Leesa Gentz has been singing for as long as she can remember. When she was just nine, her parents took Leesa and her sister to Tamworth Country Music Festival and she watched all those musicians doing their thing on stage and says she immediately knew what she wanted to do with her life.
And it was very early on in the piece when she worked out she could make a living out of singing.
“Mum and dad were super supportive of our music obsession and bought a little PA system for me and Kristy (older sister) and we booked a bunch of pub and cafe gigs and learnt enough songs to play a three hour show and just got out there and played gigs.”
“This is from the age of about 13 – so, yeah, obviously with loads of help from mum and dad, but we realised that if we got really good at putting on a show and playing songs then we could actually make it into a career.”
Leesa released her first single with ABC records at just 16 years old and early in her career signed a major publishing deal with Warner as well as signing to the ABC/EMI record label.
She’s toured the world fronting many bands, and her stage craft is obvious when you see Leesa perform live, but the past 13 years has seen the talented vocalist share frontwoman duties with Julz Parker as the core members of the internally acclaimed Gold Coast blues and roots act Hussy Hicks.
Despite crossing paths with all manner of music industry stars, it’s her co-collaborator and general partner in crime, Julz Parker that Leesa says is her biggest inspiration.
“When I first met Julz about 15 years ago I was totally over the music industry and at a bit of a loss as to what I should do to occupy myself,” she said.
“Julz was unlike anyone I’d ever met before, she just made things happen.”
“Julz is the kind of person who would say ‘Okay, so you want to tour through Italy? Let’s just make that happen!’ and she just does.”
“She has an incredible ability to make stuff happen, second only to her insane musical talents. Julz lives and breathes music and has an incredible way of inspiring musicality in others, and I’m so grateful to have been sharing that inspiration for many years now.”
Of course these world class skills don’t come without effort. I asked Leesa about how she keeps her voice in peak condition.
“Usually we’re playing music all the time so I’m almost always warmed up and ready to sing,” she said. “When we take a little break I need to work on my voice a bit to maintain strength.”
“I definitely push my instrument to the extreme so it’s important for me to keep the muscles strong, well hydrated and when we’re in the middle of a heavy touring schedule I have to make sure to get enough sleep.”
As someone who started her career at such a young age, Leesa has some words of wisdom for other young vocalists.
“Sing as often as possible, in as many different situations, with as many people as possible,” she said.
“It’s all about throwing yourself into the game and the more hours you’ve spent playing music and being with musicians the better you get – simple as that!”
Leesa speaks kindly of her fellow finalists for Musician of the Year.
“I’ve only met Jackson (Dunn) a few times and it’s great to see him getting recognised for his talents,” she said.
“Lindsay and I actually have a connection from my early days in the country music scene – I believe his band was called Runaway Train and all the guys in that band were really supportive of us kids – they used to invite us to do guest spots and sit in with us at Jam nights and that type of thing. I haven’t seen Waddo for a long time, but it’s pretty cool to be a finalist in this category alongside him.”