Listening to Mike Leach’s first CD is like being welcomed into his home, invited to sit down and relax and have an honest and revealing conversation about what’s been happening in his life.
The CD, titled Mystical Storm Winds of Change, is Leach’s very personal and individual statement – featuring only his voice, his acoustic guitar and his songs. Recorded this spring at Doug Perry’s studio in Kamloops, the 10-song CD is a heartfelt rendering of Leach’s own spiritual journey, blending sacred knowledge, concern for the fate of the planet and the hard-won undertstanding that now is the Creator’s time and things are unfolding according to the Creator’s plan.
Leach has had a love for playing music since he “started watching people in residential school who were very good guitar players.” When he was 15, he picked up an electric guitar. Although he prefers the more holistic and “down-to-earth” acoustic guitar, he learned to play on an electric guitar.
“I eventually got through my fingers being sore and if you can get through that and if you have the heart for going on, then you continue to pluck away at it,” he recalls. In high school, he was in a band called the Gabriel Hounds. After graduation, he had dreams of becoming a rock star in California, but wound up taking a Certified General Accounting program instead.
There came a time when he put down the guitar and settled into his family responsibilities and his position as chief of the Lillooet Indian Band (now T’’t’q’et). His son George picked up a guitar, started playing and went on to fame as a singer-songwriter.
When George became a musician, Mike Leach remembers saying to himself, “Maybe it’s for him, but not for me.”
Then, in 2005, he decided to buy himself a new guitar. “That was the year 33 songs came out,” he says, excitement in his voice. “Little leads and little licks – it all just started coming together and then the songs just started pouring out and I said to myself, ‘I guess this is what I’m meant to do, too.’ Now I’ve got about 80 songs written and I feel I have a little bit of music in me to share with the world.”
He continues, “All of the songs are from the heart and they were all written probably within an hour or two. You hit a chord and all of a sudden your fingers start moving in different ways and you know, ‘Oh, here’s a song coming out.’”
Mystical Storm Winds of Change is the first in a series of CDs – a CD cycle – with the second CD expected to be released later this fall.
“If you go to the www.halaw.ca website, you can see all the CDs that are going to be done,” Leach explains. “All the lyrics and music have been written and everything is there for all the CDs.”
He says his songs have “a lot to do with the changes happening with the earth, and all the things that are going on, the transformations that are occurring very quickly – individually, community-wise, nation-wise and globally.”
Although it’s about spiritual growth and lessons learned on life’s journey, Mystical Storm Winds of Change is not the least bit preachy. It’s reflective and contemplative, its melodies loping along at a relaxed pace, its imagery mixing sacred mountains, rivers of light, journeys, changing cycles and apocalyptic visions.
The song “Rivers of Light” is about the persecution and imprisonment of members of the Baha’i faith in Iran – “seven locked away for what they say.” The lilting country-tinged “That Old Prairie Sun” conjures evocative images of roaming buffalo, rivers flowing in fields of gold, laughter on the wind and “sweetgrass, dancers and a drum.”
The title tack is the centrepiece of the CD and its longest number. It’s an intense song with a haunting vocal and a rhythm that picks up steam like a train chugging down a railway track. Storm clouds are gathering, temperatures are rising, the fate of the planet is in the balance…then there’s a false stop but the song comes back strongly and there are the reassuring words, “All is divine; it’s the Creator’s time.”
There’s more spiritual reassurance in the next song, “The Old Milky Way,” which promises the Creator will be there to guide us “at the crossroads of the Old Milky Way.”
Canoe Pass Inn is an instrumental where he cuts loose on the guitar as much as he does on this restrained CD.
Leach says people tell him the CD is “refreshing,” “something I listened to all the way to Kamloops and back” and “good on the ears.” The positive reaction caught the attention of APTN, which has approached him about making a music video for broadcast on that network.
He says the upcoming CDs will have a similar feel. “There won’t be anything harsh. I won’t be pounding away on the guitar.” He would like to add other singers and instruments to the mix in the subsequent CDs and is talking about incorporating everything from mandolins to a didgeridoo to set off the new songs.
“It’s a nice way of entertaining people and the way I look at it is, if you leave with a good feeling, it’s a good CD,” he says. “I’m not really out to promote the CD to purchase. What I’m really interested in is the reaction when somebody listens to the CD. How did it affect that person? So far, I’ve been getting positive reactions, that it’s a good companion and it doesn’t twist the spirit.”
Summing up, he says making Mystical Storm Winds of Change has been “a wonderful experience. It’s something I’ve wanted to do every year since 2005. I would like to thank everyone for being so supportive and thank the people of Lillooet for supporting the CD.”
Mystical Storm Winds of Change is available locally at Lightfoot Gas, KC Health and Gifts and Pharmasave. It’s sold online at cdbaby.