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Chris O’Leary Toes ‘The Hard Line’

Chris O'Leary sings vocals live on stage while holding a harmonica.

While coming of age in Upstate New York, Chris O’Leary recalls his childhood home being replete with the sounds of everyone from opera to the Clancy Brothers, the Chieftains and Bruce Springsteen. But it was a disapproving look from his father, beholding some reprobate New Yorkers on the turntable, that effectively altered his son’s musical course.

“I was like 11 or 12, playing guitar and listening to KISS. My dad basically [said], ‘Turn that shit off!’” O’Leary recalls with a laugh. His father replaced the painted-up rockers’ record with Muddy Waters’s “Hard Again,” telling his preteen son to “give it a chance.”

“I heard [harmonica legend] James Cotton and that was it. I was hooked,” O’Leary said. “I got my dad to blame for my career choices.”