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Davis, California

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Getting to Know Crossbill

Crossbill Records, a local music label residing here in Davis, is what you might call a one man operation. In fact, that is precisely how Michael Leahy, founder, owner and president of Crossbill Records describes it. Essentially, he is Crossbill Records. Or at least, he is Crossbill from the managerial side of things.

“I do it all,” Leahy said before describing how Crossbill started more as a hobby than a business venture. A hobby, he noted, that is taking up more and more time.

“[Crossbill] started in 2006 in Davis and I was a KDVS DJ at the time and putting on a lot of live shows in the Davis Sac area,” Leahy said. “In particular, I felt a need to further the advocacy of musicians and friends, so that is how it got going.”

As a local record label residing here in Davis, Crossbill is what you might call the “little guy”; a small venue with an indie styling and a vibrant pulse.

However, listening to Crossbill’s housed artists, the music sounds far from “little”.

The Loom is a Brooklyn-formed six-man indie rock band composed of various instrumental assortment–the French horn, the banjo and trumpet, to name a few. The band has a rich and varied sort of sound that reverberates somewhere between the melancholic and the colorful. They are not to be ignored.

Sea of Bees, the solo name of Julie Ann Bee, or Jules as she is often called, carries her songs with a wispy, indie, folk-like tune that echoes down far and lingers. She sings something haunting like, and her songs give off a bittersweet life.

When asked why she chose a career in music, she replied with simple honestly.

“Because other than love, I have nothing else,” Jules said. “I want the good vibes, the things people crave and envy. Maybe I will never be a Bob Dylan or Jim Morrison, but I can be happy being me and doing my best in this life.”

Her next album, Orangefarbene, the German word for the color orange, will be about her first love.

Matt Bauer, another artist under Crossbill, has a bluegrass, country leaning vibe, though it is difficult to call him either. Overall a strict generic classification is obfuscated by his attractive and varied contemporary stylization. Piano, guitar, and duet vocals, to note a few approaches to his songs, add up to something poignant and varied.

“Back in 2004, when I was still living in San Francisco, Michael Leahy had me out to Davis to play at the Delta of Venus and to play on his radio show and we became good friends pretty quickly,” Bauer said, describing the history of his involvement with Crossbill.

“We had an early bonding moment watching Jimmy Kimmel late at night after the show. Bobby Brown was the guest and he couldn’t remember the names of all his kids,” Bauer said. “I also have Michael to thank for any number of friendships I have with musicians I met because of him. Garrett Pierce, Jolie Holland, Tom Brosseau, Angela Correa, Terra Lopez, on and on.”

Bauer’s most recent album is The Jessamine County Book of the Living.

Those are three of Crossbill’s artists, but there are others. Appetite, Mad Cow String Band, Silver Darling, Jake Mann and the Upper Hand and Garret Pierce are currently under Crossbill — while perhaps more up and comers of serious quality will eventually find a home with Crossbill.

And that is what ultimately makes Crossbill unique — it’s a home for up and coming artists, or a temporary way station or a jumping off point toward what may perhaps be a bigger platform.

“We just want to put ourselves in front of as many people as possible. That is really the goal of the label,” Leahy said. “To put out solid records and work them to the best of our ability so hopefully they can go on and move up the chain of labels.”

JAMES O’HARA can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.


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