As a kid hanging around FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Dylan LeBlanc recognized that it was “a place of work, a serious place.”
And early on, LeBlanc says, “I knew my place.”
In 2000, when he was 10, LeBlanc moved to Alabama with his father, James, a staff songwriter at FAME. And while James was on tour, curious Dylan would spend a lot of his free time in the facility’s front room, waiting for the right time to tap into the minds of the songwriters and musicians in the building, as well as FAME co-founder and renowned producer Rick Hall. (“The Hall family was very kind to me,” he notes.)
“I would walk up to someone and say, ‘Teach me this chord,’ or ask, ‘How did you write that song?’ ” LeBlanc recalls. “And they thought it was cool that a kid was interested in what they were doing. I knew that it was special and that I was getting an education that other people weren’t getting.”
When LeBlanc’s friend Ben Tanner became the staff engineer at FAME in 2004, the teenage guitarist and songwriter expanded his activities and inquiries.
“He started helping me late at night, basically recording my stuff in the middle of the night,” LeBlanc says of Tanner. “I was pretty much there all day, just bothering people, until the place closed down. And I would beg them to stay: ‘Hey, I just wrote a song. Please record it for me.’
“That recording studio, it’s almost like the matter of the place has a memory,” he adds. “There’s so much mojo in there that I didn’t realize was mojo. It was almost as if these magical things were helping me along.”
LeBlanc’s most recent recording projects at FAME include his third album, 2016’s Cautionary Tale (co-produced by Tanner), and a video for the title track to his latest full-length, Renegade, released this year on ATO Records. Tracking the songs for Renegade, however, took place at another historic facility: RCA Studio A in Nashville, Tennessee, with Dave Cobb as producer.
“Chet Atkins built that place from the ground up,” LeBlanc says. “It’s such a huge room; it looks like an auditorium. The ceilings are gigantic, and it was built for string sections and everyone to record on the floor at the same time.
“Dave is one of the best at getting a live sound, and he’s a naturalist, like I am,” LeBlanc adds. “I don’t like to do anything on an album that I can’t re-create live. … One of the first things he said was, ‘I turn the tape machine on, and I leave it on all day.’ And I thought, ‘That’s very cool.’ ”
— By Chris M. Junior
Dylan LeBlanc on tour (schedule subject to change):
Dec. 4: Space — Evanston, Illinois
Dec. 5: The Back Room @ Colectivo — Milwaukee
Dec. 6: The Brass Rail — Fort Wayne, Indiana
Dec. 7: Rumba Café — Columbus, Ohio
Dec. 11: Standard Deluxe Inc. — Waverly, Alabama
Dec. 12: Callaghan Irish Social Club — Mobile, Alabama
Dec. 13: The Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House — Macon, Georgia
Dec. 14: Blue Jay Listening Room — Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Photo by Alysse Gafkjen