Singer/Songwriter Erica Leigh Shares Her Story of Survival, New Single "Calling All Survivors"

 Boston-based artist Erica Leigh, is not only a singer/songwriter with an exceptional talent. She is also an uplifting figure in the community, a source of hope for those who share in her struggle. Diagnosed with thyroid cancer on the day of her debut CD release, Erica was told she may never sing again. Now she is back in the fold with a message of perseverance and courage, hoping to spread awareness and get her story out to the people that need to hear it. Erica reached out to us to help pass that message along and to premiere her new video, "Calling All Survivors":

The new song is called "Calling All Survivors". What do you hope to achieve with this single/video?

When I wrote this song, I was writing the song that I needed to hear - a song of defiance, resilience, and hope. After it was complete, I knew I had to turn this experience into something positive by bringing awareness to this disease, and bringing people together so that no one has to feel alone with what they are surviving through.

The video features a number of talented local musicians. How did you pull the group together?

I feel extremely grateful that my friends also happen to be talented local musicians and a brilliant local videographer! All I had to do was ask: they made it too easy on me! Hearing their voices in surround sound as I played the song was a magical experience that I'll never forget!

You received some devastating news on the day of a milestone in your career. How did that phone call affect how you approached your performance that night? Has your creative process changed since you have overcome this obstacle?

I still remember being startled awake by that call. I was in shock, of course, but I didn't want to walk off the stage to a bunch of apologies and worried faces. I wanted the evening to be solely about the music. And as a result, there was a tangible emotion behind every lyric. It was certainly traumatic, but also a bit serendipitous to receive this news on a day when I was scheduled to be around all my family and friends. Looking back on the difficult years that followed, I am not the same songwriter or singer (or person) I was before. My lyrics are no longer limited to love songs. They're about overcoming loss, letting go, and strength in vulnerability.

In your documentary (link listed below) you mention that you began singing again mere weeks after your recovery process started. What was this like for you? What role did music play in your recovery?

I remember singing through the pain at an open mic, with surgical tape still on my neck. I was devastated to release a CD one day, and then have to completely abandon it the next. I was afraid that if I stopped too long to recover, my album would become irrelevent, so I pushed myself too hard and burned out completely as a result. I was losing a loved one to cancer at the same time. Times were dark. Suffice it to say, no release tour happened. I tried to keep up appearances but I lost all desire to make music in the process. Long story short, the identity crisis that followed led me to finally take a long break. And several false-starts later, I am finally loving music again!

What would you say to someone going through a similar struggle?

I would say let others help you. Don't feel guilty and be compassionate toward yourself, too. Allow yourself a break without any deadlines. Also prepare for late-onset emotional trauma when you think you're finally out of the woods. Advocate for yourself. Consider therapy. Hang in there - you are not alone!

It seems that, understandably, this has become a motivating force for you. What can we expect from Erica Leigh in the future?

I've got new songs to share that I'm going to release in multiple waves of 2-3 tracks, beginning sometime in 2018. I just finished building a state-of-the-art vocal isolation booth with my boyfriend Sean, and I'm currently setting up shop in a new multimedia music & art studio where my songwriting and painting can influence each other! I'm playing a bunch of shows, headlining at The Burren Pub 1/27 and Amazing Things Art Center 3/31!

Erica's debut album, Puzzle Heart, is available now on iTunes and you can see more of her story in a short documentary featured here.

Catch Erica Leigh live at The Burren Pub backroom in Somerville, MA on 9/30.  Discount tickets available here. -Brian Varneke