Alejandra O'Leary
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Alejandra O'Leary

Portland, ME | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | SELF

Portland, ME | SELF
Established on Jan, 2008
Solo Rock Pop


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



""Alejandra O'Leary has more than enough firepower in her musical arsenal...""

For some listeners, singer-songwriters can blur into one another very easily....especially when one attends a local free venue for more than a few hours, watching the performances come and go. An acoustic guitar and a voice can form a particularly limited weapon when faced with a loud, indifferent crowd.

Thankfully, Alejandra O'Leary has more than enough firepower in her musical arsenal to not only take the good fight to the masses, she'll also have little trouble winning the battle for hearts & minds. - Heavier Than Air

"Alejandra O'Leary Version 2.0"

Welcome to Alejandra O'Leary version 2.0. In early April, the young singer-songwriter introduced a new wrinkle to her already impressive musical repertoire--a backing band. Flanked by Jeremy Frey on bass and Jamie Church on guitar and with John Grandstaff keeping beat on the drums, O'Leary played her first gig with her new band on April Fool's Day, a mere two weeks after forming it.

For those unfamiliar with O'Leary, she is a real talent who has been gaining a strong following in Ann Arbor since she arrived here with her boyfriend, a U-M law student, a year ago. Born in Portland, Maine, O'Leary spent five years as a musician in New York City (where she cut her first album, Nothing Out Loud) before her move to Ann Arbor. Once in Michigan, she had to reestablish a fan base and initially did so by performing her songs solo on guitar. However, vascular problems in her left arm made playing guitar increasingly difficult, so now, with the backing of her new band, she has switched to keyboards.

O'Leary's voice sounds like a combination of Jenny Lewis and Victoria Williams, and her songs are both catchy and fun-- polished, straightforward, and barroom accessible. But they also have a certain lyrical toughness that's reminiscent of another Williams, Lucinda. In "Broken Mirror Baby" (the title track of her brand-new second album), she delivers lyrics about "talking smack and shooting your mouth off" and getting "the wind kicked out of me." "When Will They Learn" is an anti-crush song about wanting other people to realize the faults of her former boyfriend and stop pining over him--a very Lucinda Williams-ish theme.

While her songs stand on their own, O'Leary's between-songs banter shows her confidence in her craft and adds to the entertainment. "This is a drunken country ballad called 'Thinkin' Straight,' which is about not thinking straight," she quipped, full smile, before she and the band started in on a raucous tune that featured O'Leary kicking a tambourine on a nearby table while shredding the keyboards and delivering a killer vocal.

"I love playing with a band," O'Leary admitted after the show. It showed. The band looked equally enthused, and the foursome can only get better with time. While the band wasn't involved in her new album, it certainly adds an edge to her older material, and it will be interesting to see what sorts of songs O'Leary and her musicians come up with collaboratively. Regardless, an already legitimate talent has added a bit more oomph to her rock 'n' roll credentials. I can't wait to see where it takes her.

Alejandra O'Leary and her band celebrate the release of Broken Mirror Baby with shows at Crazy Wisdom on September 3, at Woodruff's on September 7, and at the Tap Room on September 10. - Ann Arbor Observer

"That 1990s Spirit"

In the 1980s and 1990s, women had more room to be tough on the radio. From Natalie Merchant in 10,000 Maniacs to Suzanne Vega to the Bangles to the Cowboy Junkies, female pop stars maintained the memorable hooks and lighter production touch that marked them as, well, pop stars--but they also wrote open, honest, and raw songs themselves, and delivered those hooks with a defiant snarl.

No such luck with many of today's female pop icons. While they may present an assertive message, it's often undermined by label-engineered sexualization. But Ann Arbor expatriate Alejandra O'Leary summons that 1990s spirit in spades. She'd fit right in on the FM band with those female stars of late last century.

