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“You Have To Give Back:” LeAnna Eden On Building Charlotte’s Music Community, One Rock 'n' Blues Song At A Time

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Garage rocker LeAnna Eden infuses soul in her music, as well as her music community.

As an artist raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, LeAnna Eden’s left a sizable impact on the Charlotte music scene. From working with music venue Petra’s on local artist spotlights to fronting the soulful garage blues-rock band LeAnna Eden & the Garden Of to creating the first black alternative music festival in the Queen City, Eden’s work shows that it’s not the music community you were born into, it’s the one you create.

"In the same way that we all come in all different shapes and sizes and colors, so does music."
– Singer/guitarist LeAnna Eden

Interview Highlights:

On the importance of music community in her life:

No matter where I go, I want to have genuine interactions with people. And everything I’ve done in Charlotte, from booking shows to trying to do bigger-scale events, has been about staying in contact and uplifting. If you want to build, you have to give back. That’s the only way you can keep moving.

I feel a little more strongly about community than maybe other people because I was in foster care, and then I was adopted, and then placed back into the system when I was 15. So for me, I’m always looking for family, I’m always looking for community, I’m always looking for a place to belong. So when I started playing music, and I started really playing guitar and going out to open mics, I did that because I was a socially-awkward person and wasn’t really good at starting conversations, but I knew I was good at something. … And that’s what music has been for me: a way to start a conversation and to be present.

On the touch-points for her music:

When I first started going to open mics when I was 19, people would be like, “Oh, you sound like Cat Power or Tracy Chapman.” I’ve been compared to Joan Armatrading before, as well as Alanis Morrisette. People would name all of these women, and I would go, “I don’t know who you’re talking about.” I didn’t start delving into that and figuring out what people were talking about until I was 25. … But I like Regina Spektor for her breath work. I like Corrine Bailey Rae for how she tells the story. And I like Lauryn Hill because … all right, you have to love Lauryn Hill! But also because, when you listen to Lauryn Hill’s live “Unplugged” album, you realize that she only knows three chords. That taught me that it doesn’t matter how well you play; it’s about what you say and how you use your voice as an instrument.

On making Charlotte her musical home:

When I was 21, my friend and I decided we were going to go to every Open Mic in America. And when we got to New York City, and I got a little distracted ... me getting distracted is me falling in love … and my friend left, so I got on a Greyhound bus to Cleveland. I lived in Cleveland for two years, and then I got distracted again and followed somebody to Charlotte. Within six months of being here, we were broken up, and my car broke down, so I didn’t have a way to leave. So I was just chilling here … that’s how I got to Charlotte!

On creating Charlotte’s first BLA/ALT (Black Alternative Music Festival):

Look, there’s a whole community [of black and brown artists] here! Get to know each other. Talk to each other. Support each other. There’s a whole tour [of brown and black artists] in North Carolina. I don’t want to always be the person you call because you need a black chick on your list. Because I know five other black girls who are all very talented and would love the opportunity. I’m not ungrateful; I am happy for everything I’ve gotten and been able to do. But I want to make sure that everybody is getting a little bit. I just want all of my friends to be great and to be recognized for being great.

On her 2019 full-length release Ease Your Soul, Chapman:

My real mom’s name is Solis Chapman. So I spun that around and titled the record Ease Your Soul, Chapman. It’s a letter to her. If she’s thinking about me in her life, and if I get famous, maybe she’ll listen to it. But it’s like, “I’m OK. I’m here. Look at what I’ve been doing, and here are some thoughts I’ve had.”

Music featured in this #WFAEAmplifier chat:

LeAnna Eden & The Garden Of - “Secrets”
LeAnna Eden & The Garden Of - “There’s a Lot of Love”
LeAnna Eden & The Garden Of - “Walk Away”
LeAnna Eden & The Garden Of - “Dirty Water”
LeAnna Eden - “Simple Melody”
LeAnna Eden - “Many Mournings After”
LeAnna Eden - “Ease Your Soul, Chapman”
LeAnna Eden - “This is for A”
LeAnna Eden - “Protest Song”

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Joni Deutsch is happy to call Charlotte home as WFAE's manager for on-demand content and audience engagement, where she's led the first Charlotte Podcast Festival (named one of the “best podcast conferences” by Buzzsprout) and helped produce such podcasts as FAQ City, SouthBound, Inside Politics, Work It and the Apple Podcast chart-topping series She Says. In addition to being an NPR Music contributor, Joni is also the creator and host of WFAE’s Charlotte music podcast Amplifier, named “Best Podcast” by Charlotte Magazine and honored for excellence in arts and music podcasting by the local Edward R. Murrow Awards and The Webby Awards (called “The Internet’s Highest Honor” by The New York Times).