Leah Siegel, on Firehorse

Firehorse is a strong name for a strong woman and her band. Multi-instrumentalist Leah Siegel’s indie pop/rock musical project is composed of Steve Elliot on guitar, Tim Luntzel (Rosanne Cash, Loudon Wainwright III, and more) on bass and Brian Wolfe (My Brightest Diamond, Sufjan Stevens, and others) on drums. Firehorse released their debut album last year, titled And So They Ran Faster (Siegel previously recorded music under her own name). The project involves dark melodies, electro beats, and Siegel’s sultry voice, and has drawn praise from a variety of sources—including pop god Prince. With a plan to begin recording their new album and a string of shows lined up for summer, Firehorse is keeping busy.

We spoke with Leah Siegel about re-defining herself, escaping the New York heat, and always waiting for an invitation to the dance.

ILANA KAPLAN: Did you do anything fun this past weekend?

LEAH SIEGEL: I did an impromptu music video on Saturday for this music project I’m working on.

KAPLAN: A lot of your songs that you’ve made have been super-catchy and beautiful, like “Our Hearts.” What was your inspiration behind it?

SIEGEL: It was about a moment of inspiration after a break of relations and surrender. I had been through a really hard time. It’s not a song about a relationship. It’s just a song about breaking through and starting over.

KAPLAN: You’re playing at Mercury Lounge this Friday. Is this your first time playing there?

SIEGEL:  No, I’ve played there a bunch of times. A good handful of times as my last band, “Leah Siegel.” This is the first as Firehorse.

KAPLAN: What other different musical names have you performed under?

SIEGEL: For my writing, I played previously under Leah Siegel and then wasn’t making the music I really wanted to make or what I felt like I really needed to make. It felt like it was a big change. It’s just “Leah Siegel” and “Firehorse.”

KAPLAN: Who are some of your influences?

SIEGEL: You know, the usual. I was raised on The Beatles. I loved Led Zeppelin growing up. Judy Garland. Doris Day. That’s where things began. I took a lot from the ‘60s and maybe from the ‘40s or ‘50s as well.

KAPLAN: Did you always want to be a musician or did it just happen?

SIEGEL: I just woke up one day when I was six and I wanted to play the violin. Then, six years later, I didn’t want to play the violin, but I wanted to sing and play the guitar. I didn’t really think I would be a musician. I always thought I’d be a writer. I wanted to be a writer in college, but I thought I could be a better musician. I loved the process of writing music and lyrics more than I loved the process of sitting at my computer and writing. Because of that, I thought I would be a better musician than a writer.

KAPLAN: What gets you in the mood to write about your feelings and situations?

SIEGEL: It’s kind of impossible to answer that. Inspiration is not something you create on your own; it’s something you walk into unknowingly.

KAPLAN: What are your plans for the summer? Are you touring or playing one-off shows during the summer?

SIEGEL: I actually have three more shows scheduled. We’re doing a show on June 1st at Mercury Lounge. We’re doing July 5th at Le Poisson Rouge. Then July 25th down in Philly for World Café Live. Then in August, hopefully I’ll get to go to Seattle and I’ll get to work with Geoff Stanfield some more. We started working on the next record, which I’m really, really excited for. Then, I’m going to Vienna and Croatia for a little vacation. I cannot wait! I basically shut down in August. I hate being in New York in August. It’s so hot, and there’s no one around. I make it my mission to never play in August. Everyone else is on vacation anyway. It’s a good time to not be on the stage and to just prepare for the fall, which is the best.

KAPLAN: Who is a musician that you would love to play with that you haven’t yet?

SIEGEL: Oh gosh! I don’t know. Everyone! I was in Oslo a couple of weeks ago. I was asked to play at the Oslo Freedom Forum, which is a big civil-rights convention. Maybe it’s the biggest civil rights convention of the year. It was absolutely amazing and inspiring. John Forté was there. We met and hit it off. We maybe even started a side project together.  We’ve named the band “Thank You Love.” This all just happened last week. This was what the music video was for. I would have never foreseen anything like that. You just meet because you want to make stuff. They’re not concerned about how it makes them look or how it affects their image. You meet people who are great to hang with, and you just want to make stuff.  So, you just make stuff. I never would have seen that coming. I guess at this point, I can’t say that I’m really picky about it. If someone wants to work with me, I’m psyched. As far as who I might call, I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it. Maybe I don’t feel like I’m able to ask. That hasn’t crossed my mind. I’m that girl who waits to be invited to the dance. I’m not doing any inviting myself, if that makes any sense.

KAPLAN: What’s the name of the song you just made this video for?

SIEGEL: It was actually a song that I had written a couple of years ago and was supposed to go on that record. It just wasn’t the right place for it. I took it off the record, and I wasn’t sure that I would find the right place for it anywhere. The song was called, “Saviour.” When Forte and I were in the studio, he played something that reminded me of this song. I brought this song to the table and we loved it. We turned it into a duet and named it something else. It’s called, “You’re Traveling Light.” I think it’s coming out next week.