Artists You Should Know: Shantel Leitner

Newport, Ky. – Greater Cincinnati, you committed a crime Wednesday night. It was not the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last. But you need to be aware. I don’t judge you poorly for it. I was almost a co-perpetrator.

There was no malice in your crime; it was simply a crime of ignorance. You hadn’t heard of Shantel Leitner before. How could you have known to turn out for her performance at the Southgate House Revival?

It may surprise you, but occasionally things get past us here at, too. Late last week, when Leitner e-mailed me a release and a few tracks to scope, I was busy with work and projects. I let it sit. While preparing to host last week’s episode of “Salina Underground” on WVQC, I figured I would give her a spin and that would be that. She’d come in, she’d play a tough Wednesday night spot in a notoriously difficult weeknight town, and she’d troop on. Then.

Then I listened.

Really listened.

Leitner is gifted. As a DIY singer-songwriter from tiny Atwood, Kansas, an hour from the Colorado border, she could easily get lost in the post-modern meta-noise. I feel motivated to amplify her signal. In conversation between sets Wednesday night, I learned the following: Leitner grew up in a musical family – her grandfather played in a country & western band and her mother sings. She is a fan of blues and soul – among her favorite artists is Sam Cooke – but she is undeniably influenced by folk-rock, and she blends the styles flawlessly.

Human brains being hardwired to identify patterns that can be used to order and process the world around them, I naturally did her the slight disservice of comparing her voice to those artists I think she “sounds like.” She graciously admitted she has listened to Feist; she acknowledged many people compare her to Adele, but we agreed that this may be more due to Adele being integral to last summer’s sonic zeitgeist. What I can tell you: Leitner’s voice is the waveform equivalent of a 95-mile-an-hour slider. She delivers strong to the mic, with finesse, and she maintains that strength and breaks at the last possible moment. If my ears could swing a bat, they’d be late on every pitch. She’s that good.

I can’t resist a recipe: prep one part Joss Stone, one part Feist, one part Stevie Nicks. Mix well. Zest Janis Joplin’s gravitas over top. Bake in Great Plains drought heat for twenty-something years. Allow to cool two years in Boston. Serve chilled, with black coffee.

Lyrics – I’m invariably drawn to a confessional sound in poetry. I love the deepening effect of a piece as it draws you into its plot, allows you to sink with it until the conflict – the emotion – becomes excruciating and undeniable. Leitner is well on her way to achieving that skill; I recommend her songs “Lovesick,” or “Take Me Away,” specifically. Her self-published EP, Indigo, isn’t overly polished; it is thoroughly enjoyable and exhibits the raw ingredients for success. I sincerely hope talented chefs will hear it.

All right, I might be glowing a bit. I was honored with the equivalent of a living room concert (tsk, Tristate, tsk). But I can tell you that she deserves a second chance from this audience. I humbly submit to you the opportunity. She’ll be in Indiana (Marion on July 1st, Muncie on July 2nd) and Ohio (Canton) on July 5th. I assure you – she’s worth the drive.

Cincinnati, as Roger Hodgson so aptly implored in 1977: “Give a little bit.” This one deserves it.



July 1st - Beatnik's Café, Marion, Indiana 
July 2nd - Be Here Now, Muncie, Indiana
July 3rd - Hard Rock Café, Chicago, IL 
July 5th - Muggswiggz Coffee & Tea, Canton, Ohio