Jeff LeBlanc has had aspirations of being a middle school teacher, but he’s done plenty of learning of his own from some of the biggest names in music.
The Long Island, New York-born singer-songwriter has, in addition to headlining his own shows since releasing his first EP in 2009, opened for acts including Chris Stapleton, Fifth Harmony (as a quintet before Camila Cabello‘s December 2016 departure), Tori Kelly, Colbie Caillat, Daughtry, Chris Isaak, Boz Scaggs and others.
Along the way, LeBlanc has earned airplay on SiriusXM and synchs in MTV’s Real World, among other shows. His most recent set, Visions, arrived in 2015.
As he releases his newest song, “Way You Are” (a co-write with John Splithoff and Stephen Gause), which Billboard is premiering below, LeBlanc chatted about the ballad’s origin, his upcoming tour plans, and what lessons he’s learned on the road.
What was the inspiration behind “Way You Are”? And did anything influence the production and overall lush vibe?
I had this random two-chord idea for a while, but didn’t know which direction to take it. I really wanted to write a song about that point in a relationship where you both feel completely comfortable. I wanted a song that mixed the classic ’70s analog feel with modern-day synths and a Frank Ocean beat.
Your upcoming tour includes several shows at colleges, for students only. How did that come about and does it tie in to, as you’ve stated, once imagining you might be a teacher?
Being on stage is a lot like being in front of a classroom! A few years back, I performed at a showcase for college students, which led to shows at 30 to 40 schools a year. My Spotify presence has really helped me connect with a new generation of students who’ve heard my songs on playlists.
Have you learned anything specifically from touring with so many big-name acts?
Try to write great songs. And, don’t be late for the gig! (laughs) They’ve taught me a lot about professionalism. It’s incredible how hard these folks work to get where they are. Nothing happens overnight. Tori Kelly was working 20-hour days when I was opening for her. Camila Cabello takes time with every fan she meets. Chris Stapleton was a relatively unknown artist for years before his moment finally came. I remember opening for him at the Bowery Ballroom in New York with maybe 250 people in the room. A few months later, he was on the CMAs and selling out Jones Beach.
That, right there, is the stuff that keeps me going.