"My dad always told me: 'Open your mouth and sing it like you mean it!'"
Therein lies one half of the allure, which Marlene Leeson brings to every performance, live or recorded. The other half consists of a warm, rich voice and a smooth delivery reminiscent of an Ella Fitzgerald at her silky best, but focussed on Country music.
Born and raised in Thunder Bay, ON, Marlene moved to the Ottawa Valley in her late teens and soon hooked up with bands in the Capital region.
She had started singing and playing as a child ("my parents played and dad made a couple of records") having learned at age five to play 'Silent Night' on the piano her dad bought for her mom at Christmas.
At age 17, Marlene performed for 4000 attendees at the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition as well as several matinee, jamboree, and talent show appearances during her "pre-legal" - years in Thunder Bay.
So, it was no surprise that she would begin a professional career upon her arrival in Ottawa. Not only was she able to line up guest performances with Dennis Whitty & Wheatstone Bridge and the city's 'super group' Blue Highway, but she was also able to front Baton Rouge, contribute as a member of other groups, compete individually in a number of prominent contests, and appear on a variety of club, fair, and festival showbills with some of the industry's most successful artists.
Among Marlene's personal accomplishments are standings as a finalist at the CKBY Talent Show Finals (before an audience of 10,000) at The Gatineau Clog; the Bud Country Music Talent Search Finals, twice (Kingston and Peterborough); and the Canadian National Singing Contest, twice, at Simcoe, ON.
Subsequently, Marlene has shared billing with the likes of Kitty Wells, Michelle Wright & Driving Wheel, Wayne Rostad, Dieter Boehme & Risky Business, Dan Paul Rogers, Baker Street, Terry Carisse & Tracks, and Anita Perras & Tim Taylor, to mention a few.
Previous recording sessions have produced: a 3-song demo recorded with the band 'Crosstown' at the Gloucester Music Academy, featuring the titles: 'Stuck on You', 'Funny How Time Slips Away', and 'Isn't He A Strange One'; and The Leeson Family CD's 'Xmas 2000', 'Xmas 2001', and 'Celebrates Christmas 2003'.
More recently, Marlene has been performing live in the Belleville/Quinte region where she lives and works. In 2003, she released her debut solo CD "You Belong To Me", a compilation covering thirteen traditional country tunes, plus Jo Stafford's signature song, as title tune. A new CD is currently in the works.
To quote some industry observers:
"Marlene knocks 'em out of the park every time, whether she's crooning the country classics or belting out the blues."
Pete Walker, Music Director/Afternoon Guy, KX96 FM
"Amazing covers. GREAT version of 'ME AND BOBBY McGEE'. It was tough to pick what to play!"
Chris Koppin, Q 100 FM
"More than a pleasure to play with a vocalist of this quality... great ability to interpret a song."
Jon Park-Wheeler, Producer, Guitarist, Song Writer
"HOLY S***, she's downright AWESOME!"
Frank McKinley, Guitarist
Featured at the Classic Country Music Reunion, Trenton.
Showcased at Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Performed live on TV in Ottawa, on The New RO's Breakfast show.
Performed at the Empire Theatre in Belleville in the second Quinte Country Jamboree; many radio stations begin playing her CD as a result of her performance; CD also sent out worldwide
Debut CD 'YOU BELONG TO ME' released in 2003; first radio airplay with 'Blanket On The Ground'
Xmas CD 'MARLENE CELEBRATES CHRISTMAS' released in November
Performed with her 2 daughters in the 2008 MIX 97 Prime Time Xmas Special
Recording her third CD, containing first original material
Featured artist with Ottawa super-group 'Blue Highway' (members Jon Park-Wheeler, Al Bragg and Sam Henry); Tim Taylor and Anita Perras; Dennis Whitty; Ambush
Formed the band High Wheeler; members included future Juno winner Lynn Miles.
Performed at CKBY Talent Finals held at Wayne Rostad's Gatineau Clog to more than 10,00 people. Placed 6th in the top 10.
Won 1st place at the CKBY FM Talent Semi-Finals held at the Golden Rail club in Ottawa, which also saw Thomas Wade, Michelle Wright and Carrol Baker perform.
Performed at age 17 before 4000 attendees at the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition