Lots of musicians look at music as a sort of therapy, but singer Ginger Leigh needed it to be even more than that. The Austin, Texas-based performer — whose music falls somewhere in the realm of K.D. Lang and Melissa Etheridge — was forced to combat breast cancer this past year, and she is pretty sure that without music — and the friends and fans she’s found from playing it — she wouldn’t have survived, emotionally or financially.

“Music is very healing in so many ways,” Leigh said. “There was so much love. Letters and contributions from people I don’t even know. Colleagues who put on benefit shows. It certainly helps you pull through. As soon as I did, I knew I needed to pay them back with more music.”

This give-and-take relationship had been forged long before the illness came to be. The dynamo, fifth-generation musician used Patronism, a website that cultivates an intimate relationship between musicians and their fans by allowing the latter to donate to the former directly, for career support. Fans give money monthly; musicians provide exclusive content like videos, unreleased recordings and more. It’s a means of survival in the brutal world of independent music.

“There’s something about the relationship between independent artists and music lovers. They really want to support that artist,” Leigh said. “It’s a virtual tip jar. With all that micropatronage, I have a sustainable living to rely on that I know is coming. That gives me to courage to keep making music and not flipping burgers.”

That gives me to courage to keep making music and not flipping burgers.
—Ginger Leigh

Leigh has done that, releasing eight albums in almost as many years, along with hundreds of other tracks. The commitment to writing new music is what brought her back from her sickness so quickly.

“I almost feel guilty if I haven’t worked on something new each month,” Leigh said. “It’s what I do. If I didn’t love what I do, I could have taken advantage of the time off ... but there’s not much that can keep me down.”

Already at work on a new batch of songs, Leigh said while the immense struggle of battling cancer hasn’t directly inspired her lyrics yet, she’s noticed an indirect influence.

“The songs coming now do feel bolder to me. That might have something to do with being faced with your mortality,” she said. “Hell, you might as well do what you want to do. There’s only one shot, so you might as well do it as powerfully as you can.”

Photo by Jeff Twisst

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