Ted Leo, singer-songwriter-guitarist, veteran vegan

Ted Leo—the singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, front man of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, and veteran vegan—recounts his path to vegetarianism, in 1988, then after further reading, research, and contemplation, going vegan in 1998. That journey was shaped less by direct experience with animals than many who travel a similar path—he grew up without pets, though when he was 19 and out of the house, his parent got a dog with whom he forged a powerful bond. Having toured for a quarter century, Leo has developed a keen awareness of the prime vegan restaurants in cities across the country, and cites some faves in various parts of Florida. He discusses when, in July of 2017, on the eve of the release of “The Hanged Man”—an album of firsts: first solo record, first one since the relationship with his record company ended, not coincidentally, his first collection underwritten by a crowd funding (Kickstarter) campaign—a major profile ran in Stereogum, documenting a number of challenges and travails Leo had faced. These were highly personal, including that Leo was molested by his childhood piano teacher, that he and his wife experienced a late-term miscarriage, losing their daughter, and, separately, that a life-threatening illness befell his wife. While he fully cooperated with the Stereogum writer and his extensive reporting, Leo addresses how jarring it was when he first saw the piece, while also noting how freeing it was to discuss those things with the reporter, how he learned a lot over the course of the process, and it helped him sort out some of those feelings. He articulates his initial reservation about crowd funding to make “The Hanged Man,” the virtues of that approach he came to see, including the budget that resulted, which exceeded what the monies he’d have had if still in a record deal—enough left over to underwrite additional musicians for the shows he and the Pharmacists will perform in June, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of their critically-acclaimed album, “Hearts of Oak.” He also talks about how he transformed from comedy aficionado to practitioner–David Cross set that transformation in motion, inviting Leo to play on “Tinkle,” a New York comedy show staged weekly in the 2000s, an invitation that’s been repeated countless times since by numerous comics (Cross & Leo re-teamed last month at a performance of The Comedy Resistance, presented at the Moontower Comedy Festival in Austin)—and how much he enjoys cooking when he’s off the road and at home with his wife. (https://www.tedleo.com)

ALSO: I spoke with Lori Letzring, manager at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center, where more than 300 cats landed after being seized in recent days from Fur ‘N Feather Farm in Plant City. She described the circumstances that led to the animals being removed, and how until the owner of the rescue legally releases the animals to their care, the Center cannot place any of the cats up for fostering or adoption, or even relocate any of the animals to rescue organizations. Meanwhile, those who want to help are encouraged to select something from this Amazon Wish List. (http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/en/locations/pet-resource-center, https://www.facebook.com/PRCPets/)

COMEDY CORNER: Chris Porter’s “Vegan Date” (http://chrisporterisfunny.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” Ted Leo’s “Can’t Go Back” (snippet; host has awful time management skills), instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: We didn’t play Name That Animal Tune today.

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About the author
Duncan Strauss is the producer-host of “Talking Animals,” which he launched at KUCI in California in 2003, combining his passions for animals, radio, journalism, music and comedy. The show has aired since late 2005 on Tampa’s WMNF. Strauss lives in Jupiter Farms, FL with his family, including four cats, two horses and one dog. He spends each day talking to those animals, and maintains they talk right back to him, an as yet unverified claim.

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