O'Leary herself is a surprising mixture of influences. Born in Maine to a Colombian mother and an Irish American father, she arrived in Michigan in 2009 at the age of twenty-seven. Although she moved to North Carolina last year for her husband's work, her musical roots are still firmly planted in Ann Arbor; her band members all live here, and her new record, Heartspace Timepiece, was recorded here. Her musical influences--the Beatles, Morrissey, Elvis Costello--are diverse but share a keen pop songwriting ability. That same skill comes across clearly in her music.

Onstage, O'Leary is a disarmingly sweet presence. Always charmingly dressed, with long straight black hair and a wide smile, she banters with the audience in an unaffected way that encourages the sense of a roomful of friends just hanging out. But batten down the hatches when the music kicks in, because O'Leary is a powerful and unrestrained performer. Her vocals draw you in one moment with a high, breathy tone, and push you away the next with an aggressive howl. Her lyrics often focus on raw topics like moving on and the revenge relationships that happen as a result, and O'Leary sings with a passion that drives the words home. And while she's not the type to rip off a solo, she's rarely seen onstage without a guitar.

The act also benefits greatly from her excellent band. The Champions of the West are guitarist Jimmy Sindelar, guitarist/bassist Jamie Church, and drummer Martin Maginity. Maginity's assured drum work is key here, lending the more rock-oriented tunes an aggressive beat that perfectly complements O'Leary's energy. Sindelar also does some impressive work. Clearly a guitarist who could easily take the spotlight himself, he drives the action well as a supporting player, providing atmospheric riffs and the occasional blistering solo or fill.

Formerly a more acoustic-oriented solo artist, O'Leary turned toward a harder-edged full-band approach several years ago, and her enthusiasm for the format is obvious. While the final product may be a little softer, a little more alt-rock than rock 'n' roll, it's still well-written music, performed with passion and real talent. It's pop music done the way pop music used to be--perhaps the way it still ought to be.

Alejandra O'Leary and the Champions of the West play the Crazy Wisdom Tea Room on Saturday, August 30. - Ann Arbor Observer

"Struggle Brings Inspiration to the West"

To open her second set, Alejandra O’Leary decides to perform a cover song without her band. Wearing a denim jacket over a farmers market t-shirt and jeans, she sits on a stool with her acoustic guitar as the packed-in coffeehouse crowd watches her play a stripped-down cover of the normally bombastic, over-the-top “No Surrender,” a Bruce Springsteen song whose words, O’leary says, “perfectly express how I feel about this band.” With all of the attention focused on her, she sings, “We made a promise we swore we’d always remember. No retreat, no surrender.”

This show on the upstairs level of Crazy Wisdom, a spiritual bookstore on Main Street, is a homecoming for O’Leary. Less than a week after the release of her new album, Heartspace Timepiece, she’s already staring down a new chapter of her life. But the Crazy Wisdom show allows her to bring together everyone who played on the record, to celebrate the fact that they’ve all made it through difficult times to produce the fantastic finished product. “It’s like the butterfly that lives for one day,” O’Leary says. She and her band, The Champions of the West, only rehearsed three times for the nearly two-hour show, but aside from occasional feedback from the amps (probably more the fault of the unconventional venue than the band), the group sounds tight, mostly playing an old-school style of rock ‘n’ roll, with odder instruments like the mandolin mixed in. The fact that Rich Rickman plays his bass upright on some songs is indicative of the classic authenticity of the band’s aesthetic. Led by O’Leary and guitarist Jamie Church, The Champions communicate well and never step on each other’s musical toes. Their love for music and playing in the band shines through.

Five years ago, O’Leary was playing singer-songwriter sets in New York City, but she was always a fan of rock bands and never liked being a solo act. When her then-boyfriend-now-husband got into law school at Michigan, her first priority was to make a band, which she was able to do by using Craigslist. Through the site, she met musically proficient Champions such as Jamie Church, a Plymouth native with plenty of previous experience in the local music scene, and Jimmy Sindelar, who was getting his bachelor’s in biology at the University. Their front-and-center guitars are a huge part of the latest record’s charm, and they were able to fill in on other instruments when needed.

