PHILADELPHIA — When Dylan LeBlanc roared in primal fashion at the end of his incendiary 75-minute set June 15 at the intimate Philly club, The Boot & Saddle, his fans howled back. The cozy room was filled with 200 people who stood in rapt attention throughout a rollicking show delivered by an animated singer/songwriter.
LeBlanc, 29, has the drive and the songs to reach another echelon. The Shreveport, La., native’s latest album, “Renegade” is full of catchy narratives, which indicates that the son of Muscle Shoals sessions player James LeBlanc listened to a lot of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. His amalgam of rock and country is powerful and at times, anthemic.
“I definitely admire Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen,” LeBlanc said after his performance. “But the guy that had the biggest impact on me was my father. My dad was always my hero. When I was a kid, I would watch my dad play guitar, and he made it look like so much fun. I always enjoyed the emotional response created by music. I love how you feel at a show when you get those goose bumps when you hear a song. The hair stands up on the back of your neck. The only way you get that feeling, that physiological response, is by going to a show.”
LeBlanc, who will perform June 27 at The Mill in Iowa City, is a live wire in the studio and onstage. He recalled ripping it up the first time he played Iowa City back in 2011 with Lucinda Williams.
“I just got unbelievably drunk,” he said. “It was a couple days after I turned 21 and I was on the Englert stage with Lucinda after I had a couple of glasses of wine with her. I was playing her song ‘Jackson,’ which reminds me of my childhood town. I remember crying in front of the crowd. I broke down onstage and she looked over at me being so emotional, but I bleeping nailed it. That’s the way I was then.”
LeBlanc, who has a sweet but reedy tenor, still gets amped up, but he’s evolved since then. When he was on the road with Williams he was touring behind soulful country folk, which graced his underheralded debut album, “Paupers Field.”
In 2012 he followed up with the deeper and darker “Cast the Same Old Shadow.” “Cautionary Tale,” which dropped in 2016, is gloomy, but LeBlanc fleshed out the sonics by adding cello, violin and viola.
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He takes a bigger step by tabbing Nashville hitmaker Dave Cobb (Zac Brown Band, Sturgill Simpson) to produce “Renegade.” It’s not surprising that “Renegade” has much more sheen than prior releases.
“Dave is great at painting sonic pictures,” he said. “He helped me achieve the sound I wanted for this record. Dave was firm but the atmosphere was relaxed.”
LeBlanc has some welcome edge, which pops up throughout “Renegade.” He grew up tough in Shreveport and has had his share of scuffles. One fight led to an arrest in New Orleans five years ago.
“Going into that jail was pretty freaky and pretty frightening,” he said. “Fortunately, I wasn’t in there very long. I remember the experience vividly. I was in jail the day Philip Seymour Hoffman died. It was crazy. I was drinking and one thing led to another. I’ll say this much: The world is a tough place. You’re eventually going to get your butt kicked. I got my butt kicked that day and that can be a good thing for a millennial.”
While hanging out after his show, LeBlanc didn’t appear capable of civil disobedience. He was all smiles as he answered fans’ questions in between autographing copies of his vinyl at the merchandise table and posing for photos.
“This is a nice part of what I do ...,” he said. “I’ve wanted to do this all of my life.”
LeBlanc is content touring with his backing band, the Pollies.
He’s hopeful his music will stand the test of time.
“I hope my songs stand the test of time 40 years from now,” he said. “I’m sending a message with each album.”
WHAT: Dylan LeBlanc
WHERE: The Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., Iowa City
WHEN: 8 p.m. June 27
TICKETS: $12 advance, $15 door; Icmill.com
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Dylanleblanc.com