Arts and Entertainment

Teen virtuoso releases first album: Guarded Hope makes big debut in local music scene

Eagle Harbor High School junior Morgan Leader performs his original song “To Call My Own” from his debut album “We Are The Waiting,” soon to be available on iTunes and cdbaby.com. - Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review
Eagle Harbor High School junior Morgan Leader performs his original song “To Call My Own” from his debut album “We Are The Waiting,” soon to be available on iTunes and cdbaby.com.
— image credit: Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review

Eagle Harbor High School junior Morgan Leader is the heart and soul of the rock music act Guarded Hope.

There is not a single note, chord or lyric in any song that does not bear his signature.

He literally is the band.

Leader plays every instrument on every song of his debut album “We Are The Waiting,” soon to be available on iTunes and cdbaby.com. At an album release party in his home Sunday, Nov. 24, Leader debuted several songs from the album to an enthusiastic crowd of family, friends and classmates.

Guarded Hope performs primarily classic rock-inspired music, with a heavy blues and jazz influence.

The album is the culmination of a nearly lifelong love affair with music, which began when he started to learn the violin when he was barely 4 years old, according to Leader.

“When I lived in Port Townsend I got my first violin,” Leader said.

“I played lots of classical music, to start out with. And then later on I moved into fiddle tunes because I liked more upbeat sort of songs.”

From that early fascination Leader acquired an insatiable musical curiosity, and today can play more than 10 different instruments including drums, keyboard, bass, guitar, mandolin, sitar and others. He also performs vocals.

“For me, I’ll just pick something up,” Leader said. “If you pick something up and you really focus and study the instrument a little bit, then you can pretty much play anything.”

His father, Lee Leader, acknowledges that his son has always had a innate ability with all things musical.

“He has the ability to pick up instruments not even related to what he was doing before,” he said. “And in a matter of, sometimes minutes, he’ll get a feel for it.”

Though Leader describes himself as “primarily self-taught,” he credits his early instruction to his father and acknowledges the assistance of numerous mentors and collaborative artists from whom he has learned. Today he studies primarily under local musician and composer Patrick Stoyanovich.

At his parents’ encouragement, Leader became more and more serious about his musical endeavors as he grew older.

“I don’t think anybody ever forced me into it or anything,” Leader said. “My mom and dad sort of asked me, ‘Hey, did we push you into music?’ And I think no.”

“I mean, they gave me my first instrument, but it was like a gift, and I could have said no or yes to it. I chose to pursue music and I hope to do that for a career for the rest of my life because I love it,” he said.

Judi Leader said her son has always seemed to know what he wanted.

“He’s a musical person,” she said. “It’s not the life

I would have chosen for him, but it’s what he wants.”

With the release of his first album, Leader said he must now turn his attention to promotion and getting more comfortable in front of an audience to further his craft. He said that all of his favorite musicians are both technically skilled and excellent performers.

What’s he like best? “Any guitarist or any artist who really performs or really puts on a good show,” he said.

“New things, new ideas, new songs that nobody’s really done before. That’s what I really like.”

He specifically cited Slash of Guns N’ Roses and Steve Vai as two of his primary musical influences.

For his lyrical subject matter, the young artist said he often turns to today’s headlines.

“I try to write about things that are in the world today,” he said. “I’ve written a couple of songs that have to do with some of the violence that is happening in the world. Sometimes I’ll just write about what’s on my mind or what I’m feeling.”

Even the name under which he performs, Guarded Hope, reflects Leader’s impression of society today.

“There are things in the world that are really screwed up,” Leader said.  “So when I said Guarded Hope, that is the hope that people have that things will get better, but it’s guarded.”

After high school, Leader plans to attend college for music and perhaps form a band.

“I’m a bit of a perfectionist,” he admitted when discussing his preference to perform alone.

“Locally I’d like to stay a solo artist and see how far

I can get myself playing music around the island and going to different venues. There are some open mics that I’d like to go to, and with my CD coming out, I will be promoting myself more.”

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