On your first listen to Leif Shively’s new single, you may find yourself flustered. It’s the kind of song that may make your mother blush, but it doesn’t go into uncouth territory. “One of the band members thought it was too provocative”, Leif recalls. “He changed his mind on it, though. It’s just got good energy.” He shrugs it off and laughs. “I hear a lot of dirtier things on the radio these days. This doesn’t come out in a grotesque way. It’s all up to the listener’s interpretation.”
The risque tune may not be explicit in nature, but the track’s big, loud sound comes through in the production. That’s because Leif and his partners, Kyle Roop and wife Lauren Shively, have been building their recording business in Bossier City, LA for some time now. “My entire life, there hasn’t been a recording studio near that was something special,” Leif explains. “Never had that. We had one big studio that was massive, but it was around for two or three years. I felt like people are always going several states over to record. They are going to Nashville. Going to Texas. Kentucky. They are going to these far off states. If we have something here, it will be easier on the artist. Why not?” In addition to his recording studio, Leif and his partners started Steel Records, a home grown record label servicing West Louisiana/East Texas acts. “I want to see artists succeed. That’s the main goal. Their success is our success as a studio. We want to make them as big as we can.”
Much of Steel Records success comes from Leif’s relationship with Kyle Roop. “I met Kyle years ago. He’s a touring guy. He’s a fantastic musician. We started jamming and recording at his house. He was recording other artists at the time. I told him what he was doing sounded good and I thought I could help out with producing and throwing the ideas out there. We work great together because we think alike. The more we did it, the more people wanted to come out and record. We didn’t have the space to do everything out of his house, so we bought a historic building that used to be a restaurant and refitted it.” That bigger space has afforded Leif and his crew to expand their sound for Bigger Than Texas. “With as large as it is, we were able to get some rocking guitar sounds. It gave us the space to explore and mess around with mic placement. It became a larger than life guitar sound, especially from our Bluesman Vintage Guitars.” It was Leif’s guitar work that set the song in motion. “I was sitting around the house, picking on a riff. I didn’t know what subject matter I was going to write about, but I knew I liked this riff,” he remembers. “It’s simple but I’ve kept it around for a couple years.” The song didn’t come together until Leif was struck with inspiration from his number one muse. “I had these lyrics I wrote about my wife,” he chuckles. “I thought she looked good cleaning around the house. It wasn’t until I was in the studio with Kyle that I told him I think they should go together. We started working the riff and lyrics, changing it to fit the pace. With my high energy vocals, we wanted vocals that were big and Gospel-y sounding.”
Building a recording studio and record label from the ground up has been a journey, one built on connections Leif has made over his career as touring musician. “I was in a band with my brother and some other guys. We had a cheap demo of some Southern Rock sounding stuff. A buddy of mine that does touring, working for big tours, knew Richard Young (Kentucky Headhunters) and sent over that cheap little demo. Richard liked it and said get the band up there to record demos. To see if he could pitch it to studios and labels. Actual labels that would pay to re-record it the way we actually wanted to do it. Spent two weeks recording ten or eleven songs. Nothing came of the pitching, but we got to build a relationship with Richard. We did a lot of touring and playing with him and the guys he played with. And we got to meet David Barrick [of Barrick Recording Studio in Glasgow, KY] . It was a great connection to make.” Utilizing the Headhunters backup singers remotely through David Barrick’s studio, Leif managed to get his church-like, Southern Rock vibe he was imagining.