Country music is life to Swedish country singer and songwriter, TJ Leonard. His first guitar was given from his grandfather at eight years old. He was taught to play Swedish folk music and evergreens. Soon, TJ was introduced to pop and blues through his cousin who played in a famous Swedish pop band. At eighteen, TJ became lead singer and guitar player in a dance band. Many genres have passed through TJ’s life from Jazz, hard rock, gospel, soul and R&B, but not until country music came along, did it feel like home.
Q. Take me back to the beginning of your career, can you tell me how you found your love and talent for music and how you decided to make it a career aspiration?
A. “I started quite early with my grandpa. He taught me how to play old songs he used to play with his band in the 40’s and 50’s, from Swedish folk songs to Jazz songs with Swedish lyrics. Later on I got into blues and rock. I played Swedish dance band for a while, I was the lead singer and guitar player. The love for music came naturally because most of the people in my family are musicians. I attended music school for two years; I met many people in the music industry and decided to move forward with my career. A couple obstacles came in the way; I stopped singing for a while and wrote music for other artists. I felt like something was missing and went back.”
Q. What or who played an important role in developing your career goals and making the decision to take fate into your own hands to pursue a career in country music?
A. “Country music is my life. I started to write country music and formed a band called Chestnut. We toured Sweden and Denmark, but we began to have scheduling issues due to family, so I decided to be on my own.
I had a lot of inspirations from other genres as well. I love Stevie Wonder, west coast rock bands, Jazz artists like Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday. When I first heard Keith Urban’s song, Somebody Like You. It sounded like a mix of country and pop. Sweden likes pop so it caught me. I began to listen to traditional country. Today I listen to Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood and Chris Young.”
Q. What do you enjoy or look forward to most about recording or performing music?
A. “For a while, I stopped doing anything with music and focused on my ‘regular’ career at a computer shop. I just had to go back to music, it felt like something was missing. It’s become a lifestyle. If I don’t write music, sing or play, I’m not me. What I love most about it is meeting people in the studio and all the fantastic musicians. I like being on stage and wish I could be on stage more.”
Q. What is a memorable experience for you in your music career and how has it impacted you?
A. “I was performing in Nashville in the fall of 2014. I had a charity event to raise money for kids with cancer. It was great to be apart of and meet all the good musicians. To come to Nashville and visit was awesome.”
Q. What advice would you give to someone who may have a dream or desire, but is struggling with taking the steps to make them a reality?
A. “It’s hard to have your voice heard today. There are so many voices out there and because of the computers, everything sounds so good nowadays. All demos almost sound like a record. For all the record labels and people in the music business, I guess it’s quite hard for them to choose. I think you have to be consistent in doing what you believe in and just go forward in doing it. Everything started to happen for me when I found a good manager. When I talked to Michael Stover about what I wanted, everything started to happen because of his contacts. You have to have a product to sell, so go forward and be consistent in doing what you believe.”
Q. Can you tell me some of your exciting plans for the rest of the 2016? What goals do you have for your career?
A. “I hope I can perform more. I will go to Nashville in September because I am nominated in five categories for the award show. I am working on a new album and there should be a single released before I go to Nashville.”
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