Carissa Leigh is a rising country star that you definitely want to get to know. While she cites Shania Twain and Dolly Parton as some of her influences, Carissa has a rockin' sound and an impressive vocal range that gives her music an edge. Carissa’s debut U.S. single “Bad Boy” will be released in the coming months. Carissa kindly took the time to chat with us about her entry into music, "Bad Boy" and a cause close to her heart.
Can you give us a little background on yourself and why you wanted to pursue music as a career?
Well, I grew up in Calgary. I learned to play piano at the age of three. I was always involved in music and performing and loved it! In high school I started writing because I realized that writing was a great emotional outlet for me. I went to college and I actually got turned down for a lot of the music things I tried for, which was discouraging. Then I got divorced and started writing again, trying to process my feelings through music. I started getting recognized for my writing, which felt really good because it meant that people did want to hear what I had to say. It encouraged me to make the decision that music was really a viable option as a career.
Why did you decide to pursue country music?
Well, I grew up on mostly country and rock music, but was drawn to the story telling element that country music had. I don't want to sing about anything that wouldn't ring true for me and country music allows me to relate experiences or feelings that I have been having.
Do you have any particular musical influences and how do they reflect in your sound?
I absolutely love Dolly Parton and Shania Twain. Shania is a great writer who is very open about her emotions whether it is a fun song or a love song. I like that with her, nothing is produced or put on as far as being a true artist is concerned. She influences me both in my sound and in my intentions as an artist.
I also love a good guitar solo which comes out of listening to a lot of southern rock with my Dad.
Is there anyone you want to model your career after?
I gravitate towards Shania Twain. She came out of nowhere, worked hard and kept a good head on her shoulders while having a long career. My main goal is always to be kind to people and remember to help everyone I can along the way.
Talk about your experience with CMT Canada.
My manager came to me one day and told me CMT Canada wanted me to be their Fresh Face Artist of the Month. It was very exciting because that was my first big introduction to Canadian country music. I had an EP out, a single on the radio and a video. That exposure really helped me gain traction as an artist in Canada which in turn allowed me to move to Nashville six months ago. Over the past year and a half things have really moved forward for me. It has been a lot of hard work, but a great experience. I have so many wonderful people putting their faith in me.
You have a new single coming out, "Bad Boy," tell us about it.
I wrote "Bad Boy" about a year ago. It is just a really fun up tempo country rock song. I was talking about what I think a bad boy is and was describing some of the things that I expect in a guy like that. Before I knew it, I had the outline to a song. I love playing it live with a band and seeing how people react. They seem to love it and the lyrics are easy to sing along to, which gets them involved.
Will there be a video for the song?
Yes, we just completed the video. We shot it at a bar in Nashville called the Crying Wolf. It was just a great day that went by really fast. Kristin Barlowe came up with concept for the video and we worked out the details together. It was fun to turn tradition on its head, where the male female roles are reversed when you're out socially.
What is the writing process like for you?
I write by myself, but I really enjoy co-writing because it brings an additional perspective to a song and helps me in case I get stuck trying to express what I want to say.
You also have photography and dance as creative outlets.
I have danced since I was a little girl, both ballet and competitively. I went to college in Hawaii and learned a lot about their culture. There is a lot of storytelling in Hawaiian culture which is the same aspect of what I love most about country music. In college I studied sports broadcasting and took a photography course, which I really enjoyed. After my daughter was born I took a lot of photos of her; then started taking photographs of children and weddings. Photography is also how I got involved with Akin Clothing.
Talk about your involvement with Akin Clothing.
Akin Clothing takes school uniforms to children in developing countries around the world so that they are able to attend school and get an education. It is amazing to see the difference a uniform can make to a child. It really warms the soul.
My friend Ben is the founder and knew of my photography. He asked me to come along to photograph a trip they were taking to Ghana. I went and had a life changing experience. I want to continue my involvement with them in any way possible.
What are your plans for year?
Well, we are going to release the single, which is very exciting. I have really high hopes for the song. If it does well, we will go on tour. I will also continue to write and get more material. It's hard to know what is going to occur in this business, but I have always been a person who loves adventure so I am ready to see what happens.
Find Carissa on Facebook