Interview: Keith Leahy – The Petal Falls

Kent-based rockers The Petal Falls recorded their debut album ‘Workin’ All Night Workin’ All Day’ back in the mid-’90s and for many different reasons, the material has never seen the light of day; until now. For vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Keith Leahy it was a real labour of love bringing the songs back to life, and now music fans can finally hear the songs. Keith joins us for a chat to talk about the album and the work involved to get it into the hands of fans of the band.

What are the origins of The Petal Falls? Can you talk us through the background of the band?

The Petal Falls were originally founded in the mid-’90s in Kent. I was looking for a vehicle to improve my songwriting and get the songs played and heard at the same time, so decided the best way was to form a band with a few friends. The name itself is based on a line from the Rudyard Kipling poem “The Answer” although for me the name has always represented that journey we all travel on our way to the grave. Which I find a fitting match to the storytelling in my music.

We did the usual pub & club scene, which in those days was a lot more difficult to get a decent audience let alone paid. The music scene was dominated by record label manufactured boy bands and new rock bands simply could not get heard and the “live” scene was nowhere near as vibrant or commercially viable as today’s vastly improved “live” scene. We did eventually get signed to a mid-sized label who basically then sat on the music for the best part of 5 years and released nothing. That was a very difficult time and hard to take because I knew the material was good enough to capture its own audience given the chance.

But then again there were and still are people in the music industry who would not know a good song if it came and bit them on the arse! We all got very, very disillusioned with the entire industry as a whole by the end of that 5 years.

It’s been a real labour of love for you personally to bring debut album ‘Workin’ All Night Workin’ All Day’ to life after the songs had been recorded quite some time ago. Can you go into the reasons why it’s taking this long, and was there ever the possibility that the album might never have seen the light of day?

Simple answer is the material was tied up legally so I could not release the songs. But that all changed with the demise of the company holding those rights a few years ago and they all reverted back to me. But I suppose the biggest stumbling block to getting the music released was me! I was simply not convinced that I wanted to put myself in harm’s way again as it were..lol..and yet again deal with people who I simply did not trust. And also I knew it would be a huge undertaking to release the music and get it to a sufficiently big enough audience. But in the end family and friends convinced me to release the music and I am now very pleased I made that decision.

Had the album been released back in the day on a major, or even semi-major label, chances are it would have swallowed up by the machine, at least now you have complete control…

Or as some might say, the buck now stops with you..lol

Very true! Is it possible to be “too close” to an album? Did you find yourself having to step away at times?

Oh yes, you can easily disappear into the mixing never to be seen again..lol. You must exercise some discipline when recording, mixing, or mastering and take your time with regular breaks and I mean days, not hours when you’re finishing the final product. It’s so important to keep the music as fresh as possible and that means you need to keep as fresh as possible.

With so much invested in the album, what went through your head just before it was released? Were you excited? Nervous? – Both?!

I was very nervous once the release day came, I had lots of last-minute worries like would it get picked up by people, would radio stations actually play it, would anybody like it at all?

So it came as a very welcome relief that people, all sorts of people really liked the music and as a musician/writer it is a simply wonderful feeling to know that other people, complete strangers, are enjoying the songs you have written and performed. I am very pleased that after all this time my instinct about my music has been validated. It is very humbling to hear some of the extremely generous words people are saying about the album and a little surreal in how much people really like the music.

Now that the album is out there, what’s the reaction from the fanbase been like? I believe that the album has been streamed over 7 million times?! That’s an incredible amount, and at least now you’ll be able to buy a pint of milk with your Spotify earnings!

The biggest question from fans was surprisingly “Where can I buy the CD” which up until recently was nowhere but thankfully I have now sorted that and the CD was released just this week.

You would like to think I could buy a pint of something a bit stronger than milk ..lol..but it is an astonishing amount of streams. Which just goes to show just how messed up the whole streaming model currently is. How on earth the likes of Spotify think that the current payment levels to musicians are justified is simply beyond me. They should be rightly ashamed of their 0.001 per stream as it’s simply a disgrace.

‘Mariah’ is a personal favourite on the album, what can you tell us about this one?

Ahh Mariah, this was a song I wrote about a difficult narcissist relationship and the highs and lows that it can bring. I wrote it with Rob Harpum [guitars] as he had some lovely ideas for the guitar work. It has been one of the surprises of the album that some of the songs I did not think people would like that much have been hugely popular and Mariah is a perfect example of a song that I personally thought would be difficult to like for some people, but I was completely wrong, you’re not the only person to tell me that it is their favourite on the album.

The video to accompany the title track is very evocative, especially the old chap with the walking sticks busting some moves! Where did you find the clip? And, what are the lyrical themes behind the track?

Yes, he is the star of the video in my opinion…lol…I think I found the clip online on a site called pixabay, but I had to do a lot of searching to find all the elements for the video and once I had them I gave them to a good friend called Duncan Lowe and he pieced it all together.

