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Entertainment & Lifestyle

The Strange Familiar finding success with change

8/20/2009 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

The Strange Familiar includes, from left, Cuyahoga Falls and Akron natives Jeff Andrea and Kira Leyden, and Bath native Frank Freeman.
Photo courtesy of The Strange Familiar
CUYAHOGA FALLS — Almost everything’s new for musicians and Cuyahoga Falls and Akron natives Kira Leyden and Jeff Andrea.

The two head up The Strange Familiar, a new project begun after their Akron-based band Jaded Era experienced some success locally and nationally. They moved to Los Angeles in 2008 and this summer returned home for two months to visit family, play shows and get married.

The musicians — Leyden is a vocalist and plays piano and Andrea plays guitar — were no strangers to the music business, having gained some exposure when their song “Invisible” was recorded by Ashlee Simpson in 2006.

But since moving to California about 18 months ago, along with Frank Freeman, a Bath native, who plays bass, the band has earned more success after its music was used on the TV program “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” which airs on ABC Family.

“It was a really lucky situation,” said Leyden. “We had our music up on the Internet and had been out in L.A. a few months, and we got an e-mail from someone at ABC Family.”

A producer of the show was looking for songs online and came across the band’s ballad “Courage Is ...”

“He wanted to get a CD, so we went down and met him at a Starbucks and gave him a CD,” Leyden said, adding the band had been in California just a few days when this happened.

“Courage Is ...” and “Secret Life (You and Me)” made it onto the show and were used extensively in promotional spots. “Courage Is ...” also was used on an episode of “The Biggest Loser” on NBC.

Recently, the band filmed a video for that song with the help of an old friend, Erin Brown, a Copley native and Revere High School graduate they reconnected with after an article about her appeared in the West Side Leader.

Band members received such a positive response from fans about the song that they decided to incorporate some of the stories they heard into the video.

“It reached a lot of people, and we got so much mail and messages from people saying ‘This is my life,’” Leyden said.

“Courage Is ...” was available online and generated more than 60,000 paid downloads, according to Andrea. It also made it onto the Top 10 Rock Chart on iTunes, he added. The song is now available on “This Is Gravity,” the band’s new CD that features seven new songs and five songs from their 2008 CD, “You Can’t Go Back.”

It’s progress like that that’s allowing Leyden and Andrea to earn a living from their music.

“So far, so good,” Leyden said. “Every six months we have to look at the bills and say, ‘Can we stay here another six months?’”

The two also supplement their income through Andrea’s Web design work and Leyden’s work as a dance instructor.

The couple said the past two years have seen positive changes in their lives.

“We finally found the sound and music we always wanted to do,” Leyden said. “We were searching a long time. Now we’ve hit on that and we know what is our sound and our vision for music.”

And while being in a musical mecca like Los Angeles has been beneficial, they realize the band is not alone in their musical aspirations there.

“There’s a lot of competition,” Leyden said. “Every musician out there is amazing.”

The band is spending the rest of this year working on its live shows and playing dates. They recently took the stage at the House of Blues in Los Angeles.

And Leyden and Andrea plan to continue their visits back to Akron twice a year.

“It’s home,” said Leyden. “We grew up here and we miss everything, especially our families. It’s hard to be out there playing shows without them.”

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