Some artists go on feeling like secrets long after they've started being told. Leif Vollebekk, who releases his third album in February is one of these treasures. Born in Ottawa in 1985, he taught himself music using instruments inherited from his grandfather: harmonica, guitar, piano, an old fiddle. Although he began with songs off the radio, originals started coming too, especially during a year spent in Iceland: gigging around Reykjavik practicing his burled Icelandic, trying out new refrains.
Vollebekk's debut album was released in 2010. Recorded and mixed in only ten days, Inland was the first record to be recorded on Breakglass Studios' newly-acquired 1968 Neve console, the very same board used on Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti. Described as "beautiful, memorable and moving" by NPR, "timeless and monumental" by London's Independent, Inland was followed three years later by North Americana. Vollebekk's second album was a "long search for perfect takes" recorded in Montreal, New York and France, with production from Tom Gloady (Sigur Rós, Patti Smith), Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire, Coeur de Pirate), and John Simon (the man behind The Band's Music From Big Pink and Songs of Leonard Cohen).
As these records collected acclaim, Vollebekk hit the road, staging multiple North American, British and European tours, repeat performances at SXSW, CMW, End of the Road and Pop Montreal, and an appearance at the 2014 Newport Folk Festival - hailed by Amazon Music as one of the event's most memorable moments. Along the way, he shared stages with artists including Daniel Lanois, Beth Orton, Sinéad O'Connor, Patrick Watson, Coeur de Pirate, Plants and Animals, William Fitzsimmons, Suzanne Vega, Sam Amidon, Angus & Julia Stone, and Basia Bulat. Vollebekk also released the 2013 covers EP Borrowed Time, with gleaming reimaginings of songs by Neil Young, Sigur Rós and The Killers.
Vollebekk's latest, long overdue LP, Twin Solitude, is the product of everything that came before: the unending tours, the slow cover songs, the experience of seeing Prince, alone at a piano, as he altered a room. "I used to think, 'This will be kinda like a Neil Young song,' 'This will be kinda like a Bob Dylan song,'" Vollebekk says. "I kinda ran out of people to imitate. And then there was just me."