West Texas country singer-songwriter Randall King is an independent success story, having nabbed a major-label record deal on the strength of his self-titled debut album in 2018. King's Leanna EP marks his first release as a Warner Music Nashville artist, but his indie spirit is still alive and well, with his cerebral songwriting and traditionally styled vocal on display. The EP is named after King's sister, who died unexpectedly in the spring of 2020 at the age of 32. The influence of her loss, as well as the recent losses of both of King's grandfathers, can be heard throughout the EP's tracks, which grapple with the realities of grief and search for ways to move forward despite life's many hardships. A moving version of "I'll Fly Away" closes the EP, threading those moments of grief and grace together for a gently hopeful ending. "I hope that it helps someone connect," King tells Apple Music. "I hope it connects to people, and I hope it helps someone pick up and move forward in their life, whatever they're going through, whatever they're struggling with. Like I said, life's short and you got to take it as it comes, because we ain't going to be around forever." Below, King shares the personal stories that inspired each of Leanna's songs.
Takin’ It As It Comes "That's a song that I wrote with Mark Nesler and Tony Martin. I've gone through some things in my life between depression, anxiety, OCD, things that I struggled with in high school. And my mindset on it was always to keep trucking. We wrote that song based on that. And most of this song fits really well for what 2020 is for everybody. You just got to really take it as it comes."
Hey Moon "I wrote that as well with Mark Nesler. I was driving home to Lubbock and looked up to my left and the moon was shining real big. And I just had that idea, 'Hey Moon,' like I was just talking to the moon. I think the strong angle on it was a friend of mine back in Lubbock that was going through some things with his ex-wife and he had to fight for partial custody. So for 60 days, they threw that court shit on him where he couldn't see his little girl at all. And I watched that absolutely break him, because he was one of the best fathers that I've known. I don't know what was going on in their personal life, but he's such a good father, and just watching it completely break him broke my heart for him. And I wrote that song for him and his little girl."
Around Forever "I wrote 'Around Forever' with Josh Miller and Will Bundy, couple of writers here in Nashville. The idea behind it was taking advantage of all the time that you get in life with people that you care for, people that you love, taking advantage of every moment that you're given on Earth, because we ain't going to be around forever. I was on the road for about two months straight and hadn't seen my dad in about three months. My dad always had real sharp brown hair, and I came home one day and he had already had a little bit of grey in his hair and his beard. And he looked old. And that's within about three months of not seeing him. It makes you realize how fast life can move, and just taking advantage of getting to be around your loved ones. Honestly, it applies to losing my sister. She was only 32. I thought she was going to outlive me."
I'll Fly Away "I've played 'I'll Fly Away' since I was a kid. I've been playing guitar since first grade, and it was one of the first songs that I ever learned how to play. My grandmother asked me to play it at my Papa's funeral back in 2017. He's the grandfather that I wrote 'When He Knows Me' about, on my self-titled record. He passed away from Alzheimer's. Then in February , I was asked to play it for my other grandfather who passed away, my mama's daddy. And I didn't want to do it the same way. One day I sat down and I worked out how to play a different version. I didn't realize that was also going to be the last time I really saw my sister alive and well, and that two months later I'd be playing it at hers. When she passed, I got to be in the hospital with her for about an hour. She was unconscious, she was unresponsive, but she was still with us. And I got to play an hour set for her. After I said goodbye, my family gathered around that oak tree outside her hospital. And my dad put us on speakerphone, because he was in there as they were pulling the plug. And he laid the speakerphone down by her head, and me and my whole family sat up there, and I grabbed my guitar and I played every gospel song that I knew, and we sang gospel songs for about 45 minutes. And then the very last one I played was 'I'll Fly Away.' And then she was gone. So I sang her home to 'I'll Fly Away.' I sent her home to Jesus with 'I'll Fly Away,' which is why, to me, it was so important that song made it onto the EP."