Heartspace Timepiece is the result of work put in during one of the most difficult times of the band members’ lives. The Champions of the West practiced and played enough high-profile shows to be able to get money to record, but about halfway through, O’Leary had to leave Michigan to care for her ailing mother in Washington, D.C., leaving Church to finish up the recording sessions. He had to take the lead in the studio, and the two mostly communicated over the Internet as Church mixed the parts together and added more instrumental tracks. O’Leary flew back about every month or so to record what was left.

Documentation of this time is found mostly in the lyrics of Heartspace Timepiece, not the pretty, Beatles-influenced melodies. “I think I’m a very positive person, and I want to see positivity, and that’s what music is for me,” O’Leary says, “But I also think that I can’t help being devastated sometimes in my life, so you need to get both in there or it’s not a complete figure.” On songs such as the up-tempo rocker “Positive Drag,” she croons lines like “being hurt by you was worth my time” among barbed guitars, but her sweet-sounding voice — even if it is tinged with a bit of a Liz Phair drawl — makes for a very catchy contrast. “When Will They Learn?”, a song from the last record (“The Blue One,” O’Leary calls it, explaining that she thinks of her albums as colors), is another example. The song has all the makings of a carefree acoustic strummer, complete with bright piano and girl-group backing harmonies, but the subject is a person whom everyone except the song’s narrator falsely believes is a cool, fantastic person. O’Leary doesn’t sing with scorn, though. She sounds very content with herself and her own convictions and seems almost amused at the wrongness of others.

The influence of the Motor City also shines through with the new material. The cover of Heartspace Timepiece (or “The Red One,” if you’re O’leary) features a painting of the historic Art Deco-style Penobscot Building in Downtown Detroit. “It was very important to me to be near a big city,” O’Leary says, “We always like to go to Detroit to see music and play music and look at Detroit because the way it looks is something I’ll never get tired of contemplating.”

On the night of the show, the eight or so different Champions (depending on how many instruments the song requires) are squished up against Crazy Wisdom’s window overlooking Main Street. O’Leary jokes that “it’s like my first apartment in New York.” Space is at a premium, and with no risers or stage, the band is at equal height with the audience, making for a very intimate concert. Jamie Ascenzo, who recorded Heartspace Timepiece at his studio in Novi, stands at the back of the crowd, where they’re serving tea. Jimmy Sindelar is unfortunately nursing broken fingers, but he works on the sound and helps out by playing the Omnichord on a few songs.

O’Leary seems extremely comfortable in this setting. She’s mastered that sort-of-self-conscious, humble, shy type of audience banter, but she’s excited and smiles a lot. And when she has the opportunity to ditch her guitar, she takes full advantage of it. When The Champions of the West cover the old standard “I Put a Spell on You,” O’Leary completely intensifies her demeanor, singing in a deep, husky voice while putting both hands on the mic stand and leaning on it as hard as she can, before taking an open seat right next to where the band is playing and letting them jam. When she introduces and explains the songs, most of them seem to be about falling in love, out of love or both, but an exception here is “Beat Ohio.”

The track on Heartspace Timepiece with the most clearly Ann Arbor-inspired name, “Beat Ohio” is also one of the new record’s highlights. The song opens the show and also gets a reprise in the second set, before which O’Leary explains that it’s about “never being able to be from here.” Syrupy sweet, O’Leary’s vocals sing-song over a guitar that’s essentially soloing for the entire song. Mandolin, piano and the mellow trot of the drums join in as O’Leary seems to criticize someone who’d rather be from the East than the Midwest, telling him “you’re doing it wrong.”

This night at Crazy Wisdom is bittersweet for O’Leary, Church and the band. “This is closing the book on a chapter tonight,” Church says. He’s been really busy with the band and his family, but is finishing up a solo project that he’s been wanting to do for a long time. Sindelar and Martin Maginity, The Champions’ drummer, are also playing together in a separate band called The Landmarks. Most dramatically, though, O’Leary now lives in North Carolina. But they remain confident that they’ll continue to work together, once the timing gets better.

