My songwriting began in the stairwell of my Morganton home in the 7th grade with a cheap Sears guitar laden with brutal steel strings which made my fingertips ache. I can still hear the semi-sweet sounds of reverberation as I plunked the same three chords over and over until a melody emerged. My interest in music actually began a few years earlier with a tap on the shoulder at church. "Young man, you have such a nice voice. Why don't you sing in the choir?" No one could shut me up after that. I was on my way in music.
Choir. Singing in school plays. School band. Cornet. Baritone. Tuba. Guitar was the hardest. I felt so clumsy trying to change chords but eventually I got the hang of it. A used Gibson guitar became my best friend in high school. I'd break up with a girlfriend and write a song. Great therapy. There always seemed to be a new melody or lyrical idea in my head.
I joined a garage band called the Beggars and sang lead. We recorded a couple of my tunes at a studio in Charlotte. That was so exciting! Later in high school I joined the Cyntriks featuring a group of incredibly talented young musicians. Bill Covington who plays piano on "Peaceful Journey" was the keyboardist for the Cyntriks. It has been great to reconnect with Bill. While with the Cyntriks I penned a song about a girlfriend "Missy" which became a regional hit. "Rhythm of the Rain" composer John Gummoe of the Cascades became my pen pal and mentor. We are still great friends today.
In college I bought a Martin 12 string and teamed up with Tom Barrows for a coffeehouse folk duo called Augustus and Irvin. We were probably noted more for our humor than our music. Just after college John Tesh and I roomed together in Raleigh and worked at the same radio station. John encouraged me to take my tunes to Nashville. I had several songs published with April-Blackwood Music including "Laughing Girl Lately Sad." After marriage I dabbled in country music but struggled with the hook line lyrics. I wrote a lot of religious songs for my church, Cary Presbyterian and enjoyed singing there in the choir.
A trip to Scotland and a concert by the contemporary Celtic group Nightnoise paved the way for my music genre today. I heard someone play the Celtic whistle on the side of the road near Inverness and fell in love with the haunting sound. No one in Raleigh could teach me how to play the whistle so I taught myself using books, cassettes and videotaped instructions. I bought a multi-track recorder and began laying guitar tracks. I blended guitar with whistle and piano tracks. Soon I built a full-fledged studio at my home. I co-founded a Celtic fusion band Bragh Adair featuring guitar, whistle, violin, piano, bass and percussion. We played for nearly four years and produced two wonderful albums "Grace in Stone" and "The Hunt" which can be purchased on this website. We had some outstanding concerts at Meymandi Hall, Grandfather Mountain, Johnston County, Cary Academy and Red Springs. It was very sad when the group featuring Mary Page Johnson and Kerry Johnson folded in 2002. They are terrific musicians.
Today, I play with a wonderful band called Lorica. The members are violinist Sherry Lattin, flutist Linda Metz, pianist Marty Long and percussionist Stephen Levitin. As most of you know I am the morning and noon co-anchor of WRAL News in Raleigh. I deeply appreciate Capitol Broadcasting Company's support of my music. I also enjoy the strong support of my family. My wife Cindy is a tremendous speech pathologist in the public school system. My daughter Lauren is a student at Appalachian State University. My son William is a student at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh.
View the Bill Leslie bio at WRAL.com
View the Bill Leslie Carolina Conversations blog