Sadie Leigh, a singer-songwriter hailing from Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, has seriously carved out her path in the music industry since she was 17 years old, but according to her father, David Gustafson, she’s been a star since elementary school. Drawing from her personal experiences, Leigh’s relatability in her songs has earned her recognition on social media and “American Idol.”
After Leigh’s singing went viral on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to release her newest single “Attendance Record” this past June, accumulating more than 90,000 streams on Spotify.
Leigh’s second single, “Boys Don’t Cry” is set to be released on Friday. The new single comes just a little more than a month after she released the accompanying music video for “Attendance Record” on July 5 in collaboration with an LA based directing team named Indie Sauce.
She performed an acoustic set on July 15 at Wonderland Fishtown, a sculpture garden and event space, to promote her music.
“It was so fun, like, so intimate, just a bunch of people hanging out, sharing music,” said Leigh, a 2021 media studies and production alumna. “It’s those kinds of shows where you really feel like an artist, when you’re just surrounded by other artists it’s such a cool feeling.”
Leigh began writing the song in 2021 while attending Temple and living in Philadelphia, after going through what she described as her first major heartbreak, which caused her to miss class. The combination of the breakup and guilt from skipping class is what inspired her to create the track.
“I was so upset I skipped class and I felt so guilty about it because I was a freshman in college and I hadn’t really been the type to skip class,” Leigh said. “I was very much a goody, goody, I cared about academics, so it compelled me enough to write a song about it.”
She decided to post a TikTok of her freshly written song, and the post went “viral” overnight. Some of her current posts have earned more than 100,000 views.
“I just started sort of improving and singing whatever words came to mind, I just started writing down this stream of consciousness, poem, type thing, because that’s what a lot of my songs start out to be, just stream of consciousness writing,” Leigh said.
Despite the overnight sucess of “Attendance Record,” Leigh didn’t begin polishing the song until her father David Gustafson, who is also a musician, recommended adding soul and R&B style chords, a key piece she felt was missing.
“She wrote the chords and she had the melody to attend this record, I sort of dressed up the little chords a little bit,” Gustafson said.
While at Temple, Leigh’s courses helped her learn about sound mixing and engineering, record label contracts and management and how to market herself and her music.
Although Leigh attended classes through Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic, she still made an impact in her classes and on her professors.
The first time Jack Klotz heard Leigh’s, “Boys Don’t Cry,” the song immediately put a smile on his face.
“Her tune, that still even just thinking about the tune makes me smile, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, that was the one that knocked me out,” said Klotz, a media studies and production professor.
Leigh started her “American Idol journey” in March 2021, after the Idol’s staff discovered her live stream shows on Facebook and recommended she audition.
“Idol invited me out to Ojai, California, where me and my dad went through the whole audition process, we got to meet the judges,” Leigh said. “It was Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie. They’re all lovely, my six-year-old self was dying when meeting Katy Perry.”
Although her time on Idol ended abruptly after not being selected for the top 24, Leigh now understands she was meant to be eliminated.
“I ended up being sort of happy because I was able to get that experience, but then I’m also able to start my career in my own way and be the driver of it and go exactly at the speed I want to go and the direction I want to go,” Leigh said.
Leigh’s family wasn’t only by her side when she decided to go for Idol, Gustafson frequently accompanies her onstage playing piano while her sister, Sophie Gustafson, sings backup.
David Gustafson first noticed Leigh’s talent when she was in elementary school, and nobody else at her age was at her level.
“There are singers that you listen to and you say ‘Oh, this that’s very good for elementary school,’ but there was no need for any sort of qualification, she was just a legitimate singer from the time she was 10,” David Gustafson said.
The music video for “Attendance Record,” has gained more than 32,000 views on YouTube since its release. Leigh is pleased with the song’s journey, from being written early on in her career to finally being accompanied by visuals with the help of Indie Sauce.
“The video is definitely a big collaboration, I came in with suddenly random sporadic ideas, as I usually do, and I had this incredible, beautiful team that was able to actually make sense of all my ideas, and then put it together in a matter of a few weeks,” Leigh said.
As “Attendance Record” continues to build traction, and with the release of “Boys Don’t Cry,” she hopes to tour and drop an EP along with more music videos by the end of 2023.
“The first thing on my bucket list is to tour and just, you know, live that rockstar life,” Leigh said. “But even before that I am releasing an EP that we’re going to roll out single by single through the end of the summer into the fall.”