“Thanks so much for talking to me,” says Bryan Joyce, a.k.a. King Leg. “I was really excited about the interview. Hey, what’s your address? I want to send you some of my promo stickers.”
Such down-home enthusiasm is rare these days—especially when artists can be tormented with countless interviews during media campaigns for their albums. But gabbing with King Leg was like hanging out in a club with a musician you’d actually want to hang out with. You can feel all the appreciation and joy he has for being able to make Meet King Leg [Sire], for being “discovered” by country-music icon Dwight Yoakam (reportedly while waiting on him in a Nashville restaurant), and for having heavies like Yoakam and Chris Lord-Alge co-produce his record. And his wry, nutty humor is contagious—just check out his album cover. (By the way—the stickers arrived as promised.)
I read that you had given up music as a serious career for a while. Do you feel the “vacation” helped you reenergize your creativity when you returned to the struggle?
Well, I was still writing. I was playing in the garden the whole time. But I took some time to play just for fun, and to get to know some artists I hadn’t delved deeply into before—such as the Smiths and Roy Orbison. There were new discoveries along the way that kept fueling the fire. I was really lucky that I had a job at the time where I was able to listen to music and do research online to get ideas about where I wanted to go.
How do you typically find songs?
My approach is to sit down with a guitar and start noodling. As I’m humming along, or making noises like a baby babbling, a song may start coming out. The melodies lead the way, but if I can get a first line for the lyrics, it will usually lead to other ideas, or form a backstory for the song. I also think of ideas when I’m walking around. Maybe a melody will pop up, or a phrase will come to mind. Sometimes, I’ll hear someone say something that inspires me.
Has being in Nashville informed your songwriting in any way?
Nashville has had an impact on me, but I haven’t done any co-writing, or picked up any songwriting methods from folks who have been working here. It’s always me sitting alone.
What was it like working with Dwight?
I was just so excited to have any opportunity at all, so I was soaking up every last drop of knowledge and inspiration I could. I think it helped that we have similar tastes. I grew up enjoying ’60s and ’70s rock and Elvis, and I could connect with him on the classic country level, as well. I learned a lot from him about arrangement.
Well, when I first played “Comfy Chair” for him, it was a slower tempo. I was also singing it kind of raspy, because I was out late with my cousins the night before, and I lost my voice. I was having fun with my new voice [laughs]. But Dwight got all excited and said, “We should go David Bowie, or let’s go ‘Creep’ [Radiohead], and take the dynamics up and down.” So the song turned into a roller coaster for me. He really helped me break up the monotony of the original version. That was pretty much a mind-blowing experience.