musician trying to eek out a living in the modern world.