Jesse Leach has had one of the most harrowing stories in the modern heavy metal music world today: The original lead singer of Killswitch Engage, Leach left the band due to a fair amount of personal issues in 2002 before the band hit it big time and spent the latter half of the decade playing in Seemless, a southern rock based metal band, as well as the metalcore group Empire Shall Fall (which Leach is still working with).
But over the years, Leach has regained his confidence and his love for music has been rekindled. Along with the Empire Shall Fall project, Leach had kept in contact with Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz, the two decided to work on a new project together. After 4 years of working on material, Leach and Dutkiewicz’s new project, Times of Grace, will see their debut come out this month as they release “The Hymn of a Broken Man”.
Leach seems as motivated as ever as the Times of Grace album finally sees the light of day. In the midst of a bad east coast snowstorm, I had a chance to talk with Jesse about finally releasing the album, as well his maturation and evolution as a songwriter.
Here’s my interview with Jesse:
AM: With the out coming out now, where do you see the anticipation level for you at the moment?
JL: With the time it took to come out, I am super excited to finally have the album see the light of day. I feel it’s the album of my career and plan on getting a good bottle of scotch and a good cigar for the day when the album is release (January 18th).
AM: With the album 4 years in the making, at what time period did the album seem like a reality?
JL: It’s interesting, because the album had been done for a bit over a year at this point. After the album was done and nothing was really going on with it, I almost moved on. I was working my day job and went back to my own life and Adam was really busy with Killswitch when Roadrunner came to us with a contract. I think once the contract was in place, which was almost a year ago or so, then things really started to come together and work towards the actual release.
AM: With putting these songs together, did you find the material easier to come together versus past work?
JL: Yeah, I felt it was easier, but it was easy with a price. When I was writing the material for the album, I was at the darkest point in my life. But over time, Adam and I worked through the darkness and it was amazing. Once the songs started coming together, we’d look at each other and agree that the songs were done- the material came effortlessly after a while. The album is all about struggle, but always having hope and preserving through the problems. There’s a lot going on, but I think we made things very coherent.
AM: You kept in contact with Adam Dutkiewicz over the years after you left Killswitch Engage- did you ever feel the two of you would work together again eventually?
JL: It’s definitely a discussion that we had throughout the years. There were a couple of years where I wasn’t too sure if it would happen again. But we always talked about doing a space rock album, perhaps a Brit-rock record, along the lines of early Radiohead or something. We are huge fans of that music and always wanted to do something like that and that it’s how this group came together.
AM: What songs do you feel will surprise fans the most about the new album?
JL: I think there are a couple of songs that are far different. There’s a song called “The Forgotten One”, which is a more bluesy and acoustic number. But I think the song that will seem surprising will be “The End of Eternity”- it’s the longest and most epic song on the album. There are a lot of dynamics- soft to hard, ambience, light and dark. Adam and I were coming from two places when writing the song- I was in a dark, negative mood, while Adam was very positive when writing the song. The lyrics we sang on the song are our own lyrics as we trade off on the vocals, and shows the balance of darkness and hope on the album.
AM: As the years have gone by, how do you feel your songwriting has improved?
JL: It’s a good question. As I’ve grown, I’m careful not to be too specific pertaining to lyrics. I want to have a feeling of letting the listener have their own interpretation of the music, because sometimes, what the listener has to say about the music is far more profound than something I would have thought of. But in my younger years, I wanted to be very direct in the way I sang. But over the years, I think the melody lines have become more complex and I’m always trying new things out in my vocals to keep things fresh.
AM: What are the band’s plans beyond the winter tour?
JL: After this tour, we are planning on doing some festivals in Europe. It will be really cool, because I’ve never got to go over there on tour and looking very forward to it.
Times of Grace plays at the Eagle Theater on Saturday, February 19th. Tickets are $12 and are available at www.ticketweb.com. Additional tour dates can be found at www.timesofgraceband.com. The band’s album, “The Hymn of a Broken Man” is out now on Roadrunner Records.