Under the Big Top
Kieran's 15 track effort, wraps us in riddles and tells it like it is. Under the Big Top is an imaginative pastiche of songs. It offers something both for listeners of alternative rock and the indie-elite. The musicality on her new album is worth it's weight in gold, as it is predominantly accompanied by world class musicians such as Ricky Lawson (Steeley Dan), Ian Walker, Danny Frankel, Aaron Sterling, and keyboardist, Patrick Warren, who has contributed to the works of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fiona Apple, Springsteen, Aimee Mann, and Neil Diamond. While many of her tracks fall left of pop, upon a closer listen, this is not music for the simple. Each track assumes it's own sonic landscape. What ties the songs on Under the Big Top together is Leigh's poignant honesty. "There were a lot of years of strife and walking the tightrope. In hindsight, that's where much of my music sprang from, so a cursed blessing in a way. I don't think anyone expected me to actually do it, but, here I am' On Under the Big Top, Kieran's vocal style ranges from smoky to shape-shifting folk melodies with surreal harmonies. The often off-kilter architecture of harmonies and choruses makes this album extremely intriguing. Kieran's songs are wrought with longing, create vivid images of commitment-phobes, and recreate somewhat bizarre auditory snippets she captured during sleep. Kieran Leigh is the third out of four children, and sister of movie Director, Peter Segal (Get Smart, 50 First Dates). Born in Manhattan, NY as Kieran Leigh Segal, her first generation American father, of Russian roots, found his way working in show business during the heyday at MGM, and her English born mother, of Irish decent, was a Top Ten fashion model. She recalls, 'My earliest memory was of Cecelia (Simon and Garfunkel) on the stereo as we drove through NYC. It is such a unique song, harmonies that pop in and out of nowhere building on each other, and a truly unique array of percussion. I loved it. That's when I recall wanting to be able to make music." They soon, moved to Southern Califronia where her sister used to play Elton John and Pink Floyd"...which then lead me to Zeppelin. As I grew up, I had discovered that they borrowed from the blues, so, I soused out Robert Johnson. His vocal phrasing and guitar playing sucked me in. He told a tale that got everyone's attention with as little as a three-chord progression. He wasn't polished nor pretty, but played and sang with unbelievable soul - what a guitarist. The Doors brought me to Morrison who brought me to Nietzsche, existentialism and the thought of eternal recurrence. I became more attracted to complex music, jazz and classical. Then, Phish, because they are irreverent, Dave Matthews, MMW, Radiohead, in terms of bands on the periphery of mainstream rock. My dad frequently had something like a Rhapsody In Blue blaring, or Ella with her incredible vocal abilities cooing us with Let's Call The Whole Thing Off, or, Louis singing A Foggy Day, and naturally Chet with The Thrill is gone. My dad really helped shape my musical interest." After the end of a relationship in 2004, Kieran began Under the Big Top. "I started dreaming music, vivid full-length songs. More out of curiosity I started working them out because they were so fantastic in my head - I mean, when they come in, they are broadcast via a pristine, pure, heaven-like stereo system.' About three weeks later, I had twenty songs. I gave them to a friend of mine, Jeff Gerst, and he, unbeknownst to me, brought them to a producer friend of his, Andrew Shapiro. Andrew called me and said, 'I want to make and album with you.' That was a life turning moment for me. We made the The Ep. Then, the ball was rolling. The songs kept coming to me, so I kept making them.' Andrew Shapiro and his wife had a baby, and Jeff moved to New York, leaving it up to Kieran if she wanted to continue. What she discovered, was the more she wrote, the more the music streamed in. 'Oh, it would be sort of nice if I didn't have music and lyrics somewhat relentlessly running through my head, but I do. The only peace I find is making these little songs. So, it wasn't a case of, 'And today I want to be a star so I will reinvent myself and write an album.' That was not the goal; it was simply capture the sounds I heard, and write them to bring peace to my head and heart." "How I write varies. Really, I just have a knack for melodies, and lyrics incessantly run through my head." In 2007, she decided to find another producer, but found herself playing the waiting game. "I think for a lot of producers in L.A., if you, the artist, are not seventeen with a voice like an American Idol contestant and cash cow potential, they aren't interested. It was about that time that I came across more people trying to dissuade me than give encouragement. Everyone has their own ideas of what one should do, how they should behave, and how things should be. But, I feel those are unnecessary constraints. If I wasn't supposed to make music, why were the angels whispering songs to me in my sleep? That was my core belief. Giving up due to ney sayers was not an option." In the interim, she began to develop some of her songs with drummer, Bobby Breton. Soon, she was recommended to Producer, Andrew Bush. "We developed 14 of my tracks, bringing in some of L.A.'s leading session's musicians to record foundational instrumentation. I was slightly naïve about costs and protocol, and suddenly found myself the executive producer and sole financier of my project. Then, I didn't really care for the direction many of the songs were heading in, so I dropped about half of them. Of the ones I kept, only a few remained in the form that we recorded them in. I simply couldn't let go of where I wanted them to go. Nonetheless, Andrew Bush is incredibly knowledgeable, talented and a really nice guy. I enjoyed working with him." She chose to move on, rethinking the direction of her songs. "I recorded the quirky Mad as a Hatter parts of the chorus, wrote some other instrumental lines, set up my studio with the right equipment and recorded most all the vocals for the album." Then, Kieran met Dennis Moody, who recorded a few free form versions of her songs, "Catch Me, and Tear Me Down. I will probably release them at some point. Ian Walker, Danny Frankel and Aaron Embry and I did a live recording of those two, and then The Future Inside, which made it to the album." Soon, she landed at the doorstep of Patrick Warren. "He is the most talented and unassuming person I've ever met. He added to the songs, without trying to change them to a certain form or style. He just encouraged me to keep it fun. I remember wanting a snare part at the Top of Tear Me Down, so I drummed the pattern on my lap. Well, we didn't have any drums set up, but we did have his kitchen with wooden spoons. It was pretty funny. It's exactly that freedom of experimentation that you need when creating." This album is intimate, personal, and the kaleidoscopic images that come to mind make it eccentrically offbeat yet completely consuming, drudging the bottom of internal emotions, only to lift us back up to a point of inspiration (as evidenced in songs such as Rise Up). "Okay, yeah, so I've had a few rough patches in life. But, I try everyday to be a good person and to improve, to help others, and to connect with this great universe. If things go south, I try to remind myself and others that north is just a shift-of-the-gaze away." By - Maria Allen Nottingham, UK.