The Artist Formerly Known as Steph Cooksey

With a new single out today, a soulful singer-songwriter reemerges as Leigh Sinclair.


It’s hip to rebrand, revamp and reboot. Just ask Netflix, or Chris Shepherd.

But for musician Steph Cooksey, the decision to become Leigh Sinclair was less about grabbing headlines or making a splash, and more about self-empowerment. She’s become well known on the jazz-blues circuit here in Houston over the last five years — and also as one-half of the duo Tipsy Kitten — but couldn’t shake the idea that others had a certain impression of her that she didn’t necessarily want to present.

“I felt like I needed to shed this idea of me, of Steph Cooksey, who in the eyes of everyone who knew me growing up is cute and fun,”says the petite Cooksey, who, not coincidentally, is both cute and fun. She turns 28 this month, but could pass easily for both 21 and 35, with a youthful glow and certain wisdom about her. “I wanted to break those walls down.”

The debut single by Leigh Sinclair,“Tread Lightly,”can be streamed starting today on all platforms, and the music video is on YouTube; the full EP is expected in April. Leigh is the soulful singer-songwriter’s middle name (she loves the power that comes with the androgyny), and Sinclair is a family Cajun name that hints to her Gulf Coast-bred jazz-blues genre.

In “Tread Lightly,”the pain of “pure heartbreak,”as she puts it, bleeds through her sultry voice — which floats effortlessly between moody, melodious runs and chesty, big notes — accompanied by herself on piano, and Stephen Richard on saxophone. It’s the definition of easy listening, propelled by an unmistakable groove.

“When I decided to make the call and rebrand, I had to deal with a month or two of people being like, ‘What? Who is this?’but now I’ve done a couple shows [as Leigh Sinclair], and everyone is so supportive and so on board,”she says, reminiscing on her recent raw, let-loose performance with her band, Leigh Sinclair & The Bad Bad Randy’s, at the Continental Club.

“The journey leading up to this has been me moving in the direction that people around me told me to, and learning, in a beautiful way but in a hard way,”she says. “And in taking the reins, and becoming Leigh Sinclair, I wanted to start fresh, and that’s what this is.”


SOUTH FLORIDA-BASED Italian shoe line Concetto Limone will make its Texas debut at a cocktail reception at Valobra Master Jewelers (2150 Westheimer Rd.) on Thursday, April 29 from 5-7pm. The evening of "All Things Italian" will transport guests immediately to the coast of southern Italian as they sip on Italian wines, Aperol Spritzes, Negronis and Limoncellos while feasting on an assortment of Italian hors d'oeuvres from Houston's beloved Tony's. Invited guests will have the first glance in Texas on the Concetto Limone line and the opportunity to purchase unisex styles on Thursday evening and all day Friday at a trunk show at Valobra.

Keep Reading Show less

IN A TIME of bold optimism and goodwill, the next Houston boom is beginning! Meet the icons who have helped get us here — and the bright stars lighting the way forward.

Keep Reading Show less
People + Places

The Ion, opening soon in Midtown's Innovation District

MY AUNT AND cousin live in Silicon Valley. We go once a year to visit them, and, as you pull out of the airport when you get there, the San Jose skyscrapers in front of you bear the logos of a who's-who of the internet: eBay, PayPal, Adobe, Cisco. It's pretty impressive, out there in California. But, then again, vacations have to be planned around forest-fire season, and Reuters reported that two-thirds of people living in the Bay Area say the quality of life has deteriorated in the last five years, citing homelessness and a rising cost of living as the main factors.

Keep Reading Show less