Michelle Leigh: Dissecting a Southern Rock Barbie
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Michelle Leigh: Dissecting a Southern Rock Barbie

- edited by: Michael Kaufmann

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GRAMMY ® Voting Member, Class of 2021

Michelle Leigh is a multiple time Josie Music Awards winner.

You have a huge following on the First Coast but you don’t live here?

I have lived in Marshall, NC for the past 25 years.  I grew up in the heart of Appalachia, but I love the First Coast and the music fans there are just awesome.

Michelle at Whiskey Jax with Phil Swindle, Jimmy Sexton and Barry Rapp.

When did you know you had an interest in music?

… One of my very first memories is standing up between the seats of my Aunt Mae’s Fiat Spyder singing Johnny Paycheck songs at the top of my lungs.  According to my mom’s documentation in my baby book, music has always drawn me in.  The minute I started talking, I also started singing.

Did you start with any specific instrument and migrate to other instruments?

Back in the spare bedroom in the house where I grew up, we had an old rickety player piano.   I would go in there with my hymnals and my paperback Christmas Songs for Kids book and plunk away until I figured out how to make the notes I was playing sound like the notes I was singing.  I can’t read a lick of music, but I can hear EVERY little nuance of a song-good, bad and ugly. 

On stage with Stewart “Doc” Dalrymple and Jimmy Sexton.

Are you currently in a band (or bands)?

I have an incredible band based in North Carolina. I’ve dubbed them the “All-Night, Git-Right” band!  I’m also getting ready to start doing some more Florida shows with a band that’s being built by Stewart “Doc” Dalrymple.  It’s terribly hard to travel long distance unless there is some serious money involved.  Having two bands will allow me to play down in the Florida/Georgia area, as well as the Carolinas & Tennessee. It’s a Win-Win. 

Who is your favorite musician or what musician influenced you the most?

I have several… No, a PLETHORA of favorites! Lol  Elvis Presley, Bobbi Gentry, Tina Turner, Marshall Tucker, Cher, Springsteen, Skynyrd, Hatchet…. The list goes on and on.   Bobbi Gentry is definitely a tremendous influence on my writing style, Tina Turner on my dressing styles, Cher for her  attitude, and the Queen, herself, Dolly Parton for, well, everything.  She’s the kindest lady and is definitely one of the most talented people God has ever given breath. 

Are there any specific memories or highlights of your career that you would like to tell us about?

Absolutely. A couple of years ago, my band and I were asked to be Ted Nugent’s backing band at a concert for three Special Forces.  It was amazing to be standing up there, sharing a microphone with THE  Motor City Madman, singing Johnny B. Good.  He even bestowed upon me & my band the moniker of honorary “Funk Soul Brothers”.  If you know, you know. 

What area bands or musicians are at the top of your list to go out to hear?

North Carolina- Ricky Gunter, Jack Mascari. Florida- Southbound 41 and any band with Doc Dalrymple in it.

Do you have a favorite venue that you enjoy playing locally?

My favorite stage in the world, outside of Grand Ole Opry, is the outdoor stage at the Maggie Valley fairgrounds in Maggie Valley North Carolina.  That stage holds memories of my very best shows with some of my very favorite people, bandmates, sound crew, festival crew. I’m not sure anything’s ever going to be as cool as that one. 

Michelle with her number one fan, Roger Peterson. Oh yeah, he’s her husband too!

Do you have any gigs coming up to tell our readers about?

I do have some festivals later on in the summer and fall, but we’re still in negotiations. As soon as contracts are signed I will be putting my full schedule out! 

What is the best way for musicians to network?

Real networking takes place face to face. You can get tons of likes and follows on social media, the social media is nothing more than smoke & mirrors.  Real relationships with your fans are built face to face. 

Are there any local venue owners/managers that you would like to rave about?

Gosh, there have been so many that have been really really good to me and my band …I would like to give a shout out to Keith Hall, founder of the Full Moon Festival in Middleburg & to Michael Seabolt, founder of the  High Noon Festival in Spring City, TN.  I dearly love both festivals and both founders.

From left: Blues Hall Of Famer Harley Lamoreaux, Michelle, Roger Peterson and Carol Carroll.

If you had a question you would like to ask another musician what would it be?

I would love to ask Kris Kristopherson how he could write pages of a phone book and still turn it into sheer poetry!  That man is amazing. 

Personal hobbies or interests? Family?

Cats, German Shepherd Dogs and Corvettes
I have 12 cats, one GSD and two puppies who are purebred precious.  Jasper- my Garfield lookalike tabby – is my very heart and soul. 

What’s the best thing for you about where you live?

I am proud Appalachia North Carolinian.  I love the mountains, I love the fierceness  mixed with genuine gentleness and compassion of my Appalachian roots… I can’t imagine living anywhere other than in Western North Carolina unless it would be Jacksonville. I have travelled a lot, so any wanderlust I may have is satiated, but I do not foresee ever moving from my beloved mountains.

At Dee’s Bar & Grill in Jacksonville.

Where and how can folks learn more about you and/or your band? Links to your website?

www.michelleleigh.com will take you everywhere you need to go for all things Michelle Leigh

Is there anything else that you want to tell everyone reading this?

The Southern Rock Barbie thing was initially intended to be an insult to me from a select few ladies.  Kind of funny, it’s stuck and everyone loves it.. it took off in a good way now I’m enjoying the heck out of it LOL LOL

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