DURHAM’S MUSIC SCENE: Leah Daniels shines as an independent artist

Leah Daniels performing in her hometown of Uxbridge, Ont. at the Uxbridge Canada Day Celebrations. Photo credit: Allan Fournier

Leah Daniels developed her love for music early on in her life, where she has fond memories of having jam sessions with her brothers at family get-togethers.

Daniels, 32, is an award-winning country music singer who grew up and still resides in Uxbridge, Ont. which she describes as an “artsy” town where she was able to partake in choirs, musicals and theatres.

“Uxbridge was the perfect spot because there were so many things to do in the arts and I definitely took advantage of that,” she says.

Before becoming a full-time musician, Daniels attended Sheridan College in 2005 for one year in the Musical Theatre program before moving on to study Voice at Humber College for another year. Daniels says choosing to continue her schooling was an important step in her career.

“We had class from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., then rehearsals,” she says. “It was really intense.”

Looking back, she has no regrets about her time in school.

“School is so important because of the people that you meet,” she says. “I’m glad I did both because the main thing I got from it was the connections.”

However, there was no course on how to become a professional singer.

“I enjoyed both but I was so eager to get out and record an album and perform and I felt like school was holding me back.”

After deciding to move on from school in 2007, Daniels says her parents were very supportive of her decision.

“My dad made me write out a plan of some of my goals for that year and every other week he’d check in with me to see my progress.”

In 2010, Daniels was nominated and won ‘Country Artist of The Year’ at the Durham Region Music Awards.

This was the first of three times she would be rewarded for her music.

In 2015, Daniels was named ‘Rising Star of the Year’ at the Canadian Music Association of Ontario and in 2016 she was chosen as the ‘Female Artist of the Year’ at the Canadian Radio Music Awards.

Despite some early success and interest from major labels, Daniels decided to stay as an independent artist.

Being an independent artist has its challenges but over time, Daniels says she has learned a lot from it.

“I’ve been able to be involved in every decision process and learned about each side of the industry.”

Having friends who have gone through the major label system and seeing the challenges they have faced also proved the decision she made was a wise one.

“I’m happy I never did sign because now I am able to maintain control over everything,” she says.

Although artists can be successful as an independent act, they still need help from others.

One major breakthrough that changed the trajectory of Daniels’ career was when she was introduced to Canadian songwriter and record producer Sam Ellis through a friend.

“Sam really helped guide and mentor me through the next phase of my career.”

Meeting Ellis, who has worked with other country acts such as Kane Brown, Hunter Hayes and Thomas Rhett, helped Daniels gain more confidence in her writing abilities and also garner connections to other artists in the music business.

Ellis also produced her first studio album, “What It Feels Like.

Daniels has big aspirations for the upcoming year.

She is set to release a music video for the title track of her 2018 album, “The Story.”

“I want to do a video for each song,” she says. “It’s one thing to put an album out but I kind of need to put out a visual to give it more meaning.”

She adds that she wants to get back to writing and hopefully release more music.