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Daily Inspiration: Meet Ginger Leigh

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ginger Leigh.

Hi Ginger, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Early in the morning of November 1st, 1974, a baby girl was born. There was her young mother.  And there were her two young aunts dressed in costume as Hell’s Angels and so kicked off a lifetime of excitement for this girl. Born between the closing of Halloween and the opening of All Saint’s Day says a lot about my spirit; playful, theatrical, adventurous and also deep, historic, soulful and understanding. All of those qualities add up to the most important part of who I am: curious. This is where a lifetime of curiosity begins and continues.

I am from the 5th generation of professional musicians on my mother’s side and born to a builder and interior design lineage on my father’s side. Today, I split my time and talents between those exact things. Not only am I a lifelong professional touring and recording artist, I am also co-designer at Jane Reece Interiors and a co-owner of Gin & Juice Home Staging. Along with those two highlighted parts of who I am, I also help create, design, brand and grow small businesses. In the past those have included Formula Expo, Inc., which owned the BLU Party for Formula One race weekend in Austin, Moonfire Lounge downtown and Attabar on the Eastside. In the early 2000’s in Austin, I co-created a retail store called Love. When it was still open, we hosted outdoor concerts called “Love. on the Lawn,” which is a brand I continue to carry forward. “Love. at the Stateside,” for example, is a philanthropic event we started in 2013 at the State Theater at the Paramount in support of Superhero Kids at Dell Children’s Hospital, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and the Step Onward Foundation. We ultimately partnered with Concerts for Austin Charities, a wonderful organization I also support. I have co-created, performed and emceed the annual Austin Cares Concert at ACL Live at the Moody, which raises funds for the same three aforementioned charities.

At the age of 15, I was fortunate enough to study abroad in Bavaria, Germany and so my wanderlust began.  One weekend, our student group took a trip to Berlin. This was only six months after the Berlin Wall fell, so a large portion of the wall still stood.  I chipped off a piece of it, which I still have.  I’ll never forget crossing the newly closed Check Point Charlie from West Berlin into East Berlin. The impact of seeing the difference between East and West Berlin at the time was astounding, thus opening my mind, broadening my perspective and feeding my curiosity even more.  Seeing how culture, politics and economics affected these people left an everlasting impression.   And an even deeper and more profound impression left on me was when we visited the Dachau Concentration Camp.  It was from that point forward that I chose to pay close attention to history, which has and will forever impact my view of world politics, human tragedy, and how we persevere and overcome.  I feel as though this was an experience that I carry forward in my music and approach to life at large.

At the age of 18, I had the rare opportunity to live in Milan, Italy. My two friends and I shared a small apartment the size of a normal American kitchen. That didn’t matter at the time, as I was a wanderer and set out much on my own to explore Europe.  I was only 18, living abroad at a time when there were no cell phones or email.  I’d send handwritten letters back home, which took three weeks to arrive.  I learned to speak Italian and upon returning to the States, I practiced formal studies in Italian language, history and Sociology.  During my junior year of college, I returned to Italy, this time in Rome, and studied language, literature and theater.  This is also where I became close to one of the most talented musicians I know, John Pointer. John and I continue to perform together to this very day.

After graduating from the University of Texas, I began performing with singer-songwriter Sarah Dashew. The Ginger & Sarah Band quickly ascended in the industry, touring in New Zealand, Europe, and all over the US. We developed sponsorship deals with Advanced Micro Devices, performed for Oprah Winfrey’s Oxygen Media launch in NYC, Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles. Our distribution deal with Sony Italia took us all over Italy and other parts of Europe. This was an incredibly important time in my development as a musician and as a vagabond.

Prior to The Ginger & Sarah Band, I released my first album, GingerLady, around 1995. The Ginger & Sarah Band released two albums together. Following the break up of the band, I continued to perform, tour and record under my own name and have a total of 10 albums under my belt.

Today, I juggle performing with Ginger Leigh Band, my 9-piece jazz band called Straight Up with a Ginger Twist and doing interior design with Jane Reece Interiors! I’m also working on other tech-related brands and do graphic and web design for various brands. One thing that might surprise people is that ancestry research is one of my favorite ways to spend my time and I solve adoption mysteries using DNA and various resources.  And of course I enjoy boating, traveling, writing, reading books, cooking and loving on my three furry kids!  I must let you know that the most important of all are my family and my friends.  And there is nothing better than singing with them in the kitchen or poolside.

All in all, I’m a rock-n-roller, brainiac, multi-linguist, party-thrower, show-performer, renovator, creator, explorer, but most importantly, just a tomboy on a red carpet and loving it all!

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
In the music industry, the biggest challenge hit us when the internet became the main distributor of music. There was a time when independent musicians had a valuable revenue stream in selling physical CDs at shows and concerts. We would invest thousands of dollars in the studio and sell the entire collection of songs on disc for $15. It didn’t take very many CD sales to recuperate the studio investment. Now most people stream music which pays out less than a penny per spin. The new paradigm has been a challenge in that way. Also consumers have a more vast variety to choose from and are hit with music from every corner of the web, thus making it a flooded and oversaturated market. Overcoming this isn’t easy, so it’s important to make the best content you can, constantly release new material and do everything you can to stand out in the crowd by engaging your audience, old and new, on a regular basis.

On the personal front, one major challenge was in 2011 when I underwent a mastectomy due to breast cancer. It was a shocking thing to learn soon after I finished my role as Maureen in RENT. My community of friends, fans, family and the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians quickly stepped up to the plate and supported me with so much love and contribution that I was blown away!  We got through it and for them and the doctors and nurses, I am eternally grateful.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I consider myself a creative entrepreneur or a multi-preneur. I have been a performing musician since I had a band at the age of nine. I’ve been writing, drawing, exploring, building since I was a child.  In my profession today, people recognize me for wearing many different hats, whether that’s my music, my work with Jane Reece Interiors, the staging company, my role at Zach Theatre, my involvement with Formula One, the philanthropic events I produce and perform or simply for the silly videos I often throw out there!

I tend to put myself out there with my heart on my sleeve, whether I have written a serious and deep song or posted the goofiest video of myself doing a dorky dance. I love to make people laugh. I love to push positive boundaries so that people have to think or open their minds. I don’t take myself too seriously, but I do believe that when given a skill or a passion, you have to set out into the world to share it with purpose. Whether I’m swinging a guitar or swinging a hammer, I do my best to enjoy every second of it and I love to share that joy with others.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
Drive. I rarely let anything stop me from moving me forward. I rarely stop moving at all. To quote a friend of mine, “Ginger has two speeds; Warp speed and asleep.” And he’s right. I’m an early riser and wake up with all the excitement and energy of a toddler and I go warp speed until the very last second of my action-packed day and then I’m out! I find it incredibly fulfilling to pack as much work, fun, laughter and productivity into one day as I can. Life is short, after all, so I do my best to relish every moment. I even value the bad moments because it’s from those that we learn, grow and jump off to make things better! Regardless, I thrive on success, but not just my own. I thrive on the success of others!  But at the end of the day, the most important thing for me to feel is that  I gave it all my best shot.

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Image Credits

Topfer Theatre images by DeAnn Hoeft Parker Jazz Club Image by Stan Martin Stairwell and Martini Images by DeAnn Hoeft Matt Leblanc and Keanu Reeves images by Dave Pedley State Theatre with Kelly Green (plaid pants) by Mark Bickham Orchestra Image by Dave Pedley Guitar behind head by Lara Bierner.

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