Just because she hadn’t released music in four years doesn’t mean that Leslie Tom should be forgotten. For the better part of a decade and a half, Tom has been a premiere source of honky tonk music. As she shook the dust off with her return single, “Tequila After Midnight,” Tom proves she’s better than ever and ready to pick up where she left off.
Tom’s newest single is a country-as-hell drinking tune sure to get boots scooting as it comes equipped with twangy guitars, equally twangy vocals, and enough steel guitar to please even the most hardcore traditional country music fans.
We caught up with Tom to talk all about “Tequila After Midnight,” as well as authenticity, new music and more!
Pro Country: Your new single, “Tequila After Midnight,” comes nearly four years to the day after your last album, Ain’t It Something, Hank Williams. Can you talk about the emotions and the anticipation you were feeling as release day was approaching?
Leslie Tom: I texted my producer, John Macy, the night of the release that you know you’re an indie artist when you release your first single in four years and not one person buys it [laughs]. He texted back that he doesn’t think anybody buys music anymore. I have this fan in Canada, and ironically enough, right after I texted John that, he bought and downloaded the song from my website. I’d like to say I had zero expectations, because this was the introduction back into our niche of music. We plan on releasing singles every quarter or so, with the stuff coming out in Q3 and Q4 a little bit more Americana and less honky tonk and twangy like most of my music is. Release day was a really weird day. On one hand, I’m thankful because I think the song is really great and I’m happy to be able to record something that was written by a phenomenal female songwriter, but at the same time, I was wondering to myself if anybody cared.
PC: Why did you feel that “Tequila After Midnight” was the right song to return with?
LT: There was a very specific reason that we released this one first. Dee Moeller wrote it, and we recorded it at Cinderella Sound Studios. Wayne Moss owns the studio, and he’s married to Dee. She was in the studio when we cut it, so they’ve known about the song for four years. John and I made the decision that because we love and respect Wayne and Dee so much, we wanted to put that one out as our foray back into the music world. We also felt like it was a song that was upbeat and happy and that people would dig it.
PC: Is there a level of pressure that came with recording a song Dee wrote in front of her in the studio?
LT: There’s always pressure for me. Most of the stuff that I cut, I’ve written, and I have a certain way I want to sing it because I’ve written it a certain way. When I record somebody else’s song, and it’s a song that has such a great legacy, there’s so much pressure. Even though we cut it four years ago, we didn’t finish it until the last two months. Dee and I were texting back and forth and I was asking what she thought. She’s so kind and she would never say she didn’t like it, but I told her that I wanted to make her proud of the song and the way that I recorded it. She told me that I did such a great job and that she loved my version of it. She said she hopes it does well for me, and I told her that I hope it does well for her. I didn’t write the song, so I won’t get royalties off of it, but she did, so she can.
Wayne is also great. I’ve recorded my last two projects at his studio, so there’s not as much pressure as there used to be. The first time I went in there, I was almost sick to my stomach. With all the musicians that played on my self-titled album, I could hardly sing. Because I know all the musicians and I feel very comfortable in that space, it’s not as intimidating as it used to be, until Dee Moeller walks in and I’m recording her song [laughs].
PC: “Tequila After Midnight” features Larry Nix on harmony vocals. How did Larry become involved with the song and what was he able to bring to the finished product?
LT: Larry and I are label mates; we’re both on John Macy’s Coastal Bend Music. He did a duet with me on “Hank You Very Much,” and he’s sang backing vocals on several of my songs. He’s a local Denver musician as well. I think it’s important for us as we continue to grow our label that we continue to support each other. Larry has an incredible voice, and he’s very musically talented, so he was an easy choice for us.
PC: You mentioned that you had several heavy-hitting musicians on “Tequila After Midnight,” including Lloyd Green and Chris Leuzinger. What was it like for you to be consistently surrounded by that level of collective talent and have them on the song?
LT: It’s so stressful. Chris is on tour right now with Garth Brooks. Lloyd played with Patsy Cline. If I’m not careful, I can get in my own head. I don’t think that they’re necessarily worried about me, they’re such consummate professionals that they only worry about themselves and that they’re doing the song justice. Nobody’s really listening to me, so I just have to remind myself that we’re all there to do a job, and if it’s not perfect, that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be perfect on the first try; it may take us a couple of tries, and that’s okay. They’re just good people and good musicians.
PC: You released a music video for “Tequila After Midnight” as well. Can you talk about how much fun the video was to make?
LT: We actually shot the music video in my kitchen; that was my real kitchen [laughs]. We were drinking real tequila, which was super fun. The purpose of doing it in my kitchen is that when you’re a parent and you get to be a little older, tequila after midnight may be at 10 p.m. It’s not going to be at a bar, it’s going to be sitting in the kitchen and hanging out with my husband, because we just put our daughter to bed. It’s kind of a play on life and where we are, and “Tequila After Midnight” may not be after midnight; it’ll likely be at my house because I haven’t been at a bar in a bazillion years unless I’m playing at one.
Spencer Macy’s the one that produced it and shot it for us. He’s such a professional and he’s so young and talented. He did the next video that we have coming out called “Wine and Cigarettes” as well. I love working with him.
PC: When we talked three years ago, authenticity was a word you used several times. Recently, you posted an empowering message on social media that you were proud of your age and the way you look. What is it about yourself that makes you able to stick to your guns so strongly and be comfortable with who you are?
LT: I have a daughter that’s nine years old. It’s very important to me that she sees what real women look like. A real woman that’s 45 years old doesn’t look like she’s 20. I’m constantly mindful about showing her that this is what a mom body looks like. I’m not ripped and I’m not super skinny like I was before I had a baby. I have a little bit of gray hair now and I have these beautiful wrinkles under my eyes because I spent so much time smiling and laughing, primarily because I have this incredible family that I get to love everyday. I still fight it a little bit, especially after losing two years because of Covid and getting my social media hacked and having to start over in 2020. That was devastating, but at the same time, I am who I am. I’m not doing anybody any favors by pretending to be somebody that I’m not. I always try to be real. It is a struggle though, I don’t want anybody to think that it’s really easy. I look in the mirror everyday and I think, “Oh my gosh.” It’s really hard. The aging process, especially for women, is hard. But I’m trying to be true to who I am.
PC: You’ve mentioned that you’ll have new music released sporadically through the year. Along with those releases, what are your plans for the rest of 2022?
LT: We’re trying to get back over to Europe. There was a festival that we were playing in Italy that got cancelled in 2020 due to Covid. It looked like we were going to get to go back, but because of the war in Ukraine, everything’s kind of been put on hold. I feel like we’re in this horrible cycle of “yes, let’s go” and “just kidding.” I have several shows booked in the Colorado area, which is really exciting. I’m going back to Chicago in May to sing the National Anthem for the National Restaurant Association Military Awards Dinner, which I’ve done for probably the last six years, and it’s one of my favorite events of the whole year. We’re still trying to book shows as well, but it’s been a bit tough because I haven’t put out music in four years. We’re trying our best!
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
LT: The social media stuff has probably been the hardest thing for me. Right when Covid hit, I felt like we were on this incredible upward trajectory. I had about 7,000 followers on Facebook and about 1,500 on Instagram, and we were just moving along. All those numbers matter so much in the world of music. When my account got hacked and everything shut down, this sounds so dramatic, but I literally felt like part of me died. I still can’t set up a Facebook account, and my Instagram following is super small. It takes so much money and effort to get it all back. If you don’t know my music, do you think I’m not legit because my social media numbers are so low? That’s something I struggle with.
*”Tequila After Midnight” is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!