Kalispell is the solo project of Shane Leonard, a musician out of Eau Claire. Leonard’s has an eclectic musical background, trained in jazz and classical percussion with later forays across Appalachia to learn banjo, fiddle, and traditional folk tunes.
“My life so far has been a series of stumbling into inspiration,” says Leonard. “I try to be as open as I can.”
Leonard grew up playing jazz music because his teacher was a jazz musician.
He loved music and decided that to be pursue a career in music, he should go to college at UW-Eau Claire for music. He studied classical music in college but it didn’t quite click with him. But he soon realized that a degree didn’t make him a musician.
“To be a professional musician you just have to keep practicing,” says Leonard. “You don’t have to have a diploma that says musician on it.”
So he studied English instead.
Besides his classical and jazz training, Leonard continued to explore other musical styles, exploring Balinese gamelan and Old Time in Appalachia.
“I think I’m just always trying to synthesize them in as seamless a way as possible,” describes Leonard.
Eau Claire has grown and changed along with Leonard. The town has become a hotspot for music and some of his peers, including Justin Vernon, have become nationally known. Leonard feels fortunate to have been in college at a time with people who altered his course in music.
“Eau Claire is big enough that there’s always something going on, says Leonard, but, “it’s still a town in northern Wisconsin. I hope that it stays that way and continues to be quietly incredible.”
This story was produced in partnership with Set List, WPR’s summer music series.