For those who don’t know, music has always been a passion of mine. After all, I got my degree in music/voice, I was a music teacher, and the list goes on. Interestingly enough, in April, as I was preparing to return home after a wonderful time at the Artemis Film Festival in LA, I looked down at my phone, and almost by “accident,” a Christian musician popped into my Facebook feed. I have no idea how it happened, but of course, I knew it was Divine intervention, and so I contacted Catherine Leigh to see if she would be willing to do an interview. I always believe in people with strong faith, convictions, and dreams, and I hold a special place for nontraditional stories, since I am one of those as well. Thankfully, Cat agreed to an interview, and I couldn’t be more pleased than to share this delightful woman and her story with all of you.
What inspired you to become a musician/singer/songwriter? Tell us about your journey towards your dream.
I’ve loved singing for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until my late twenties that I felt I needed to pursue music as a career. I never wrote a song before then, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t stop! They weren’t that good, mind you, but everybody’s got to start somewhere, right? Since then, it has just been me trying to figure out what the next step will be, and praying that God would show me. I’ve gone through several variations of who I am as an artist–all the while sticking with the principle that I am a Christian first and foremost. But I’ve recently felt the pull to get back to my first purpose in music, and that is to direct my listeners to God. My dream is to be able to share my music with as many people as possible, (radio play and touring, eventually), and I don’t know where I am in the fulfillment of that dream, but every day is a new opportunity to take another step closer to it.
Where do you receive inspiration for your songs?
I think anyone who writes will tell you that they pull inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. I can’t pinpoint one specific area, but all aspects of my life provide inspiration… from an innocent question my daughter asked, to a family tragedy, and sometimes just random musings that lend themselves to verse. I try to stay open to inspiration when it strikes and not force myself to write. Some writers can make themselves sit down and write a beautiful song out of nowhere. Maybe I’m just not as disciplined, but I have to have the idea first, and then I can write it. If I try to force something, it’s obvious in the finished product, and it’s just not good.
What kind of training have you received in music?
When I first decided that I was going to pursue this goal, I naively thought I was as good as I needed to be… Humility is sometimes a painful lesson, and after I got knocked down a peg or ten, I started working with Karen Leigh (no relation) at the Levite School of Music, in Columbus, Ohio. Karen very patiently taught me how to bring my voice under control and how to make my tone more pleasing. She also taught me quite a bit about songwriting. Learning how to say what you want with the fewest possible words was a big lesson for me.
When we moved to Connecticut, I got the opportunity to work with Christine Ohlman, “The Beehive Queen”, an SNL blues legend. In just a few sessions, Christine helped me tap into a real power with my singing. There’s a difference between just singing loud and being able to really belt out a song with power without damaging your voice. That’s Christine’s specialty. As I move forward, I’ve become more aware that I will never be as good as I want to be, so I will take the opportunity to learn wherever it presents itself. I’ve often said that the day you feel like you’ve learned everything there is to learn in your craft is the day you need to quit.
As your journey to your dreams has been somewhat nontraditional, please tell us what you view as the next step in your pursuit of your musical aspirations.
Nontraditional is a good way to describe this journey! While most artists spend their twenties pursuing and mastering their craft, I was busy finishing college, getting married and starting a family. It wasn’t until my late twenties, after our youngest was well into toddler-hood that the thought of making music a career choice even entered my mind! At 29, we had three daughters… Our oldest was five, and we had twins who were three. Before then, I was doing the best I could just to take care of them, let alone pursuing a career for myself. I know women who do it all, but I guess I’m just not that much of a super-mom. As for my next steps, I’ll concentrate on building my music ministry, Child of God Ministries, and putting together a band. Where we go from there is a mystery right now.
Do you view this musical pursuit as a dream, calling, or a bit of both? Please elaborate if you can.
Definitely both. When I was little, I used to dream about becoming a singer, but that wasn’t very practical so I focused on other things and actually earned my bachelor’s degree in zoology. I like to say that I use that degree to run the zoo that is my house! When I came back to music, I would consider that my calling. It took a lot of prayer and discussions with my husband to come to the conclusion that this is really something that God wanted me to do. I was participating in the Bible study, Experiencing God, and there was a part in the “homework” where it asks you to stop and ask God what He wants to do with us. I complied with this, not expecting anything much, but God gave me a vision of performing on a stage in front of a very large audience. That vision has been the driving force behind everything I do musically.
While no one (but God) can see the future, please comment on where you see yourself ten years from now.
Hopefully, performing on a stage in front of a very large audience! (laughs) Seriously, though, I recently had the privilege to go see Big Daddy Weave, Plumb and Jordan Feliz in concert. It was such a beautiful event, more worship service than concert, and I would love to be able to be part of something like that in the future.
Please tell us about your family and their view on your pursuits.
My extended family has been very supportive, for the most part. Maybe a bit skeptical at times, but I think I’ve stuck with it long enough to convince them that this is not just a passing whim. As far as my husband and daughters are concerned, they’ve been with me from the start. As my girls have become teenagers, they may not necessarily like the music that I write, but they are always supportive of what I’m trying to accomplish. My husband, Joe, is my biggest support of all. I would have quit several times if it hadn’t been for him cheering me on. I am blessed.
Any upcoming works you can mention? Potential things in the works?
Right now, Joe and I are focused on building the website, www.catleigh.com, networking and booking shows at area Christian coffeehouses. In the immediate future, we will continue to create videos for the remaining songs on the EP, “A Little Surprise”, and get the CDs printed. (All of the songs are available on the website now for members. It’s free to join, and there is other content and sneak peaks available as well. Videos will be added to the site, as well as Facebook and YouTube, as we complete them.) After that, with the grace of God, we will hopefully earn enough money and support to continue to create new music… I have the songs for the next EP written, we just have to find the instrumentalists to bring them to life 🙂
Cat’s story so resonates with me, as I know exactly what it’s like to have a dream and a vision that God births within you and have it unfold in a unique fashion. Cat’s story is a reminder that no matter your age, race, or socioeconomic status, dreams and passion combined with determination and hard work (and a blessing from above) can bring about more than one could imagine. I believe that as Cat stays true to her faith and continues to grow in her craft, her music ministry will only continue to grow and inspire many all around the world.