Leigh Kakaty is proud of his Muskegon roots and the different young breed of fans
By JOE WALKER
North Muskegon native Leigh Kakaty is a huge fan of rock music, and says he understands the genre is in a transitional state. As the lead singer and songwriter of top-selling rock band Pop Evil he gets to enjoy the music as an admirer and proprietor.
Kakaty believes if he and his group mates are to help change rock, “we have to work for it,” he says. “I stopped drinking, I had to get a trainer and get working out just to keep up with it.”
If you’re one who’s kept up with Kakaty and Pop Evil during their ascension, you’re aware the band grew from local favorites to one of the hottest acts in the country, packing arenas all across America.
They’ve captivated the nation with current album, Up, their third for major label eOne Music. Its first single “Footsteps” is the band’s fourth #1 hit. “It’s so serious now,” Kakaty says. “We’ve got to come out here and capture this moment. We’ve got to take advantage of this moment we’ve been blessed to have, especially being from West Michigan.”
In 2003 Kakaty was an opening act during Muskegon’s annual Summer Celebration. Fast forward to 2011, he and Pop Evil headlined the event. “I didn’t grow up dreaming of playing Madison Square Garden,” he confesses, “I dreamed of headlining Muskegon Summer Celebration because that was right across the lake from where I grew up! That meant something extra special to me!”
Pop Evil’s growth means a lot to Kakaty, too. They’ve released a total of five albums, four of them on national labels. Debut album War of the Roses (2004) was an independent release. Second LP Lipstick on the Mirror (2008), fueled by radio hit “Someone Like You”, found its way to national shelves through Universal/Republic Records’ Pazzo Music. Mirror’s follow-up War of Angles (2010) was their first with eOne. Spawning three charting singles, its first, “Last Man Standing”, was used by NASCAR during their Spring Cup Series, sports network ESPN, the National Hockey League (NHL), and during Super Bowl XLV. This exposure proved to be Pop Evil’s touchdown.
Their 2013 LP Onyx produced three consecutive Billboard #1 singles – “Trenches”, “Deal With the Devil” and “Torn to Pieces”, each co-written by Kakaty.
He says of playing their brand of rock, “We were kind of underrated for years. We got overlooked for whatever reasons. Those three #1s got them looking our way. People are finally looking at us like holy [crap] these guys are for real!”
Kakaty says “Footsteps” has made a statement. “RAM Trucks has picked it up for their commercials. Bob Seger has his, Kid Rock has his, Eminem has his, and now Pop Evil…we have ours.”
Years before Leigh Kakaty’s commercial success, he was a young man growing up in North Muskegon playing acoustic guitar to impress girls while dreaming of being a professional basketball player.
A high scoring Mr. Basketball prospect while balling for North Muskegon High School, an unfortunate injury ended the 1995 graduate’s hoop dreams.
It’s a good thing Kakaty was able to score as a recording artist. He reflects. “In the grassroots days we played locally every weekend. We were very much in charge of the scene in West Michigan where we played 98% of the time. We’d see our friends, we’d meet new people and invited them to shows. It was more personal back then.
“We’ve been gone for so long we only come back once or twice a year, and those people from the old market got older with families,” Kakaty continues. “Now it’s a whole different young breed of Pop Evil fans, which is exciting in its own right. It’s been cool seeing [everything] evolve.”