Singer-songwriter Leslie Mendelson is slated to perform Nov. 18 at The Gem Theater, 48 Cross St., Bethel. Ethan Covery photo

Discovering a new-to-me artist is always a good time, and with the case of Leslie Mendelson it is doubly so. She is a triple threat in that she has a distinctive voice, can pen compelling songs, and is at home on the piano as well as the guitar. Watching her videos you see the many sides of her talent which makes her intriguing as well as entertaining and she’s got a career that is equally impressive. I discovered that when I called her at home in Brooklyn, New York, and I think you’ll find our chat to be informative, as well.

Q: To begin with, have you performed up in Maine before?
Mendelson: Yes, I did, this summer. I was opening for the Wallflowers in Bar Harbor at the Criterion and that’s such a great theater, and it was a great set.

Q: What I’ve enjoyed, looking through your videos and all, is the fact that you can rock out.
Mendelson: (Laughter)

Q: But your solo piano work is just gorgeous. Now, when you’re on the road are you a solo performer?
Mendelson: I do have a one-woman show, I was just touring last weekend. I have my writing partner, too, he comes out with me, and then I’m going to be doing some band shows; but if I’m traveling and doing a string of four or five shows or I’m opening for a band, it just makes it easier for me to do it alone and I’m very comfortable doing things alone. I just did two hours solo on guitar, I’m fine with it, you know?

Q: Well, that gives you the opportunity to go where the muse, and the audience, takes you; you can kind of judge how you want to approach it.
Mendelson: If I have a good audience I could play all night, it’s easy, it’s so easy, and I love singing songs, but I have to know that people are going to want to receive them on the other end, you know?

Q: Have you ever performed at One Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine?
Mendelson: Uh-uh, I’ve only played in Bar Harbor that one time.


Q: Well, you might want to pursue that venue because it’s one of the finest listening rooms in this state, if not New England.
Mendelson: I’ll have to check that out.

Q: That’s a good idea, I know you’d love the place, for sure. Just out of curiosity, how many albums do you have out now?
Mendelson: I have three albums and a couple of EPs, too, so I guess five in total. One I did back in 2009, that’s available online, and then in 2017 I put out “Love & Murder,” and then in 2020 I released “If You Can’t Say Anything Nice …” and now I have a record, we just finished it, that will come out next year.

Q: Does this unreleased one follow in the lines of the others?
Mendelson: It’s got a little of everything. I did it with a band and I did it with Peter Asher.

Q: Wow, of Peter & Gordon fame?!
Mendelson: (Chuckle) Yeah, THE Peter Asher. We did it in the Jackson Browne Studio in Santa Monica, and it’s going to have Jim Keltner and Lee Sklar, all the cats on it. So I did half the record with him and then I did a few songs with Tyler Chester who just produced Madison Cunningham’s record. He’s great. And it all goes together, so there’s a nice variety of songs. I play piano and I sing, but it’s subtle, it’s nice; I think it was produced really well.

Q: You write the songs so you are very comfortable performing them solo on guitar. Are there some you just can’t do because they were recorded in a band format?
Mendelson: Well, there are some that might sound better with a band but 99% of the songs that I have written, also I have a co-writer, Steve McEwan. I can figure out a way to play anything because it all came from guitar or piano.

Q: I understand that you opened for one of my favorite classic rock bands, The Who. That must have been something else?
Mendelson: It was something else, it was pretty nuts to do what I do. I had Steve McEwan, my co-writer, with me and before the pandemic we did two nights with them at Madison Square Garden, and for a New York girl who grew up on Long Island, that was just the greatest. I’ve also done a bunch of shows with Roger (Daltrey, lead singer of The Who). I really enjoy opening for him because he plays theaters and I’m a little more suited, I think, for theaters at this point in my career because as a solo artist or a duo, stadiums are a little more daunting (laughter).


Q: Yeah, I would think so! Now, is Steve the guitar player that appears in some of your videos and who also sings harmonies?
Mendelson: Yeah, he’s a great singer and guitar player and he’s a songwriter by trade. That’s what he does, and he lives in Nashville and England. He’s from England and has done a lot there, as well.

Q: Now, the new album that’s coming out next year that you mentioned, any chance of hearing something new up in Bethel at The Gem?
Mendelson: Yeah, I’ve been playing a few new songs. When I write a song I’ll start playing it just to get a feel for it and then I’ll record it; so I think there’s about three or four songs from the new record that I’ve been playing.

Q: Well, seeing this will be a venue debut as well as almost a state debut, is there anything, Leslie, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Mendelson: Just for them to come to the show, tell your friends and bring them, too, and that I’m excited to be coming there.

Q: Oh, and there is one last question I’d like to ask before we close out this chat. I saw on your website that you worked with Jackson Browne a couple of years back so I was wondering what that was liked.
Mendelson: Well, I was doing a house concert and Paul Haggis, the director, came up to me and told me that he was looking for some new music for his documentary. He liked what I was doing and asked me if I’d be interested in coming up with something. Also, he was trying to get Jackson Browne involved and said, “Maybe you can collaborate with Jackson Browne.” And I was like, “Oh, OK” (laughter). So we sent Jackson a lot of what we had written so far and he’s like, “Oh, I could work with this — I like this.” So we ended up finishing it in New York and then recording it in his studio in LA. It came out in the movie called “5B” which is a documentary about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic; it’s a well-told documentary. And then Jackson put it on his latest record, “Downhill from Everywhere,” so it lives on. And I do that song in my show: it’s called “The Human Touch.” (The video is on YouTube as well as her website,

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.