There’s a wry humour to Dennis J. Leise and his music, and it’s very easy to pick it up when you listen to his songs for the first time, such as the quite witty and very insightful, ‘Nobody’s Coming’, which he released in 2019, and now his latest single, ‘I Only Do It Cause I Have To’. When we were given the opportunity to ask him a few questions, we were excited at the prospect of Dennis’s answers – and we weren’t disappointed.
We’ve been following your music career for a while now, since ‘Nobody’s Comin’, back in 2019. We think that if there’s one word to describe you, it’d be “no-nonsense” (okay that’s technically 2). What word would you use to describe yourself?
The one I endeavor towards is either “Real” or “Genuine”. Through all I do, work, music and otherwise, I feel like I’m at my best when I am able to successfully convey that what I am doing is one of these things.
We like your no-nonsense attitude in your music, where does it come from, and have you always been like this? Did there come a point in your life where you decided you’d had enough?
The no-nonsense aspect is surely informed by the life I’ve led. Being next to the youngest of 10 kids instilled a bit of acceptance of some cold realities in life early on–again, this applies to kind of everything–compromise, support, understanding and acceptance or the opposite for any of these things, so it’s always been there. I think it wasn’t until I got older and into countercultural things like Jazz, Punk music and also had an awareness of “Outlaw” country that I found some kindred ideas to work from. It wasn’t until years later that I was gifted a guitar that was found in a dumpster, and then some years after that toward getting proficient with it, before I began to really get out to voice myself.
How did you get into music in the first place? Was it something you always wanted to do from when you were a small boy, or did it come up on you gradually?
It’s a little weird–my parents neither one had any musical capabilities, but there was always music in my family. Nearly all of my siblings played an instrument in high school. They each also had their own tastes in music which in some way rubbed off on me. It wasn’t until college that I began to really get into my own interests that were different from what everyone else in my family was listening too. I used to play trombone, but didn’t really start playing guitar until after I moved to the Chicago area.
You upped sticks and moved from Chicago to Gary, Indiana, where you have a farm. If you had the choice, which would you prefer, farming, or making music? Do you feel more inspired by the rural life than when you were in the city?
That’s a really great question. There are aspects of the music that I really enjoy. I’m blessed with some incredibly talented musician friends that make my studio experiences something that keeps me buzzing for days and sometimes weeks after. It is like going for a massage or some kind of therapy. The farm stuff is more of a daily therapy/routine. More and more promoting and performing music is more of a hassle that I could eventually find myself doing without. I guess I prefer more of a quiet life, so I think the farming would win. Luckily I can do both. Gary is a bit post-apocalyptic, so having it plus the rural of my more local life does inspire what I have going on in some of my music.
What’s your favorite instruments to use and why?
I have an old National Resonator that is probably my favorite. It’s my solo gig guitar and it’s been with me through much. It has a tone that is just spectacular. I also have an electric guitar that is made out of a washboard that sounds better than it ought to and it’s a good trick–it catches the eye and as people are watching, they begin to listen and then I sometimes win them over into believing that I actually know how to play! Those are probably my top and primary 2.
The music video for ‘I Only Do It Cause I Have To’ shows you going about your chores on the farm. What one thing would you prefer never to do ever again?
Live paycheck to paycheck while being in a massive amount of debt. It’s part of what has driven and drives me to do what I do, because I have to.
What question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does?
What do you think people could do that would make the world a better place?