The song is about believing in yourself and always striving to be better than you are. No matter what your background or upbringing, we can all be better people in so many ways. I am a great believer in doing rather than saying so if you have a goal in life don’t procrastinate about it, just get on and do it.

You’ve persevered for so long on the album, now that it’s released, have you revisited it? Or is it a case of “what’s next”?

It really is a case of what’s next as there are still another 3 albums worth of music from the original band to release yet, so it’s early days for The Petal Falls music, but on top of that, I have begun writing and recording for another 2 albums of completely new material. So I am extremely busy these days and with lots of plans for the future, which I love.

What is the current status of the band?

Sadly the original band is no longer together and we lost Dave Richards [guitars] last year most unexpectedly.

We are all still friends and talk fairly regularly but The Petal Falls is now pretty much a vehicle that I am driving and I am looking forward to putting the pedal to the metal in the coming months and years. I hope that those who like the current album are going to absolutely fall head over heels for the new albums and songs being released in the coming months.

For me and hopefully, all those who like The Petal Falls music, this journey has only just begun.

Although The Petal Falls could quite easily fall into the AOR category quite easily, there is more depth on the album than one genre, but how would you describe the band?

I have always thought of the music as hard melodic rock. I once described it as “a meal made of lush, deep production with smart interesting lyrics followed up by lashings of huge catchy choruses” and it pretty much is all those things..lol. But at its heart, it is Rock music pure and simple.

In terms of a similar audience: who would be the ideal act for The Petal Falls to support?

It would have to be one of the artists that people constantly compare my music to so, Simple Minds, Springsteen, U2, Mike & the Mechanics, Mr. Mister, Chicago, Journey, etc, and I must admit I am truly honoured to even share a sentence with such fantastic artists let alone be compared to them. So yes I would be absolutely thrilled to think that I could share that audience with such legendary artists.

What are your first musical memories? And what was the lightbulb moment that made you go “I want to do that”?

Originally I was dead set on being a drummer from an early age but one day my parents employed an Irish singer/guitarist named Shaun Delaney to gig as a regular on a Saturday night in one of their pubs. I used to listen to him in awe and I fell in love with the whole idea of making music with an instrument that could provide melody and tone instead of just rhythm and beat.

By the time I was 16 I was playing in small club bands throughout London but even at this age, I was never totally happy with playing cover songs. I wanted to create my own music and started to tentatively write my own material from about the age of 17. It wasn’t very good and some say it still isn’t…lol.. but you have got to start somewhere. Very few of us are actually born with a skill set sufficient to write complete songs from day one. It is something you have to work very hard at.

Personally, who has been the biggest influence on you becoming a musician? Was it a family member? Teacher? Or another musician maybe?

As I previously mentioned music was always a part of my life from a young age as my Mother and Father were publicans and having “live” music being played in the pubs or clubs they owned and worked in was always a way of life and a part of their business. Both parents loved to sing be it on a busy night in the pub or at family parties and I suppose that rubbed off on me.

Shaun was an influence but only in as much as he showed me what the possibilities could be if I learned to play guitar after that, it was just about every legendary rock guitar band you can name who gave me the passion to play and perform. And it’s never truly left me.

What current social issue are you particularly passionate about?

I suppose like everyone I am extremely concerned over global warming and the inability of the world’s countries to act quickly to combat it. I dislike inequality in all its forms and find racism both repulsive and just plain dumb. People are just people and their colour has no bearing on their worth at all in my eyes.

What album do you have in your collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?

Well, I am currently loving Greta Van Feet and Black Stone Cherry. Two fantastic young bands with some great songs and a fabulous retro feel to their music.

Although 2020 was a year to forget, there was some great music released; what would be your album of 2020?

I can’t choose just one..lol…so here are my Albums of 2020 and not in any particular order: Black Stone Cherry’s The Human Condition – Springsteen’s A Letter To You – AC/DC Power Up

Who would you class as an underrated songwriter?

Joe Bonamassa – He so frequently gets discounted as “just a blues guitarist” but that man can write some simply stunning songs – such as Driving Towards the Daylight, Dust Bowl, and Drive to name just a few.

What are your plans for 2021 should COVID ever disappear?!

That’s an easy one, I want to release a few singles then another album, and record a crapload of new songs that have begun to pile up. So The Petal Falls music will be very busy this coming year and I’m looking forward to it enormously. With regards to playing live, I think playing live is going to be at best very difficult this year, so I have regrettably made no plans to go down that road this year. I think this Covid thing will still be very problematic and who knows how many venues will emerge once we start seeing an end to it much later in the year, but none the less, people need to support live music like never before once it begins to come back in numbers.

How active are you on social media and where can people connect with you?

I am pretty active on social media via The Petal Falls Twitter and Facebook accounts and people can contact me on those platforms. So the more people come and visit, post, like and tweet about The Petal Falls the bigger the message gets.

 

Interview – Dave

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