Reporting Kurt Wolff
For “Take The Keys” singer Leah Turner, music has been a part of her life since she was a little kid. “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t singing or playing the piano,” she told Radio.com.
And specifically, it was country music that resonated. Raised in the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area by a California mother and cowboy father who was a professional team roper, she spent many weekends in the car on the way to or from a rodeo, absorbing songs by the likes of Trisha Yearwood, Clint Black, George Strait and Travis Tritt.
“You can say that country music was the very foundation and the thread that ran through my very existence,” she said.
You can hear that country foundation throughout her debut single “Take the Keys,” a song she wrote with Nashville songwriters Carey Barlowe and Jesse Frasure. The song just hit country radio this month.
While country music was in her blood, before she ever set foot in Nashville, Turner’s career actually took a rather serious detour through the pop world of L.A.–an experience that involved GRAMMY-winning producers and pop-music superstars, the sort of A-list encounters about which a young artist wouldn’t normally dare to dream.
But, in fact, it was quite real. As Turner explained, during songwriting class she was taking, she was given the opportunity to perform in front of Kenny Loggins. The pop star’s advice? Move to L.A. There she had another encounter that altered the course of her career. While in a restaurant with her mother, she by chance met Beverly Gatica, wife of producer Humberto Gatica–who works closely with another famed producer, David Foster.
“[Beverly] wrote on an envelope and said, ‘Here’s my address, if you’re any good, I’ll give my husband your demo.’ So my mom was like ‘send it.’ And a week later, I was pulling up to David Foster’s home to record with him.”
“I was sitting in [his house] with tapes of The Bodyguard and Barbra Streisand, and I’m going, ‘No pressure! This is crazy!’ I mean, Michael Buble, Josh Groban, all these amazing artists.”
As incredible as that experience was for her, though, when she got the music back, the hard truth was that the music, as she put it, “didn’t click.”
“It was the most amazing music you’ve ever heard, it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. But being in that situation I learned how to be quick in the studio. And it was an ego boost.”
What became clear to Turner was that she wanted to sing country. So eventually, she made the move to Nashville, where she met with songwriters and took every singing gig and songwriters’ open mic that presented itself. “I would sing anywhere,” she said.
Last October, she found herself at Sony Music, singing in front of Jim Catino, who is vice president of A&R at the label. “He said, ‘I’d like to sign you to Sony.’ On my first meeting.”
A year later, she’s out promoting her first radio single, “Take the Keys.”
The song, she said, is “just about falling back in love, rolling down the windows and taking hold of a moment–not getting caught up in everyday life.”
Writing with Barlowe and Frasure, she explained that the song started with a melody. As for the lyrics, “I was going through some stuff, and I was just saying that it’s nice to fall back on somebody, and it’s nice to be a strong enough woman to allow a man to be the head. Every woman wants the man to be ‘the man’ — big enough to handle you. So that’s kind of what I was going through, and we went off with that.”