|Birth name||Leah Smith|
|Born||Atlanta, Georgia, USA|
|Origin||New Orleans, Louisiana, USA|
|Instruments||Vocals, banjo, fiddle, guitar|
|Associated acts||Rising Appalachia|
Leah Song (born Leah Smith) is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumental musician, storyteller, poet, and activist known for her role as front woman in Rising Appalachia, with her sister Chloe Smith, incorporating sultry vocals, rhythm, banjo, guitar, ballads, dance, spoken-word and storytelling into her work. Her music is based in the traditions of Southern soul and international roots music.
Early life and education
Leah Smith was born and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia into an artistic family. Her father, Andrew Hunter Smith, was a folk-sculptor and painter. Her mother, Jan Smith, was a jazz pianist and folk musician schooled in the traditions of southern Appalachian folk music who played fiddle with the Rosin Sisters.
Her musical education was nurtured by her mother, who ensured that both sisters received classical and jazz piano training for most of their upbringing. Smith's mother also guided their training in vocals and harmony singing. Banjo, fiddle and guitar came later, after the sisters had left home and moved to Asheville, North Carolina.
She graduated from Henry W. Grady High School where she was involved in political activism. Determined to pursue an experiential form of education, at 19 she moved to Mexico, where she became involved with the Zapatista movement. In a 2014 interview, she said of the experience,
I was working with the Zapatista movement and just living in and amongst the communities of southern Mexico that were working with indigenous struggle. When I moved down there I became a student of that community. I lived there for almost a year teaching and learning. I then went on to spend the next 5 years of my life traveling and living abroad in that context. I went from place to place to study and live within a community and truly be a community member. I really tried to be invested in the places I traveled to and learn from them.
Song and her sister Chloe decided to record their first album, Leah and Chloe (2006), one afternoon in the basement studio of a friend in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. The album was meant as a gift for family and friends but they received so much support and recognition for it that they decided to officially start a band called Rising Appalachia.
In the early days, the sisters busked in the French Quarter of New Orleans and elsewhere. They began to find their own natural interpretation of Appalachian music which brought together folk, soul, hip-hop, classical, southern gospel and other styles based on their upbringing on traditional Appalachian string band music, as well as on their exposure to urban music like hip-hop and jazz and the influence of roots music of all kinds which they experienced during their worldwide travels.
Song's spoken-word poetry is a driving influence behind Rising Appalachia's music. Her background in movement arts has inspired her to cultivate a relationship with the global circus arts and street theater communities.
Song is involved in the environmental activism of the Appalachian Mountains and Gulf Coast regions. She is also involved with food justice, human rights activism and prison activism. She works with prison programs which cultivate emotional release through the arts around the United States.
The Slow Music Movement and the Wider Circles Rail Tour
Song coined the term "Slow Music Movement" while preparing for a TedX talk. During Rising Appalachia's Wider Circles Rail Tour, the band travelled by Amtrak train. Song connected this with the "Slow Music Movement", which she described as exploring the question as to how music can be a public service,  saying:
We want to have relationships with the farmers and the food of each region and also to have a relationship with different educational initiatives and non-profits. We have a policy that at each show at least two non-profits are welcome, invited — non-profits or educational initiatives, arts justice projects — to the show to set up tables and let the audiences know, as well as ourselves, what's going on locally.
With Rising Appalachia
- Rising Appalachia (2006). Leah and Chloe (CD). CD Baby/Rising Appalachia.
- Rising Appalachia (2007). Scale Down (CD). CD Baby/Unwound.
- R.I.S.E. (Rising Appalachia) (2008). Evolutions in Sound: Live (CD). CD Baby/R.I.S.E. (Rising Appalachia).
- Rising Appalachia (2010). The Sails of Self (CD). CD Baby/Rising Appalachia.
- Rising Appalachia (2012). Filthy Dirty South (CD). CD Baby/Rising Appalachia.
- Rising Appalachia (2015). Wider Circles (CD). Rising Appalachia.
- Rising Appalachia (2019). Leylines (CD). Rising Appalachia.
