Homecoming for Chicago Band Brigitte Calls Me Baby — Lead Singer Talks Elvis, Pen Pals and a Promising Future

(Courtesy of Brigitte Calls Me Baby)(Courtesy of Brigitte Calls Me Baby)

The spotlight shines brightly these days on Chicago band Brigitte Calls Me Baby. The group just had its national TV debut on “CBS Saturday Morning,” and the influential public radio station WXPN called the band “future rock royalty.” The British music publication NME headlined: “Chicago Romantics Deliver the Thrills of a Bygone Era.”

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And all of this with only one EP under their belts. The band’s debut album, “This House is Made of Corners,” [ATO Records] was produced by Grammy Award-winner Dave Cobb.

Comparisons rarely do justice, but if you can imagine a catchy new wave band with a crooning lead vocalist, you’re in the ballpark. The group plays accessible rock ’n’ roll with one foot in the past, an eye on the future, and plenty of sex appeal.

On Saturday, Brigitte Calls Me Baby will play a sold-out show at Schubas Tavern. Two shows in June at Lincoln Hall have also sold out.

WTTW News spoke with singer Wes Leavins, a high school dropout with a big, sultry voice. The band is based in Chicago, but Leavins is from Texas. His young career has taken him from the set of Baz Luhrman’s “Elvis” movie to the national tour of “Million Dollar Quartet,” where he portrayed Elvis Presley.

WTTW News: A lot is happening for you right now. What’s it like to be on this ride?

Wes Leavins: It’s where I’m most comfortable. It’s all I want to do. The more we do, the happier I am. A lot of people on our team will say, ‘OK, get ready for this busy week,’ or whatever, and that’s what I want to be doing with my time. I have no apprehension or anxiety about it.

You’ve spoken of your parents playing you The Cars, among other bands, and your love of Roy Orbison. Do you come from a musical family?

Leavins: No. No one else is musical in the family, but there was a lot of love for music.

You’re from Port Arthur, Texas — Janis Joplin’s hometown.

Leavins: Yeah, my grandmom actually went to school with her, same graduating class.

You quit high school to pursue music. Was your family encouraging?

Leavins: Some of them were, and some of them weren’t, but for the most part I didn’t care either way.

(Courtesy of Brigitte Calls Me Baby)(Courtesy of Brigitte Calls Me Baby)

What were you listening to in high school?

Leavins: That’s when I was the most openminded because it was just about whether the song was good or not, and it didn’t matter who it was by, what it was from or what kind of music it was. So thankfully I was exposed to a lot of music due to the circumstances of where I lived and it being a small town with little to do. I had friends who were listening to The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead, a lot from the ’90s, early 2000s. And then I had my friends who were into heavier music — not just punk, but thrash and The Who, so they turned me on to stuff like that.

You were hired for Baz Luhrman’s “Elvis” movie, where you met record producer Dave Cobb.

Leavins: Yes, back in 2019. I was hired at first just as a musician, and there was no clarity on what that meant. Once I arrived (on set), they had me doing all kinds of things, cutting full songs, or just playing guitar, and so it was just kind of an array of things, musically.

Previously you had been cast as Elvis Presley in the national tour of “Million Dollar Quartet.”

Leavins: I didn’t really know what it was, but they were interested in me reading the script. I wasn’t an actor and wasn’t pursuing being an actor. It was just an avenue, to be honest, of making some money because I’d just left school. They flew me to New York, and I had an audition, and I got the thing. I think the overall experience was just learning. I don’t come from a world of acting, so these stages were the first stages I had a chance to be on. They were big, big rooms with lots of people, and that requires a certain dynamic of performance.

Tell us about the name of the band.

Leavins: In high school there was a project in English where we had to write to a notable person, and I chose to write to Brigitte Bardot. I wrote her a letter and received a letter in return and then exchanged a few more and at one point was almost like a pen pal. I haven’t written to her in many years, but I enjoyed it because the few conversations (in writing) were interesting and she’s doing good things. It was just letters, no phone calls or anything.

Is there anything to know about your show at Schubas?

Leavins: It’s definitely a special show. It’s our first hometown sellout, so it feels like more of a celebration because a lot of growth has occurred in the last few months. You can hope for it, but you can’t predict it, and Schubas selling out as quick as it did was wonderful. Ultimately whether you’re playing a club, a bar or a massive stadium, it’s the same thing. You gotta deliver.

So, are you planning on getting your GED?

Leavins: No, and hopefully will never have to. I knew what I wanted to do, and it felt like doing what I was supposed to do was interfering with what I wanted to do. I don’t regret any of those decisions. Life’s too short, you know?

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