Fredericton songwriter Cat LeBlanc releases her debut recording Blue to Blue this week at Grimross Brewing Co.
All that talk about how it takes a village to make something happen is actually true. That’s been Cat LeBlanc’s experience from day one. The minute she decided to start singing again after years without making music, she quickly found the support and encouragement she needed was all around her. All she had to do was ask.
And ask, she did. To help navigate her rekindled love, LeBlanc reached out to several of her favourite musicians, a courageous act that resulted in support and mentorship from Grammy Award winner Dan Hill and several local musicians.
“Dan would listen to my music and would give me notes and talk about arrangements,” said LeBlanc. “That was probably the best thing that ever happened to me and my music. So many people have been incredibly generous with their time and I couldn’t have made it this far without them.”
It’s been about three years since she decided to make music part of her life again. Thanks to the help of several city musicians, including many who decided to return to music after a lengthy break, LeBlanc will be releasing her first recording, Blue to Blue, later this week.
“I think for me, the biggest thing was just reaching out to people in the music community,” said the Fredericton singer-songwriter. “If you’re by yourself writing and not collaborating it’s pretty hard to grow as an artist.”
LeBlanc credits Jeff Patch and his band Free To Grow for helping make her transition from singing at home to performing on stage a reality.
“It was so much fun. I was in Free to Grow for about a year until I realized I wasn’t doing my own music,” she said. “I talked to Jeff and told him how I was going to shift my music time to focus on my own stuff. He was really great about it and he understood where I was coming from.”
Patch founded Free to Grow early in his retirement and has since seen it develop to include a wide range of musicians from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels.
“I had invited Cat to sing backup with Free to Grow several years ago and she was with us for about a year,” said Patch. “She sang backup on one of the tunes from our 2018 album, Time to Rise. As Cat moved on to focus on her solo work, she invited me to perform with her a few times including a performance at the Miramichi Folksong Festival.”
Colin Fowlie has proven to be another pivotal player in LeBlanc’s development as both a songwriter and a performer. Fowlie turned heads in 2018 when he announced he was quitting his day job to pursue music full time. In addition to contributing some guitar work on Blue To Blue, he was also been instrumental in helping LeBlanc get her recording and her release show in motion.
“I helped her book and plan the launch event, hooked her up with someone to manufacture her CDs and have basically been acting as a trusted advisor,” said Fowlie. “Cat gets easily intimidated with music business-speak. She is working with a management company in the US and has a music mentor in Dan Hill. She leverages me to validate what they are saying – particularly the management company. I’m just helping out any way I can.”
Fowlie says his working relationship with LeBlanc has also helped him explore some new musical territory.
“She has a very sweet and innocent quality to her voice. It’s quite ethereal,” he said. “Her lyrics are poetic and illustrative. It’s fun to contribute musically to her songs because they aren’t overly complex but many have a soothing vibe so it leads to exploration that I might not necessarily get into over my own music.”
Both Patch and Fowlie ended up joining LeBlanc at The Recordery to track songs for her debut. Along with bassist Oliver LeBlanc and guitarist Bryan McDaniel, Joshua Sangster also appears on the album playing mandolin, keys and ukulele. He met LeBlanc at a songwriter’s intensive organized by Shivering Songs and quickly found a connection with her music and her vision.
“I think she has a gift for reading people and surrounding herself with like minded folks,” said Sangster. “I don’t consider myself a really talented musician or anything but I do love it and pour myself into it. I think she could feel that, followed her gut and knew we would click. She can be very timid at but at the same time, she’s totally focused and sure of what she wants as an artist.”
LeBlanc was featured as part of the first season of The Capital Project and recently released a video for her song, Side of the Road. She will celebrate the release of her debut recording with a matinee performance this Sunday at Grimross.