Independent music videos
- Leah Song (2011). Lagrimas Negras (video). By Miguel Matamoros. Chad Hess Production. Retrieved 2015-05-09. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Leah Song (2012a). Lagrimas Negras (version 2) (video). By Miguel Matamoros. Chad Hess Production. Retrieved 2015-05-09. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Leah Song (2012b). Love Stays (video). Directed by Chad Hess. Chad Hess Production. Retrieved 2015-05-09. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Leah Song (2013a). Caminando: Live (video). Chad Hess Production. Retrieved 2015-05-09. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Leah Song (2013b). Thank You Very Much (video). Leah Song Music. Retrieved 2015-05-14. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
Collaborative music videos
- Leah Song (2014a). Beautiful Cypher Jam Session (video). With Biko Casini, Climbing PoeTree, Elijah+ and Band of Light. Kauai: Kamana Media. Retrieved 2015-05-14. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Leah Song (2014b). Spirit's Cradle (video). With Climbing PoeTree (poetics), Biko Casini (percussion). Vincent Wilson. Retrieved 2015-05-09. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Rising Appalachia (July 27, 2013). Occupy (video). With Nakho Bear. FloydFest. Retrieved 2015-05-15. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
Interviews and talks
- Guildner, Kami. "Leah Song: Singer and Songwriter of Rising Appalachia". Extraordinary Women Radio (podcast). Episode 089. Retrieved 2020-01-07.
- Leah Song (2015a). Leah Song at the St. Augustine Symposium (video). Hosted by Micah Gilliam. The St. Augustine Symposium. Retrieved 2015-05-14. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Leah Song (2015b). What is the slow music movement? (video). TEDxAsheville. Retrieved 2016-02-23. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Frankel 2015.
- Leah Song 2015b.
- Brewer 2007.
- English 2014.
- McDonald 2015. sfn error: no target: CITEREFMcDonald2015 (help)
- Freeman 2013.
- Walsh 2014.
- Alexander 2014. sfn error: no target: CITEREFAlexander2014 (help)
- Benjamin 2014.
- Rising Appalachia 2006.
- Alexander 2011.
- Centanni 2014.
- McGregor 2014.
- Bernhardt 2015.
- Rising Appalachia 2013.
- Keyframe Entertainment 2016.
- Rising Appalachia 2015.
- Ogbonna 2015.
- Swaidner 2015.
- Alexander, Rachel (July 15, 2011). "Rising Appalachia Interview". RisingAppalachia.com. Archived from the original on 2013-07-04.
- Benjamin, Abby (October 29, 2014). "Our Contemporary Folk Story: An Interview with Rising Appalachia's Leah Song". Sparkleberry Lane. Retrieved 2015-05-08.
- Bernhardt, Erin (April 29, 2015). "The Slow Music Movement". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-05-08.
- Brewer, David (June 7, 2007). "Rising Appalachia's New Fashioned Old-Time World Music". High Country Press. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved 2015-03-27.
- Centanni, Stephen (April 30, 2014). "Sisters rely on musical heritage to put together entertaining live shows". Lagniappe Weekly. Retrieved 2015-03-27.
- English, Brandon (December 19, 2014). "Rising Appalachia at the Fox Theater". Creative Loafing Atlanta. Retrieved 2015-03-27.
- Frankel, Jake (January 12, 2015). "Revived TEDxAsheville conference aims to challenge assumptions". Mountain Xpress. Retrieved 2015-05-08. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Freeman, Scott (October 11, 2013). "30 Under 30: Rising Appalachia's Chloe Smith stands on the beautiful edge of a creative cliff". ArtsATL.com. Archived from the original on March 28, 2015. Retrieved 2015-03-27.
- Keyframe Entertainment (March 18, 2016). "Interview with Rising Appalachia and Permaculture Action Network". Reality Sandwich. Retrieved 2016-05-19.
- McGregor, Emmett (April 29, 2014). "Featured Music: Rising Appalachia". SolPurpose. Retrieved 2015-05-08.
- Ogbonna, Thandiwe (April 29, 2015). "Rising Appalachia's Leah Smith on Wider Circles, the Rail Tour, & the Slow Music Movement". No Depression. Retrieved 2015-05-08.
- Swaidner, Erin (February 13, 2015). "Rising Appalachia Launches The Wider Circles Rail Tour in Advance of New Album". Appalachian Jamwich. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved 2015-03-27.
- Walsh, Michael (April 21, 2014). "Live review: Rising Appalachia, Visulite Theatre (4/19/2014)". The Clog: News & Culture. Womack Newspapers. Retrieved 2015-05-08.
- Hysen, Britt (March 30, 2015). "Rising Appalachia Uses Folk Music to Inspire Activism". Millennial. 1 (34). Retrieved 2015-05-10.
- Johnson, Phillip (November 11, 2016). "Interview: Leah Song of Rising Appalachia". Seattle Music News. Retrieved 2020-01-07.
- McLaughlin, Karin (November 18, 2019). "A Sit Down With Leah Smith of Rising Appalachia". DC Music Review. Retrieved 2020-01-07.
- NPR (October 31, 2006). "Rising Appalachia: 'Say Darlin' Say'". NPR Music. NPR. Retrieved 2015-03-27.
- Rising Appalachia (n.d.). "The RISE Collective". RisingAppalachia.com. Archived from the original on 2015-03-16. Retrieved 2015-03-27.
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