Multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer Leo Sidran was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, which is sometimes referred to as 70 square miles surrounded by reality. His father, Ben, another multifaceted music man, provided his early musical sustenance. His mother, a weaver and travel agent, provided texture and safe passage.

In 2015, Leo released Mucho Leo, his Sidran’s fourth record as a solo artist, but his first in a decade, and when we say “solo,” well, Sidran not only sings and plays everything on this new effort, he could also take credit for recording and mixing the album.

It makes complete sense, says Sidran, “It's a very personal project, and after a long period of working behind the scenes, it's an important creative statement for me, but I also have a larger story to tell.”

Leo’s first instrument was the drums. Although he grew up in Madison, he had the opportunity to travel quite a bit as a child. Being on the road with his father allowed him to pick up musical pointers and encouragement from great musicians around the world. Some of the best lessons Leo received were in his hometown: The legendary funky drummer, Clyde Stubblefield (who played with James Brown for years and is often called “the world’s most sampled drummer” because of the famous break beat he played on Brown’s song “Funky Drummer”) settled in Madison sometime in the early 70’s, and he was a particularly influential musician for Leo. Years later, Leo produced Clyde’s album The Original.

As a teenager, Leo spent summers tagging along with his father, who toured with the Steve Miller Band. Steve encouraged the younger Sidran to play guitar and even took him to the famed (and now defunct) Manny’s Music in New York to buy him an electric guitar. Then Miller showed Leo how to play “Rock N’ Me” and told him to “write me some hits”. Leo started writing songs and sending them to Steve, and when he was 15, Miller recorded 12 of Leo’s originals. From those sessions, four of his songs made it onto Steve’s Wide River. Many of the songs Leo wrote as a teenager ended up on his first solo record, Leo and the Depleting Moral Legacy, which was released in 1998.

While in college studying history, Sidran honed his skills as a jazz drummer. Over the years, he has played or recorded as a drummer with such luminary jazz musicians as Phil Woods, David Fathead Newman, Clark Terry, Frank Morgan, Richie Cole, Bob Malach, Bob Rockwell, Bob Shepard, Percio Sambeat, John Ellis, Phil Upchurch, Steve Kahn, Oscar Castro-Neves, Will Bernard, Howard Levy, Mike Mainieri, Richard Davis, Mike Richmond, Billy Peterson, Dave Grusin, Georgie Fame, and of course, Ben Sidran.

In college, Leo spent a year living in Seville, Spain. It was a very important year for him, and it sparked his interest in Spanish language and international music. While living in Spain, Leo performed on the Grammy nominated Concert For Garcia Lorca in Granada with his father. After returning to the States the following year, Leo recorded the first of three bilingual albums, L.Sid. (El Elefante, a bilingual album of children’s songs - winner of the Parents Choice Award in 2004 - and Bohemia followed.)

During that time, Leo also began working as a producer and arranger. He produced the French singer Clementine’s 1999 Couleur Café and 2004 Soleil albums for Sony, Japan, as well as Mark Murphy’s 2001 release The Latin Porter. Perhaps most significantly, around that time Sidran met singer / songwriter Joy Dragland and they began a musical partnership called Joy and the Boy which has lasted nearly 10 years so far. In 2002 they released Paradise, followed by Soaking Wet in 2007 and Secret Place in 2009. He co-produced Dragland's 2015 EP Tumble Town.

After college, Sidran spent more time hanging out in Spain and connecting with a scene of musicians and producers in Madrid. He recorded part of his album Bohemia with Spanish producer Gonzalo Lasheras, which allowed him to work with many of the Spanish musicians he had admired as a student. Hanging out in Spain also gave him the chance to develop a friendship and working relationship with two great artists: Ana Laan and Jorge Drexler.

Sidran co-produced Laan’s 2003 album Oregano (named one of the year’s best Latin albums in the Chicago Tribune, Village Voice, and LA Times) and produced her 2007 album Chocolate and Roses, which included the song “Paradise”, featured as iTunes Single Of The Week and in a Dove Body Lotion campaign.

After touring with Jorge Drexler in South America in 2003, Drexler invited Leo to co-produce the song “Al Otro Lado Del Rio” for the film The Motorcycle Diaries. The song, recorded primarily in Sidran’s apartment in Wisconsin, went on to win an Academy Award in 2005. Subsequently, Leo produced Drexler’s “Nada Es Lo Que Aparenta” for the 2007 Spanish film Que Parezca Un Accidente, performed on Drexler's 2010 album Amar La Trama, and cowrote the song Data Data on his 2013 Bailar en la cueva album.

In 2003, Leo and his father formed a small label called Nardis Music to release their projects. (Nardis is Sidran spelled backwards and the name of a composition by Miles Davis.) Many of Leo’s productions have come out on the label, although today it exists primarily online and in Japan. The most recent release on the label is Ben Sidran’s Blue Camus which Leo produced.

Following the Oscar success of “Al Otro Lado Del Rio” in 2005, Leo relocated to New York. Since then, in addition to producing records for many developing artists, Sidran has dedicated himself to composing music for film and television commercials. He scored the 2004 Discovery Documentary With All Deliberate Speed, the 2006 Independent Lens documentary Race To Execution, the 2008 IFC documentary At The Death House Door, the 2009 independent documentary A Life Taken, the 2010 ESPN 30 for 30 documentary No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson, the 2010 Sundance films documentary Burning Ice, and contributed music for the 2008 IFC film Up With Me (The Harlem Movie Project) and 2013 IFC release Captive Beauty. Additionally he wrote an original song for the 2013 remake of the classic horror film Carrie.

Since 2005, Sidran has composed hundreds of national or international television commercials for a wide range of products including Baileys, Capital One, Coca-Cola, Converse, Crayola, Dove, Ford, Garnier, JC Penny, Kohler, L’Oreal, Mastercard, McDonalds, Nationwide Insurance, Stella, Sprite, T-Mobile, Texaco, Verizon, VISA, and Zest.

Recent record productions have included Michael Sackler-Berner's Fragile Magic (2015) EP, Alex Cuba's Healer (2015), Jascha's The Afterneath (2014) and The Future Limited (2012), and Ben Sidran's Dylan Different (2009), Cien Noches (2010), Don't Cry For No Hipster (2013), and Blue Camus (2015).

He lives with his wife, daughter, and poodle in Brooklyn, New York.



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