Long before becoming the Charleston artist known as Single Sparrow, Patrick Leitner grew up in a household in Columbia filled with instruments. His musically inclined mom and dad played the organ, piano, bass and guitar between the two of them. This experimental environment piqued his interest.
“At 13, I picked up one of my parents’ guitars and started to teach myself from books we had lying around,” Leitner told the City Paper. “I picked up the bass next, and then imagined that the piano was just one really long guitar string with frets and figured out how to make the same chords. When I got a Tascam 424 tape recorder that could record 4-tracks, my musical landscape just opened up, and then ProTools and other recording software expanded those horizons even further.”
Some of the first songs Leitner learned were from acts such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Bush, but his attention quickly turned toward the likes of Death Cab For Cutie and Pedro the Lion. All of these influences linger in the sound he would come to call his own when he started recording original music under the name Single Sparrow back in 2016.
“For a while, Single Sparrow actually felt more like an alter ego, because I didn’t even tell anyone, not friends or family or co-workers, about my first three albums,” Leitner said. “It was almost like my musical self was a different person from my work and family self, but it didn’t feel honest compartmentalizing that way.”
With The Cutting Room Floor album release this spring, Leitner started letting folks in on his time-consuming secret. And then he promptly got to work on his next song cycle.
“One of the most unusual things about my music is that I write, perform, record and master all the songs on Single Sparrow records. I play every instrument and every note, layering one on top of the other like a hermit obsessing over some creative work. As much time as I spend recording tracks, I easily spend three times that long mixing and mastering them in an almost unhealthy mania.”
The 12 songs on Leitner’s most recent LP, Automata, were all written, recorded and released over a period of about six months.
All five of his Single Sparrow projects are readily available via major streaming platforms now, but there are no physical releases or live shows in the works for this reclusive workaholic.
“I’m always trying to write songs that blur the lines between scenes from my life and fictional stories that hopefully have some emotional depth that’s easy to connect to, underpinned by a memorable melody and an indie rock format,” Leitner said. “I’ve already started writing for my next record, I just can’t seem to help myself.”
Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.