We had the good fortune of connecting with J David Leonard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi J David, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
The value of long term relationships. When I began as a songwriter, pitching my songs to publishers and producers in Nashville, I approached things in a transactional way. I had this song that they either would like and accept, or not. Time after time I would get told that it was a good song but they couldn’t use it. And then instead of ending our meeting, they would just start making conversation with me. “So what’s happening in Atlanta?” “Do you follow sports?” I didn’t know what to say. In my mind, it was over. Yet they would talk with me for sometimes another hour – sometimes all afternoon. It would be years later before I understood that it was their way of seeing if I could just hang out and be comfortable with them as a person. It was important for them to know who I was and how it might be to work closely with me. As I began producing and recording individual writers and artists, I tried to remember that lost lesson and looked at each one as someone I would be working with for years to come. I wanted to know what made them write their idea and what they wanted someone to feel after they heard the song. In doing so, they have become not only my recording clients, but my friends. And as I grow older in years, that has become a very important part of my life.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My approach to songwriting guides the way I look and listen to the material a writer or artist brings to me. I want them to succeed in their presentation and that means conveying an emotion to the listener and getting that emotion back. Everything in the song should work together for that end – the basic song structure, the lyric, the groove, the vocal styling, the way the instruments work together to support the vocal. I want to be proud of the work and I want my client to be proud as well. I’ve had stretches of time where work was slow. It caused me to look at what could be improved or advertised in a different way. A case in point was the shift in the industry in the early 2000’s with the change from physical product to streaming, the sample loop-based writing method, and the many home studios that sprung up around it. While those studios could churn out the basic beats, the people who wanted to use them for their material still needed a quality place to record their vocals with an old-school engineer who knew how to record them well and get the best performance from them.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Around here in my neck of the woods, being a seafood lover, I would take them to the Marietta Fish Market on Canton Road. For entertainment, we could just take a short drive up to downtown Woodstock and catch the act at Mad Life.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Kamedah Bowyer. She is a talented songwriter, vocalist, and general creative.
Youtube: Buckingham Playhouse
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