District 97’s Leslie Hunt on Going From American Idol Finalist to Prog-Rock
Former American Idol Top 10 Female Finalist Leslie Hunt doesn’t have time for your narrow expectations. While most music fans would expect the Chicago singer to stay with the pop-crusted sounds most of her fellow Idol alumni have kept to, Hunt is keeping things way more interesting than that.
Besides still persuing her solo, singer-songwriter career, Hunt also fronts an exciting prog-rock group called District 97. Even though she still manages to squeeze in her infectious vocal melodies throughout their material, District 97’s musical arrangements find the band bobbing and weaving through a maze of tech-heavy guitars and stop-and-go rhythms.
Later this month, District 97 will be releasing their sophomore album, Trouble With Machines, and Noisecreep chatted with Hunt to get some insight on her experience on Idol and working in the prog-rock scene.
First off, I have to ask you, American Idol — a good experience or do you have regrets about doing it?
It was a good experience, but I think it would have been better if I had gone into it with a more established artistic identity. If I were to do it now, for instance, I could have gotten a lot more out of that level of exposure. I think overall it really kicked me into high gear, so I’m glad I did it.
How tough was it to get back to the regular musician grind after you appeared on the show?
It wasn’t tough at all, actually, because I was so excited to write more songs and put a great band together. I think there was a bit of shock at first, but I got over it quickly because that’s what I do.
The obvious question I have to ask is how in the world did you hook up with a prog-rock band? Were you always into this kind of music?
I went to music school with all the guys in the band, so that’s how we met. I heard them when they were instrumental and my jaw was on the floor the entire time. I told Jonathan [drummer/primary composer] that I really wanted to be their lead singer. I’m so glad he obliged! I am actually new to prog.
Listen to District 97’s “The Actual Color”
Was it challenging fitting your vocal style to the constant tempo shifts of the music?
It was a challenge at first, but the compositions have always been intuitive to me, so I actually never have to count in this band… I just feel it.
The prog-rock community is famously fickle about their music. Have you encountered any static related to your time on Idol?
Not yet, thankfully! Maybe if I would have made it farther on the show it would be more of a thing, but at the moment I think it’s just a little tidbit in my bio.
I noticed that you are also juggling a singer-songwriter career outside of District 97. It must be nice to be able to jump back and forth between the two different styles.
It’s crucial! I feel so lucky that I have two such different, yet wholly rewarding musical outlets to turn to when I need to express the different sides of my personality.
What’s your favorite prog-rock artist of all time?
Is there any other stuff you would like to promote to our readers?
I guess I would like to mention that I came out with another solo album in May, entitled, Wait for It, so go check it out. You can also check out some music and other info on my solo stuff at www.lesliehunt.net and on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.
District 97’s Trouble With Machines will be out on July 17 via The Laser’s Edge.