Lonely Leesa and The Lost Cowboys, formed in 2017, is reminiscent of iconic sounds from Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors" era, Lucinda Williams, Big Star, and the Rolling Stones during their "Exile on Main Street" phase. The band paints a vivid soundscape of love's melancholic demise but with a melodic and catchy twist. A new video for "Stayed" is out in January, ahead of a forthcoming new album in the spring.
Blood Makes Noise: What is the basis for writing attention-grabbing music in this day and age?
Leesa Coyne: I have always used art/music as a way to move a conversation forward or to process my own feelings. Music really provided voices for me as a young person I connected with and it really helped me through. When I started to write songs I wanted to give that connection to others with the music I write.
Then, at one point, I was going to a lot of folk open mics with folks quite a bit older than me and that really introduced me to the power of the political song. I had said to myself it is incredibly hard to write a song that speaks to folks without pandering. I tried to take that into some of the songwriting on this album, tentatively called Restorative Justice, which will hopefully be out in or around the Spring of 2024. There is currently a lot going on in the world and this record speaks to the complexity of being a female living in America at this point in time where we are both moving forwards and backwards all at once.
What has it been like working with an indie record label as opposed to working on your own?
We are very excited to be working with Rum Bar Records on this release. They recently are working with a lot of really great Boston bands who I already love (Abbie Barrett, Stars Like Ours) and they have a ton of talented women on the label to boot! Uncle Lou who runs the label has great instincts and really brings a lot of energy on getting the tracks out into the world while giving us plenty of space to make whatever creative choices we want with the music. We are really excited about the partnership moving forward.
Can you pinpoint some specific songs and songwriters that changed the way you write music?
Back in the day, it was Nirvana and R.E.M. I would also have to say Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Bonnie Raitt. I really wanted to have killer singing chops as a kid so I would just learn all those pop songs note for note. I would have been all in if my parents put me on Star Search, I have always loved to sing and sang non stop all the time. I can’t listen to music without at least mumbling along even if I don't know the lyrics… it can be totally annoying! But then Nirvana, R.E.M., and PJ Harvey really spoke to my soul with their raw and gut wrenchingly honest songwriting.
Once I started playing and writing, Patty Griffin really opened my eyes to the genius of a capo and some cowboy chords! I always gravitated to the roots sounding nature of “Near wild heaven” on R.E.M.’s Out Of Time. And honestly when the first Whiskeytown record came out I really wanted to make an alt-country record. Growing up in New England the Nashville stuff was never my jam but once I found alt country / outlaw country / indie folk I found my pocket for writing the songs and sound I wanted to create. Also I would say I love all sorts of music so who knows where things could evolve, I try to take it song by song and serve the song the best I can.
Do you find it hard to be inspired by artists that are younger than you, or are you motivated by their energy? Can you name any new artists you find inspiring?
I am pretty old currently so most artists are younger than me. Music is always inspiring but is often a young person's game. For me it’s been my fountain of youth. I grew up working at a record store so I am constantly on the lookout for new music and artists to be excited about. I am completely obsessed with Sylvan Esso, they are my favorite band right now and I have seen them like five times. They are pure joy and their songs are just wonderfully written. Clairo out of Boston is great, she blew up and I am pretty sure I am old enough to be her mom! Also love love boygenius. Sometimes you just discover an artist you grow into who has been there all along but you never dialed in on it over the past year I have been on a giant Dionne Warwick kick, I think if I listened to her when I was younger I might not have appreciated her or how cool her songs and arrangements are but she is the boss, a total badass and I love her.
For your new album, what inspired the lyrical content, album title, and overall vibe?
This record will be tentatively called Restorative Justice. I had a lot of not great things that happened in my life at various points that I was holding onto. I wanted this record to be a way of processing those things and moving forward from it. A lot of it is from a woman of my age’s perspective and touches on things like domestic violence, abortion, love, loss, guilt, shame and feminism. Maybe the next record will be a dance record after this one which is a bit of a Debbie downer :) Some of the songs, like “19,” I wrote about my abortion at 19, are really heavy. It feels insane that 19-year-old me had more rights than many 19-year-olds living in the US today. Some of these songs I sing to keep the conversation alive. I will keep singing that song till all womxn have full rights over both their bodies and healthcare choices.
The meaning for the song “Stayed,” and now its music video, has evolved for me over the years as I processed no longer being with an abusive partner. There are so many complicated feelings around it. The whole situation is so isolating. I think about how in the state I live in (Massachusetts) it is really hard to get a gun and how if we lived in another state that person would have most likely had guns at the house. There has been a lot of legislation around trying to get guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. I felt like I wanted this video to raise awareness about both the complex and isolated nature of domestic violence as well as how we have to do better to get guns out of the hands of perpetrators of violence.
Here are two links for good information on the subject:
Do you find that you ruminate over writing songs and hold on to them for a long time before including them on a record? Or do you prefer to write them, release them, and be done with them? Do you ever revisit old material to do a rewrite or once it’s done it’s done?
I am often not in the studio. So many times a song is road tested before we get into the studio with it. Most times I have a bunch of tunes that have been kicking around that we work into recording. I would have to say the studio is not my favorite place, I find it a bit draining and much prefer playing live shows. I have been in a bunch of bands over the years and have worked with many studios so at this point I feel like I know more of what I want to get out of a recording when I am going into the studio. It is like any other musical skill you have to keep learning and growing with each record and it’s part of the journey that keeps things interesting. On this record we have a ton of really fun instrumentation on it and a few of the players in my crew co-wrote some of the songs so that added to the fun.
Were there any lessons you learned in the writing and recording process for your current release that you will take with you into your next project?
This recording is a bit different than the past ones. We have had a ton of time and flexibility with the recording. The studio is a close knit crew so it’s a bit different from booking a few days and just trying to get everything done before you run out of money so we were able to be really intentional about things. We are going the Tom Petty Wildflowers route which took I think six years. We are on year five. So maybe next time blending the speed of the past sessions with the intentional approach from this one and aim for two years.