Interview with Gingher Leyendecker of The Hardways

By: Photographer/Writer Teri Wright 

The Hardways consist of four individuals with the heart of Southern soul and a twist of “Southwest Saloon Rock.” The Hardways are reviving the sound that has been long forgotten  with a beat that you will soon have you strumming along.

I got the chance to chat with Gingher Leyendecker to get the scoop on the new album debuting March 25th, 2016 
Whittle It Away.
Photo: Mo Connolly

 Teri Wright: Hey Gingher! Thank you for taking some time today to chat with me.
Gingher Leyendecker: Hi Teri, thanks for having me! 

TW: The first thing I noticed when listening and watching your videos is you're dangerously 'kick way' of playing guitar and banjo.  Do you prefer one over the other and do you play any other instruments?

Photo: Mo Connolly
GL: I've been playing the guitar longer but I just love the banjo. It's funny because when I decided to learn to play it I thought "Hey I play guitar, how hard can it be?" Well five years and many tears (and lessons!) later, I'm pretty comfortable with it and am having a blast. 

TW: Your sound- it rocks, but twangs too... how do you define it?
GL: People have called us "cow punk" and "rockabilly" and "southern rock," but I think we're more "southwest saloon rock." We've evolved a lot over the last 12 years, and while we've always had the rock-twang sound, we push those limits more now than ever with our current lineup of musicians. Nate, Dan, and Chris are amazing to work with and always challenge me to push my comfort limits in creating new sounds and stories.

TW: The new debut of Whittle it Away what new twists did you put into this album as opposed to your previous albums?
GL: On Whittle It Away we have more variety to our overall sound. We go from a sweet love song like "The Wonder" to something very aggressive like "Ghost Rider" to bluesy "So Long Baby." This is also the first album with bassist Chris Lykins, who has added a whole new dimension to our music. Even the four banjo songs are all varied, "Whittle It Away" is a slide song, while "Hard Times" is more traditional.

Photo: Mo Connolly
TW: What kind of feelings do you experience when you debut an album? Are you nervous or do you stay calm?
GL: Well you put so much into each album, from the rehearsal to the recording to the artwork and arrangement, that it's mostly pure joy to release the debut! 
TW: Who are your major influences in your music? 
GL: I love old school Americana, but I really like a huge variety of music and try to find something compelling in all genres. My biggest influence is driving on the open road. Every month or so I drive an 800 mile round trip to visit my grannie in New Mexico who is three months away from her 100th birthday! That time on the road is where a lot of my songs come from and where I do a lot of thinking.

TW: Where did you come up with some of the names for your songs?

GL: Usually the song titles come from a part of the song that has a cool feel to it. Lots of times it's part of the chorus but not always. 

TW: Do you have any plans in 2016 to hit the road with your tour? If so, Where?
GL: Looks like we're going to try to head out across New Mexico and Texas to get to Dirty Dan's home state of Oklahoma early this summer. 

TW: What's the hardest thing to do when you're trying to write new material?
GL: The void of not having started is the hardest part. Once you've got the story started, or the cadence, or some lyrics, you can work it out. It's the "hey time to write a song" part that holds the most pressure and uncertainty.  

TW: Who would you like to go on tour with ? Can be past or current.
GL: I'd love to tour with The Reverend Horton Heat or Hank III.

Photo: Mo Connolly

TW: Do you have a favorite venue to play at?  If so, Where and Why?
GL: We've played so many great spots, from festivals to biker bars and clubhouses, rodeos and even hang gliding and paragliding events! We love our "home bar" Chopper John's in Phoenix, and love the Spirit Room in Jerome. But when you're having fun on stage, every show is a favorite.

TW: You're a Prof. In Arts at Mesa CC, Did any of this tie into your album titles or songs?
GL: I mostly keep my music and work separate. For instance, I never announce shows in class because I think it would create an awkward situation if students felt like they had to go because they were in my class--especially if they didn't like the music! But I'm friends with many students outside of class and a lot of times those who see our shows on Facebook will come out, and that's really cool. 

TW: I am so intrigued about your paragliding profession as well.  A teacher,pilot and president of the AZ Hang Gliding/Paragliding Association. How did you get involved with this?
GL: A good friend of my husband's became a paragliding instructor and asked us if we wanted to be his first students--we jumped at the chance! That was about 8 1/2 years ago.
We've flown all over the U.S. from Hawaii to New York, and even in Mexico and Colombia. There is nothing like the feeling of flying using nothing but the air currents to propel you--I've had hawks flying next to me at 5000 feet and we were looking into each others eyes--it was incredible! 

TW: I see you're from New Mexico. I am as well (Albuquerque area)  What are some of the things you miss being here in AZ vs NM?
GL: New Mexico has an amazing vibe to it that is unlike anywhere else on earth. I love the openness of the landscape, the variety of scenery, the people (my family and friends!), and of course almost more than anything--the chile!! 

TW: Last question,  Where will your album be available for purchasing and where can your fans see you?
GL: Our album, Whittle Away is out now! Our CD release party is at Chopper John's on Friday the 25th with the Outlaw In-laws and The Earps. We're playing at 10pm and doing a lot of the songs from Whittle It Away. We'll have all four of our albums available, as well as t-shirts, stickers, and download cards. 

TW: Thank you Gingher for your time and Congratulations on the upcoming release and tour. I wish the best of luck to you and The Hardways.

GL: Thanks so much for the interview Teri, glad to talk to you!
Photo: Mo Connolly

The Hardways:

Gingher Leyendecker: Lead Vocals/Guitarist

Daniel Bain: Guitar/vocals

Nate Hawbaker: Drums/vocals

Christopher Lee Lykins: Bass

The Hardways Website
The Hardways Facebook
The Hardways Instagram
The Hardways YouTube

The Hardways I-10 Blues