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Southern man, keep your head

At a mere 20 years old, Dylan LeBlanc has done pretty well for himself. The son of a respected Muscle Shoals session player and singer-songwriter, LeBlanc spent his early childhood hanging around recording studios between Alabama and Louisiana and learning to play guitar. By his mid-teens, LeBlanc was playing original material at small venues across the country. And his debut album, Paupers Field (Rough Trade) – a somber country-folk record in the strictest of terms – has attracted the talents of Emmylou Harris and earned him a spot on Rolling Stone’s list of Music’s Best Newcomers of 2010. Now touring with folk-singer Lissie, LeBlanc is headed to play the Paradise Rock Club on Jan. 29. The singer-songwriter called in fresh from a show in Minneapolis to talk about his new record, Neil Young and working with one of country music’s greatest.

The MUSE: Your debut album was just released this summer. What have the last few months been like for you?

Dylan LeBlanc: I worked really hard touring. It’s been a big change in my life, kind of giving up control and having people work for me. It’s weird. Not having to book my own shows. It’s kind of cool. I like it. I feel like I’m very happy. I feel like I’m moving forward, and I’ve gotten a lot better over the course of the last year and several months. Playing new songs, it’s been really great.

TM: Who are some of the artists and songs that inspired you to get out there and create your own music?

DL: As far as artists go, I like what a lot of people like. I like Wilco a lot. They were big throughout my teenage years. And a lot of Neil Young, classic rock, classic folk music. As far as songs go, the first song that made me instantly love music was “Out On The Weekend” from Harvest (Reprise). That was the first real, good song that made me want to start writing songs. I just like that song for some reason, and that whole album. We played a lot of good stuff at my house.

TM: On your album, Emmylou Harris appears on a few tracks. How did you two meet and become professionally involved?

DL: I had written that song “If The Creek Don’t Rise” and I really wanted her to sing on it. And I asked my manager if he could get it in her hands and send it to her. So he gave it to her, put it in her hands and said ‘let’s just hope for the best.’ And she said she would call us if she liked it and wanted to sing on it. She called back a few days later and said she would do it. And we met her at the studio, she sang it and that was that. It was wonderful.

TM: The tone of your album is very somber and reflective for such a young artist. What’s your songwriting process like and what does your music mean to you as you’re writing it?

DL: I guess the process for me is to develop a feeling, and then develop that feeling into a melody, and then to develop that melody into lyrics. And just trying to translate that feeling into words on the paper – to tell a story with a meaning, or to tell a story that’s what you’re feeling inside for someone else, which is lonely, what I do. That’s pretty much the process. The meaning is all different. Sometimes it has a lot to do with – whether I like to admit it or not – it has a lot to do with the way I’m feeling at the time. I often use other people and characters to describe that.

TM: Any thoughts about what the future holds for you?

DL: I’m just trying not to think about it too much. Just trying to let it all happen. Let it all fall into place. You never know. It’s all a gamble.

Dylan LeBlanc opens for Lissie at the Paradise Rock Club on Friday, Jan. 29.

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