BY SEÁN P. FEENY
A YOUNG singing talent from Letterkenny with a passion for American Old-time and Delta Blues music is about to launch her first album.
Leila Keeney’s album Leave It Where The Sun Don’t Shine will be launched as part of North West Words in Café Blend, Letterkenny next Thursday.
The 17-year-old started writing songs at the age of 15 and by the age of 16 she was in the studio with Terry McGinty in Ballyofey recording them last August.
One year on she is ready to release the album which features ten tracks, five originals and five covers of songs by artists who have very much influenced her.
American Old-time, Bluegrass and Delta Blues aren’t genres typically found in an Irish teenager’s CD collection, but for Leila the passion for this music has developed over the years.
She said: “At the age of 13 I saw the movie O Brother Where Art Though which features a lot of these styles and after getting the soundtrack I wanted to find more of this music.”
One of the first ports of call for the young teenager was to get her parents to take her to the Bluegrass Festival in Omagh and from then on she had found her influences such as Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson to Nick Drake and Gillian Welch. “I really like this type of music as it’s very evocative and full of character,” said Leila.
In 2009 Leila was also the lead singer of Letterkenny’s Indie teenage sensations, the Jamaican Vampires, with her cousins and friends, but she parted ways with the band in order to pursue her own ambition to write and perform her solo music.
“I like the way the Delta Blues artists just perform by themselves on their guitars and so it becomes all about expression and character.
“Leaving the band I was able to concentrate on my own music and practice the guitar more as I worked on developing a style,” said Leila.
Over the past year Leila has taken every opportunity she could to perform in public from talent competitions, even busking on the streets of Letterkenny, a great way to hone your skills.
She caught the attention of event organisers and she got the opportunity to support the Wiyos and Rainy Boy Sleep and the Water Tower Bucket Boys from Portland, Oregon. Leila has also performed on both Highland Radio and RTE Radio 1’s Sunday Miscellany programme.
Leila said she is very excited about launching her very first album on Thursday night. “It’s great to have a first album from which I can develop from. It will also be nice to have in later years to see where I came from musically and what I sounded like when I was 16,” she laughed.
The album cover was a family collaboration as Leila brought in her father’s assistance, well-known Letterkenny artist Christy Keeney.
“My father took the photograph and, inspired by the album covers of some of the Delta Blues artists I like, we kept the cover very simple to reflect the music.”
Having just received her Leaving Certificate results, Leila is about to set off into third level education as she begins her degree in acting at the University of Northampton.
But before that you will still be able her at her album launch on Thursday night and subsequently at the Dunfanaghy Jazz & Blues festival next month.
Leila Keeney’s Leave It Where The Sun Don’t Shine is available on www.cdbaby.com