After more than 20 years as a professional musician, Stephanie Leigh Hall has finally come out of the recording studio with an album, “Playing For Change” making it’s debut this week.
Stephanie, originally from Meridian, Mississippi, played on Bourbon Street for a decade, and has become a staple on the music scene on the Gulf Coast for the past several years.
Full disclosure, Stephanie is my much better half and after hearing some of her lyrics, someone asked me if I sleep with one eye open. Of course I do.
Her new record is a genre bending mix of Gypsy Jazz, Folk Rock and Americana. Lyrical masterpieces with a catchy sound that is sure to make a long lasting impression on her fans.
Channeling Janis Joplin and Lucinda Williams, Stephanie is comfortable belting out a country rock anthem or a sultry ballad.
I sat down with Stephanie and asked her about her new record.
How did you get started playing music?
It was a family tradition. Everyone in my family going back generations played an instrument or sang. It was what you did in Mississippi to keep from getting pregnant or thrown in jail. In my case it didn’t work for either of those.
Who are your musical inspirations?
My grandparents, My mother, My sisters, the Janises (Joplin, Ian) Joan Armatrading, Phoebe Snow, Melissa Etheridge, Stevie Nicks, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Lucinda Williams, Julie and Buddy Miller, Louis Armstrong, Dr. John, Hank Williams, Sr., Django Reinhardt….so so many.
If you got to share the stage with someone this year who would it be?
That’s a really tough one. Only one person huh…. I think I’ll hold back on this one in case it blows it for me. What if someone wants to play with me and I didn’t say their name? Huh?
You have been a professional musician for a long time. What made now the right time to put out your first record?
I have been a mother, caregiver, employee or in some form obligated to be in certain places at certain times for other people, people I love and for whom I wanted to be available. Now that part of my life has come full circle, back to a time when I can be a little bit selfish, satisfy my ambition and answer that age old question; What if?
How do you go about the songwriting process?
Sometimes I will think of a theme that I want to write about, and I will sit down and write about that subject and sometimes It just comes to me when I see something on the side of the road. It almost never turns out the way it started.
What does the title of the record “Playing for Change” mean to you?
It means whatever the listener wants it to mean when they are listening to the record.
Women’s issues are very important to you. How does that affect your songwriting and being a woman in the music business?
Listen to the album. It pretty much answers this question. I will say that It’s not a cop out to say that women are received differently in the music industry. Record execs are not exactly climbing over each other to sign a 52-year-old grandmother. Beauty sells, sex sells, trend setting sells. If you are a man in his 50’s, you can be fat, bald and bitchy and people will still want to buy tickets to your shows and buy your record.
The same really can’t be said for a female newcomer. Even women who have been “in” since their early twenties battle the body shaming, the agism and being titled a “difficult woman” or the synonym I won’t repeat, when they want to be in control of their own message and sound. Even in a small town like Pensacola, I have been called every name in the book.
What is your favorite song on the record and why?
Move Over, because I have been shushed in one form or another of my entire life as have most women in the world. I think it really resonates with women whether they were born in the 1800s or 2001.
What do you have planned for 2020 and is there another record in the works?
I am working on writing for the next album right now. I plan on doing some touring and promoting this album and busting my rear end to get it heard.
There are several references in your lyrics about men cheating, being narcissistic, telling you to shush, as well as you having “fun with bullets.” Is your man in any danger?
Whose man isn’t?