Lisa LeBlanc Puts The Badass In Banjo

When people hear banjo they think of the mountains of Kentucky, not eastern Canada.

That’s all going to change when they hear Lisa LeBlanc, a “Franglish” speaker from New Brunswick, Canada. This area is actually very Cajun-bluegrass influenced, so LeBlanc’s sound wouldn’t suprise music fans native to the Maritime provinces on the east coast of Canada. Though she was schooled in Québécois French, she was raised speaking English. LeBlanc blends musical styles as effortlessly as she switches languages and mixes classic rock ‘n’ roll and old school Americana with country to make a sound uniquely her own.

Her latest album Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen? is an ode to her life on the road.

“My whole family really loves road trips and when they get restless they hop in a car and go for a drive,” LeBlanc tells BTRtoday. “Eventually, I started playing music and traveling—I’ve always loved traveling, it’s one of my passions.”

Photo by John Londono

Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen? has slow songs that’ll break your heart along with electrifying banjo pickings so fast and intricate you wonder how it’s even possible. LeBlanc started off on the acoustic guitar, attending a music summer camp in Louisiana to refine her skills, but quickly grew bored. She was a string picker, not a strummer.

“Most of my influences guitar-wise are big finger pickers—like Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac and Chet Atkins—so I was like, ‘what can I do to have it be more interesting?’ so I picked up the banjo,” she says. “And I just think it’s kickass [and] it’s got a lot of attitude.”

The first track on the album, “Could You Wait ‘Till I’ve Had My Coffee,” sings a rebellious tune with distorted guitars and chaotic drum beats about a heartbreak.

“Could you at least have the decency to let me have my coffee before you leave?” LeBlanc sings with vocals that are threatening and empowering all in one. It continues, “well, since you’re bringing up the subject, I never thought you were the one, and you were bad in the sack, and you’re kind of a dick when you’re drunk, and you owe me $200 and your band kinda sucks, my friends didn’t like you, it’s not me it’s you.”

If you ask me, it’s the ultimate breakup song.

The tracks on the album vary from nasty breakup tales to everyday struggles and epic stories. “Never be a dick to a song writer,” LeBlanc laughs. “Of course there are the classic heartbreak or love song…[but] I also just love writing about characters that I see or conversations that I have—just day to day type of stuff.”

Catch Lisa LeBlanc at NYC’s Mercury Lounge on March 7.

She’s already played shows in the U.S. before, but really hasn’t spent too much time as a working musician stateside. That changes this year when she plays SXSW and other major cities, like NYC, New Orleans and Nashville before heading over to play a few shows in Europe.

Listen to Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen? in full and hear the entire interview with Lisa Leblanc on this week’s The Music Meetup.

Lisa LeBlanc - Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen

Lisa LeBlanc – Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen