“The Voice” season 10 runner-up Adam Wakefield and Frederick native Jenny Leigh are partners in music and in life. They’ve collaborated for six years since meeting each other in Wakefield’s native Baltimore. Between them, the couple share an affinity for the genre-defying creativity that isn’t always heard in contemporary country music. Wakefield and Leigh have explored bluegrass, Americana, old school soul and singer-songwriter genres, among many others. Leigh has also worked on television — in the upcoming season of “Nashville,” she is seen performing as herself in the Bluebird Cafe.
Together, they plan to bring their diverse country sound to The Cellar Door on Tuesday, along with some Christmas favorites.
In a phone interview with 72 Hours, it’s clear Wakefield and Leigh are on the same page. They both share a hatred for the finer things in life, like popcorn and the combination of chocolate and peanut butter.
“Popcorn: There’s nothing worse than [being] in a movie theater where you can hear everybody eating it and the smell of the butter,” Leigh said. “Everybody else is [like] ‘who cares what the movie is, as long as we get the popcorn.’ It’s exactly the opposite. Sour Patch Kids, in my book, are the way to go.”
The couple was not lacking in hot takes.
Relationships are so hard, and then you throw music in it. How do you guys have a healthy relationship?
Adam Wakefield: Well, I think the long, short of it is that we don’t. [Leigh laughs]
Jenny Leigh: It is hard, but we’ve been collaborators and best friends on and off and everything in between for gosh, how many years now? Six years.
AW: It’s tough. A lot of people don’t talk about the constraints of your typical American relationship and trying to sort of retro-fit that to two people who are musicians. Two people who are out on the road a lot. Both of us were out in L.A. a lot back and forth. It’s a good question. It’s really just about being flexible. When we’re around each other, we’re really close. Sometimes when we’re apart, we gotta be realistic about stuff. I don’t know, we kind of always seem to find our way back to each other each time.
JL: We love to make music together and that’s something that no matter where we’re at personally, that’s something we always cherish.
It seems like the music industry is all about boxes and commodifying very distinct genres. How do you find a space for yourself in the music industry?
AW: I think the silver lining in country music right now is that it’s so … you know, you got people from Chris Stapleton to Sam Hunt. There’s so much leeway in between those two for kind of mixing anything you want. You got people like Brett Eldredge and Thomas Rhett who are doing kind of like old school R&B — almost like late ‘70s disco era influences, too. It’s funny, because a lot of people when I ended up putting music out right after the TV show said, ‘you’re going to be a country artist?’ I was like, ‘yeah, because I can pretty much do whatever I want and be classified as country.’ Country music has drum loops and rap in it now so I figured I can pretty much get away with anything.
JL: I feel like Nashville gives you the opportunity to explore a lot of different things. It’s a culture of music appreciators. I feel like when you’re in town, you can hear indie stuff that’s kind of country or you can hear bluegrass — I feel there’s an appreciation for good music. That’s different from what you expect because when you hear radio, you hear the Top 40 of country music but in Nashville, it’s really not like that. For me, it was about separating myself from the quote-unquote blond-haired country girl singer with an acoustic guitar. For me, I have to spend a lot of time listening and learning and figuring out who I am and what my sound is and less about worrying where I fit, but what feels true to me.
AW: I think a lot of people don’t realize what you hear on the radio isn’t the music that’s going on in Nashville. It’s just representative of the money going on in Nashville. So, the people, the powers that be, have decided what they want to put on the radio. But that’s not the other 98 percent of us, who are here just making the kind of music we want to make.
I know that Adam’s major musical influence is Ray Charles because he sang so many different styles of music. Jenny, what are your inspirations?
JL: I grew up listening to all kinds of different music and I have my parents to thank for that. Old country records from Patsy Cline and when the ‘90s country hit, it was kind of a female boom with Shania Twain and LeAnn Rimes. Martina McBride … I don’t remember anything about the sport [played after school]; I remember the car ride to and from [playing sports] and trying to sing like LeAnn Rimes. I remember when she came out with her “Blue” record and trying to yodel like her … and then when Martina came out, singing “A Broken Wing.” Even as a kid, I could almost do it and it was motivation for me to really explore that belting voice that I had. So it was cool to develop that.
AW: I remember calling into the radio station singing “Dock of the Bay.” I feel lucky that we had a lot of music in the house growing up. As I developed as a singer I just really loved country music. When I became more interested in writing it, I became more of a storyteller than a country songwriter.
What do you guys have planned for your Cellar Door performance?
JL: Well, I’ll have a lot of family there, so because of that, even though it’s right after Christmas, we’ll probably sneak in a few Christmas songs because we worked up quite a few that are really beautiful and some of my favorite songs to sing in the world. It will be a mix of that and my stuff and Adam’s stuff. It will be sort of an intimate acoustic show where we can really showcase the songwriting that we’ve been hard at work at here in Nashville.
AW: Yup, and Luke Bryan is gonna be there …
JL: Just kidding!