I was born in Norfolk, Va, where my father, who was a sailor, met my mother, who was a local girl, at a USO dance.
I moved around a lot as a child but I would always make it back to my grandparents’ farm in Princess Anne County every summer, now Virginia Beach, where I always called home.
When I was about six my mother, who played piano, decided I should take piano lessons-this didn't last too long- it seemed I didn't like it! At age seven I decided I wanted to play the violin. The problem was I kept getting teased by all the other boys saying that the violin was a girl’s instrument. So that was that, I gave up the violin!
I think it was then when I first wanted to play the guitar, around eight, but my dad wanted me to play an instrument that I could do something with ( like be in an orchestra) so I said “ Ok I'll play the saxophone.” So for the next few years it was the sax.
As the years went by and the ‘60s were into full swing I discovered certain “things” and I put together my first band with Randy Anderson, the psychedelic influenced Lemon Love.
I wanted to be a lead singer in a rock band, but as the ‘60s moved on I got more into Bob Dylan, The Byrds, The Buffalo Springfield & Neil Young. I decided I wanted to try my hand at being a singer and a songwriter. The sax was sold and I bought my first guitar, a Martin D41, and a couple of harmonicas and I was well on my way.
By 1971 I was in Nashville for a while learning to write songs and doing a few gigs. Then it was back to Norfolk where I joined up with a couple of other like minded musicians, Thom Harris and Paul Cain, and we formed an acoustic trio called Wendigo.
We gigged a lot and spent most of our time in Coconut Grove, Fl.
Moving around as a child became no different as I was growing up, the road was in my blood.
In 1973 I was in LA playing guitar with a few others in a park in Santa Monica , when I came across a girl singing, her name was Karen Gorney, she went on to star in “Saturday Night Fever” a few years later.
We started singing and writing together and ended up as a duo and eventually signing a publishing deal with Criterion Music and Publishing.
In 1975 we headed to Houston, Tx where we played a few gigs and where I first met Lucinda Williams and Dan Earhart, Amelia Earhart’s grand nephew. By this point Karen had a call to go to back to New York to appear again on the soap opera “All My Children” and then to film “Saturday Night Fever.”
I stayed on in Houston writing and gigging and generally just hanging out.
In 1976 I went to NYC to try my luck.
I ended up putting together the first house band at the Lonestar Cafe.
It was as this time I met Mandy Mercier and she ended up joining my band. The band was called Leif Kahal and The Horse You Rode In On.
One night doing an acoustic gig at Gerdes Folk City I met Tom Pacheco and by 1978 I was working with Tom and moving to Woodstock where I helped him form the Tom Pacheco Band. The band included Shane Fontayne, Gary Burke, Dee Dee Washburn and Greg Jackson
The band recorded at Levon Helm's studio, in his home in Woodstock, with Eddie Offord on the desk.
I was having a great time gigging, recording and playing with the likes of Mick Ronson and Ian Hunter, meeting Bob Dylan etc ( I could go on but I'll stop now) It was a really great time!
When the Tom Pacheco Band, of that incarnation, disbanded in December of ‘79 Mandy and I went down to New Orleans and gigged there for quite a while before moving to Austin, Tx. where again I hooked up with Dan Earhart and Lucinda Williams, It’s now early 1981.
I put a band together with Mandy & Dan called “The Wild Cantinas” and we were regulars on the Austin scene.
Many gigs and soap operas later I moved back to Nashville where it all really started for me as a songwriter, learning from the best. We are now looking at around the end of ’83.
I put together a band and was a regular on the Nashville club circuit gigging regularly at the Bluebird Cafe and the rest.
My band members included some of Dolly Parton’s band and Eddie Rabbitts. Kathy Mattea was even a backing singer.
The man that kept it all ticking for me, the band that is, was Mike Severs, from Dolly's band, still the best guitarist I've ever known!
Anyway, moving on, in ‘85 I run into Tom Pacheco in Nashville, we do some writing together and start gigging as a duo.
In ‘86 he asks me to go to Dublin with him to meet up with his new manager, so I did, new adventures was my middle name.
I ended up between Dublin and San Francisco for the next 3 years working with and producing an EP for Tom.
In April 1990 I'm doing a gig in Dublin when I meet Maggie De Monde an English pop star from bands Swans Way and Scarlet Fantastic.
We ended up married after 2 weeks and moved to London via Turkey, Paris, etc...
We recorded our first album together in Birmingham UK 1991, ”Pilots Of The Impossible.” We worked with Bob Lamb (UB40) at his studios. We were also doing a bunch of gigs and writing lots of new stuff.
In ‘92 we signed a deal with PWL, I know..., but Pete said he’d been searching for Maggie for years and hadn’t been able to find her and now he has Warner Bros. money to release artists like us. Pete ended up spending the money on buying up Britain’s railways & so we left PWL in ‘96.
After that we gigged a lot, calling ourselves Mighty K, worked on many different projects and in 2003 we started work on an album with Crabbi, from the band, Pop Will Eat Itself.
It was finally released in 2006. The album was called “Club Silencio,” Mighty K featuring Crabbi, it was influenced by our favourite film soundtracks.
Many projects later it’s back to my roots, with my new album release, “Dusty Roads In A Rear View Mirror.” Available from the May 1, 2013
To be continued........
Mark Leif Kahal has worked with and supported, Tom Pacheco, Ray Wiley Hubbard, John Prine, Mandy Mercier, Kinky Friedman, Elvis Costello, Jerry Jeff Walker, David Allen Coe and many others.