Key to the Highway: Brennen Leigh

Interviews Key to the Highway Series

Americana Highways’ Key to the Highway series

Fans always clamor to learn more about their favorite, most beloved musicians and those who travel with them. There’s such an allure to the road, with its serendipity, inevitable surprises, and sometimes unexpected discomforts. This interview series is a set of questions we are asking some of our favorite roots rock Americana artists to get to know more about them and what they’ve learned and experienced on the road. We are sure they have key insights to share and stories to tell. Here’s one from Brennen Leigh:

Americana Highways:  How do you like your coffee or other morning wake-up beverage?

Brennen Leigh: I’m constantly trying to quit coffee (it makes me anxious), but it never sticks. Strong, with some kind of non-dairy milk. Oat, if I’m lucky. I’m also a fiend for strong black tea. It’s actually a problem.

AH: What’s the most interesting or strangest motel/hotel or place you have stayed (while on the road?)

BL: Tough question. One that comes to mind was a time capsule of a motel in Vaughn, New Mexico. Yellow shag carpet, original paint…a time capsule, undoubtedly untouched since its last remodel in 1970 or so. The desk clerk/owner was eccentric but welcoming. She had one eye that looked up at the sky and one that looked right at you. After an all night drive, we turned in about 3pm, only to wake at what we thought was 7pm. It was 7am. We’d slept sixteen hours. I think we’d been abducted by aliens. We had pancakes next door. When we left, we discovered my dog had fleas.

AH: If one CD is stuck in the player in the van for the entire tour, what do you hope it is? And why?

BL: David Olney’s “The Stone.” There’s so much to be learned from David, and listening to the album is like watching a great movie.

AH: What’s one personal item you must have with you on your road trip?

BL: A notebook. If I don’t write everything down, it clutters up the inside of my head.

AH: What is your relationship with food? How do you handle this on the road, and what’s your favorite dish on the road, (or restaurant, and what do you order there)?

BL: The best thing about traveling is the food. I’m adventurous. I love to find the quaint and colorful local spots. No chains allowed, if we can avoid it. I follow a plant-based diet (no meat, dairy or eggs) and stay away from wheat if possible. It’s a challenge. Sometimes I just starve, if I haven’t planned properly. It helps to have a cooler with snacks…apples, peanut butter, dark chocolate, nuts, dried mango, those little packets of baby food… especially when we hit an inevitable food desert. Following my diet is easier than you might think; lots of Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Italian and Mexican joints have veggie options…no problem. I rationalize that because I don’t drink, I can splurge on food. It’s one of the great joys of being a musician.

AH: If you could pause your life for a few weeks and spend some time living in a place you only have passed through, which would you choose, and why?

BL: There are so many. Sometimes I hate leaving for the next date. Parts of rural France and Ireland come to mind. Perth, Scotland is a favorite spot too. Definitely Norway, where I’ve spent a lot of time. I’d like to just pretend I’m one of those bohemian fancy folks out of an Edith Wharton novel, bashing around from country to country, drinking espresso…aimless. It’s so romantic.

AH: What quote or piece of advice have you gotten from someone on the road that has really stuck with you?

BL: Get a van. It provides privacy when the venue doesn’t. It’s like having a little room you take with you. Your vehicle really starts to feel like home on those long stretches.

Find all things Brennen Leigh here:

See other Key to the Highway interviews here: (click here for: Nicki Bluhm  Ben Nichols Bruce Cockburn Charlie Musselwhite Jim White Danny Barnes  Patterson Hood Jerry Joseph BJ Barham Rodney Crowell Todd Snider Elizabeth Cook Tommy Womack Eric Ambel, Dan Baird, Robbie Fulks, Malcolm Holcombe Jon Langford Steve Poltz, Lilly Hiatt  Sarah Shook & the Disarmers )

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