In explaining the album’s name, O’Leary says Timepiece comes from the fact that the year in which the record was made was seared into the band’s brain, and the album is “a document of a very specific time in our lives.” Heartspace, she says, “comes from when we were talking about being stressed out by personal tragedy, and how we didn’t have the headspace to think about music sometimes and how sad that was for us, and I was like, ‘It’s not even our headspace, it’s heartspace.’ Our heartspace is not big enough to encompass all this tragedy.” However, now that the band has lived through the tragedy, O’Leary says “I will never undo the pain of that time, but I feel triumphant.” - Michigan Daily

"Hubbub UK Review"

"Nothing Out Loud has more than a hint of 1960s girl group about it, creating something of a retro pop feel at times, no better illustrated than by “Tremor”. The simple, yet powerful “Thinkin' Straight” is surely the album’s must-listen track, closely followed by “Rally” or “You Gotta Love Me Sometimes”. O’ Leary’s sound is like the musical equivalent of a Formica table, simple yet effective and though representing an era of years gone by, it still manages to maintain a place among modern surroundings."

- Hubbub UK - Hubbub UK

"Nothing Out Loud: "A Bold and Confident Debut""

"There's a strong driving beat to the songs which owes much to sixties Spector-esque pop while managing to stay removed from the blandness of the mainstream. A bold and confident debut."

- Whisperin' and Hollerin' - Whisperin' and Hollerin'

"New Music Spotlight: Alejandra O'Leary"

"Alejandra rocks hard with her melodious tunes and insane guitar that will have you believing in girl power. She is making music that is gaining her a loyal fan base."

- Junior's Cave Magazine, New Music Spotlight, March 2009 - Junior's Cave

"Notes from Left of the Dial: Alejandra O'Leary and more"

Portland, Maine, singer and multi-instrumentalist Alejandra O'Leary isn't given to half measures when it comes to her influences. With each exhalation, she offers a complicated treatise on the sounds that helped shape her persuasive outlook on music and creativity. Blending perfect pop inclinations and a feral rock aptitude, she fashions a complex series of rhythms and lyrical diversions that reveal just how aware she is of what makes these specific sounds so remarkably inclusive. Unlike other musicians, there is no disconnect between her heart and her head—the emotions run unchecked between these two primary centers, which results in an unpredictable tempest of shifting pop rock theatrics.
On "Doubtless," the lead track from her latest record, "All I Know," O'Leary reveals her signature pop heart surrounded by prickly guitar work and bursts of illuminated distortion. She's always had a knack for revealing a certain inexplicable melodicism within a simple cacophony, but, on this track, she unveils a wonder of meticulous planning and surprising tonal shifts. So while she's veering between a handful of perspectives, there's never a moment when she loses that sense of self, of identity within a larger rhythmic framework. Like the rest of the record, "Doubtless" allows you to rediscover all the mesmeric details you once thought lost to indie rock's deeper chasms. -


Full-Length Albums:

Nothing Out Loud (2009)

Broken Mirror Baby (2011)

Heartspace Timepiece  (2014) 

All I Know (2016)


Live and Raw from Detroit (2012)

Everybody Knows (2004)


Burn Me Up (2015)

Christmas Singles:

Merry Xmas Baby (2015)

Xmas Baby Please Come Home (2014)



Alejandra O'Leary is a rock musician and songwriter based in Portland, Maine. Sexy, melodic, and wistful, her songs exude love and loss with a voice both personal and universal.

A rock n' roll girl to the core, Alejandra has been playing in bands and writing hip-shaking, heartbreaking music for over a decade. She has released four full-length albums of original songs, dropped surprise singles, headlined festivals with her band, and garnered national and international attention for her music. 

Alejandra's musical textures provoke comparisons to Elvis Costello, 1960s girl groups, Liz Phair, The Smiths, and Lucinda Williams, and her inimitable lyrics attack love and loss from elemental angles.

Alejandra is now working on her fifth record.