By John Benson
Northeast Ohio native country singer Mark Leach started his musical education early.
While still in high school, his band would play in local honky tonks, some of which were more memorable than others.
“We played a lot of dive bars,” said Leach, who now calls Barberton home. “I remember playing a bar that used to be a gentlemen’s club. There was still a hole in the stage where the stripper pole had been. My foot went right through the stage. We were just trying to get our name out.”
That band didn’t amount to much, but Leach parlayed the experience into something significant. While attending Ashland University and Kent State University, he started to really embrace songwriting.
After graduating from the latter in 2012 with a bachelor of arts degree, his career turned serious when, on a whim, his brother contacted Nashville musician Chad Jeffers. That’s when Jeffers not only befriended Leach and his band but brought the group down to Nashville.
“He introduced us to Carrie Underwood’s whole band,” Leach said. “For us, 2012 was kind of a big year. It set a lot of things in motion for us. It was a very, very weird series of events.”
Leach’s story gets even more surreal. Not only did he win WGAR-FM’s “Rising Star” competition, which put him on stage as the opening act for Trace Adkins and Craig Morgan at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds’ Country Jam Concert, but he ended up opening for Kip Moore.
“I met Kip when he came to Akron,” Leach said. “He was just standing outside smoking, and I said I was a big fan. We started talking about songs and writing. I joked and said I would open for him one day. And he’s like, ‘I’ll tell you what, if I’m playing a show and headlining around Ohio, I’ll get a hold of you.’
“I thought, ‘Whatever,’ but then he was coming to Cincinnati and he said, ‘Why don’t you come out and kick off the show?’”
It was later in 2012 that Leach finished recording his debut album, “With Love From Tennessee,” which included fan favorites such as the title track, the funny “My Guitar Made Me Do It” and the upbeat “Tan Legs and Cowboy Boots.”
Compared to the likes of Eric Church and Dierks Bentley, Leach recently recorded a five-track EP, “Let’s Get Lost,” in Nashville. In fact, he’s celebrating the release of the project, which includes lead single “I Come From Ohio,” with a show this Saturday at the Dusty Armadillo in Rootstown.
“We started playing that song a couple of months ago, and it has just exploded,” Leach said. “People who have never seen us play before show up saying, ‘Play the Ohio song.’”
Perhaps sometime in the near future Leach will become the Buckeye State’s biggest country singer. For now, he’s focusing on entertaining one audience at a time.
Leach said, laughing, “It’s definitely a good time when we play.”