Exclusive Interview with Chrystal Leigh of Jakalope

Callander Girl: What is the writing process like between you and Dave (Oligvie)? How do you work together? How do you come up with a Jakalope song?
Chrystal Leigh: Typically what happens is Dave will bring me a backing track where he will come up with a rhythm; usually a synch rhythm or he has created a beat. Sometimes he has a melody in mind and he gives that to me and I try and figure something out for it. Usually I will play a piano midi or come up with lyrics or a local melody. We will usually go into the studio together and work off of that. I know this record is different from some of the other Jakalope records where Dave had a lot of other people working on a lot of songs. I think the difference with this record is that Dave and I did all the writing together, it was mainly me and him and then we would have people come on and add their musical creative ideas.

Before joining Jakalope were you familiar with Dave and his work with great artists such as Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson to name a few?
I was more familiar with the bands he had been involved in, I wasn’t necessarily aware of his work on them or his production or mixing value. I’m definitely a huge Nine Inch Nails fan, I got into some Marilyn Manson and I love his remixes for David Bowie. But it wasn’t until I met Dave and was given the opportunity to work with him that I started looking more into his roster. I definitely became more aware especially with his work with Skinny Puppy and he kind of opened up my mind to Ministry… specifically The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste. My interest level definitely grew once I met him, and he’s exposed me to a lot of the work that he’s done.


What was your audition like?
It was good, I think what helped for me is that I didn’t really know all the stuff that he worked on so when I met him it was really on level playing in my mind. I wasn’t nervous because I didn’t know everything that he had done which was good thing. It was a really intimate audition, I wasn’t sitting in some hallway waiting for the next person to come out or anything. I was introduced to him through Jonathan Simkin from 604 Records, him and I have been in touch for years before I met Dave. When Dave was looking for a new singer Jonathan suggested me and so we just started talking via email and I sent him a couple songs that I’d done.

Dave is such an easy going guy so when I met him it was like I already kind of knew him. I think we have kind of a rare connection when it comes to writing and even personality wise we definitely seemed to get each other right away. I sat down and played one minute of a song on the piano and then he just gave me a song to work on, he wanted to see what I would do with it. I ended just putting some vocals and whatever to it and I sent it to him and soon after he told told me, “Let’s do this, let’s write a record.” It was really cool, and at the time I was unaware at how cool it really was (laughing), I was sort of sheltered in a way when it came to musical involvement. I had been so focused on my solo career and writing my own music that I had almost closed myself off from other things around me. I hadn’t recorded at a professional level and the experience was very humbling too which was good.


Growing up who were your musical influences? Who inspired you?
I was raised in a family that was really into Top 40 so whatever was on the radio and since I was born in the 80’s I was definitely listening to a lot of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Madonna who was my female hero when I was a little girl. One of the first musicians that kind of moved me and that I couldn’t stop listening to was Queen and Freddie Mercury. His singing ability, his passion and his honesty really touched me. From there it was Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin and all the classics, I was pretty devoted to classic rock when I was younger.

Did your parents at an early age see your potential as a singer/musician?
I think they had no choice (laughing), I just wouldn’t shut up! Watching Disney films on repeat and re-enacting the whole movie. Since I was 6 years old that this is all I wanted to do, it was just the progression of it. Just dealing with what you had as a kid. I moved out when I was 16 years old and that’s when I started writing my own songs and I had been trained classically on piano. I had a friend who played guitar and we would go around town playing covers and at 19 I bought myself a piano and I sat down and started writing songs. I got myself into a local band and started performing them and I have been working my way up ever since.

Guilty musical pleasures? Or maybe something that someone may be surprised that you like.
You know I’m a sucker for a good pop song, I’ll throw on the Beat and if Rhianna’s pumping I can get into that. Ok I have a guilty pleasure, there is this Adam Lambert song I can not stop listening to, it’s called Sleep Walker. It kinda has this 80’s beat to it so I didn’t think it as Adam Lambert when I first heard it on the radio but I love that song and I pump that shamelessly. I was raised around a lot of country, the Judd’s, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton but I wouldn’t even call those guilty pleasures.. they are really great musicians.


Is there anyone else in your family that is musical like yourself?
My Mom loves singing, she actually sounds like Stevie Nicks and has a good rasp to her voice but singing would never be something that she would think to do professionally. Her sister (my Auntie) definitely did some performing in bars with cover bands and she did some of her own writing. I think there is an up and raising star because one of her kids I hear that she is venturing into music. She has been entering contests so we will see what happens. But as of right now I’m only really the one who is doing it.

I’ve heard that you love to perform and that you would rather be on stage than in the studio. When you are performing do you feel the stage is where you most belong?
Definitely, that’s where I feel connected with people and I think it’s hard to feel connected to people these days. I’m given an opportunity and get up and share with people a song that I have written and have a universal connection coming off that. People will come to me and thank me…and I’m like..really? No thank you! Thank you for being here! Thank you for listening. Those are definitely the moments that I live for with music. And the ability to just get it out cause if I didn’t have music and I kept everything inside I would be crazy. Even crazier than I am now (laughs). I would probably be my Mother (laughs)..Love you Mom! (laughs) but I do really need this as an outlet.

Is there a place that you would like to tour that you haven’t yet? Or is there any places that you have performed that you would like to go back to?
For Jakalope I would like to see us play to a more Industrial scene, hit up some festivals in Germany and other places in Europe and in the States. Places like Texas, Chicago, and Boston, where there is more of an industrial scene. With our myspace page and Facebook, the hits that we are getting are from those places. They want industrial pop music and they are fans of Dave Ogilvie, Vancouver doesn’t really have a big scene for that. We aren’t really a dark industrial city, we are very up and poppy city. Toronto has always been great, we played a few shows with Die Mannequin for Canadian Music Week and that’s probably some of our best shows. Care Failure is such a rad chick and the crowd was so ready to be involved in a rock show and that’s what we gave them.

We have also played the Orpheum and I would go back there any time. That was epic and definitely nostalgic.

That’s a big venue.
It is, we opened for Marianas Trench and it was a sold out show so that was really awesome. Those kids were crazy supportive, they would have screamed and cheered if we had been playing the songs backwards (laughing), we definitely have some great fans.

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