Tuesday, October 19, 2010

St. Charles native Leslie Hunt returning home this weekend with new band in tow


St. Charles native and former "American Idol" contestant Leslie Hunt continues to explore new musical horizons.

These days, Hunt is fronting Chicago progressive rock band District 97, www.district97.net, a group that is catching attention world wide.

Hunt will return to her hometown Friday, Oct. 22, when District 97 performs at Chord On Blues, 106 S. 1st Ave., St. Charles, www.myspace.com/chordonblues, for a CD release show to mark the release of "Hybrid Child."

The all-ages show starts at 8 p.m. and there is a $5 cover charge. The show is all ages until 11 p.m. Blane Fonda is also on the bill.

District 97 will also perform Nov. 19 at Martyrs, 3855 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago, and will open for Dream Theater frontman James Labrie on Dec. 7 at Reggie's Rock Club, 2105 S. State St., Chicago.

I had the chance to catch up with Hunt on her latest activities, which also include being a single mother to 14-month-old Eliza.

Q - Some people might be surprised that you are fronting a prog rock band these days. How did you decide this would be a good fit for you?

I heard the music when I opened up for them a few years back, and I loved it. I loved the energy and how complex everything was. I think that my vocals fit in nicely. I don't think it is a long shot at all.

Q - Did you grow up listening to bands like District 97?

Not bands exactly like that, but I grew up on stuff that is musically not in the mainstream. I wasn't just fed pop music as a child.

My dad is a free jazz musician, and he exposed me to a lot of avant-garde styles.

Q - You kind of have a jazz background. Do you think that's why it fits?

Yeah. You have to have an appreciation for music which is that colorful. I would definitely say that has something to do with my involvement with the band.

Q - Which do you prefer, being solo or in a band?

I'm kind of enjoying being in a band. There's not so much pressure on me, and I can be a mom. When it's just you and you are driving the whole ship, there's really no down time.

Q - How do you manage juggling a family and being in a band?

It's actually not that bad, because Jonathan's mother babysits for me when I have to go to band practice. (Jonathan Schang is the drummer and the bandleader for District 97). It's just me and Eliza here and my dog. Luckily I have a big support system, which is great.

Q - What do you think sets District 97 apart from other bands?

I would say our energy. Our live show is really impressive. I'm continually so impressed with the band that I am in, and people are absolutely just blown away by our show. It's really cool to be part of something that catches people's attention like that.

The compositions are really great. I'm writing a lot of lyrics now for the band, so our next record will have a lot more of my lyrics on them. I only wrote one set of lyrics for this record, and everything else Jonathan wrote. It's a really fun outlet for me to just write lyrics, over such cool melodies these guys are writing.

Q - Now you are not performing your own music these days, are you?

We do a couple of songs from my album that came out last year. We do "Open Your Eyes" and "Sea I Provide" in a District 97 style.

Q - What do you think that did to the songs?

I think it just made the songs a little harder. It's fun to experience those songs in a different light.

Q - Do you ever get tired of being referred to as a former "American Idol" contestant?

It was a part of my life and it will definitely always be part of my story. It doesn't really bother me yet.

Q - Have you watched the show since you were on?

No, not even a single episode.

Q - I was going to ask you about Lee DeWyze.

I have no idea who that is. I have nothing against the show, I just don't watch it. I don't really watch that much TV. If I do, it's like "Dexter." 

Q - You are also a vocal producer and coach. It seems like you enjoy doing a variety of things.

I don't always want to be performing live. I don't always want to be in the studio. My ideal life would be music experienced in a bunch of different ways.