Eric Leadbetter didn’t have to search long for new bandmates once he moved to Bend from Ashland in 2016.
Some years before that, the guitarist, singer and songwriter played on a bill with Sisters-based group Hobbs the Band at Lounge South in Ashland. Leadbetter and his band at the time, Jive Coulis, felt an immediate connection with the fellow blues-rock group. He next ran into the group’s members — in particular guitarist Hobbs Magaret, bassist Patrick Pearsall and drummer Kaleb Kelleher — at a Gov’t Mule show in Eugene.
“We’re like, ‘We’re going to the show, cancel the gig,’” Leadbetter said. “We went to watch Gov’t Mule at the McDonald, and at the end of the show, we look around and like, oh man, there’s Kaleb and Patrick and Hobbs. … Everyone’s hanging out; we’re all hanging out at Gov’t Mule together, because that’s all one of our favorite bands.”
When Leadbetter arrived in Bend, he initially wanted to keep Jive Coulis going and turned to Pearsall and Kelleher, who had some free time after Magaret left the area. Jive Coulis, which formed in Colorado around 2004, was a regular performer in Bend, but had gone through numerous lineup changes. When Kelleher left the group, Leadbetter and Pearsall recruited drummer Dylan Bernal in late 2017, and The Leadbetter Band was born.
“Obviously, change is a really good thing, and it allowed me to let go of a lot of the pressure that I had put on myself by being a bandleader of Jive Coulis,” Leadbetter said. “It gave us a rebirth in a sense to have a lot more freedom to pursue exactly what we wanted to a little more.”
That evolution from Jive Coulis to The Leadbetter Band can be heard on the trio’s self-titled debut album, which will be released at Silver Moon’s first outdoor patio show of the season Saturday. The album was produced by Leadbetter in his home studio in Tumalo, with basic tracks recorded in a matter of days with help from sound engineer Mark Johnson of Bluejay Productions in Southern Oregon.
While recording went quickly, the trio worked on perfecting Leadbetter’s original songs for about a year. Many of the album’s 12 cuts stick to the familiar blues-rock sound presented by Jive Coulis on its three albums, but with added wrinkles such as the Black Sabbath-esque riffs of “Grand Misconception” and “Bleed Out” or the jam band-esque “Laughin’ Joe.”
“(In) Jive Coulis, we did a lot more jamming in a sense as far as extended guitar solos — you know, groove out, get weird,” Leadbetter said. “But Jive Coulis did this Halloween show, and we did all Black Sabbath, and I just love that kind of heavy classic rock stuff. I’m a huge Uriah Heep fan, Lucifer’s Friend, all the classic, heavy rock.”
Leadbetter relied on Pearsall and Bernal’s input on arrangements to complete the songs. Pearsall, a veteran of local groups such as The Mostest, The Travis Ehrenstrom Band and more, helped Leadbetter with some of the between-song overdubs, which helped to tie the songs together, Leadbetter said.
“At the end of the day, the drums and the bass are the song, and then, the vocals and the guitar are just the sprinkle on top that set the melody,” Leadbetter said. “But the rhythm is, at the end of the day, really the song. So that’s why I’m like, ‘You guys, this song is yours, what are we doing?’ They’re all really open to ideas, too.”
Following the album release, Leadbetter hopes to tour more with the trio, with a two-week tour of Washington and Oregon planned for August. The group is working on songs for its second album as well, Leadbetter said.
But while his bandmates have day jobs, Leadbetter is a full-time musician, often playing solo shows with a looping pedal or duo shows with Pearsall to fill out his schedule. Since moving to Bend, Leadbetter also has focused more on teaching guitar to kids and adults thanks to some pushing from Joe Schulte, founder of local music school String Theory Music. In many ways, teaching has helped bring Leadbetter’s playing and songwriting full circle.
“It’s inspiring for me in a lot of ways because it takes me back to the basics,” he said. “In a lot of ways, it’s like starting at square one. Some of the best music that’s ever been written is by teenagers.”