Standing at the bar with… Leo Saunders

We LOVE hanging out in Cotswolds pubs and recently bumped into Leo Saunders, musician, songwriter and founder of Tuneriver, a personalised song service.

Hero Photo credit: Christopher Cornwell

So Leo, what’s the drink you’re getting at the bar?

Vodka and ginger ale (ale, not beer) – it’s my go-to – refreshing and a little spicy. My favourite vodka

Tito’s Handmade Vodka

it’s an original craft Vodka (whatever that is?!) produced in Austin, Texas from corn instead of potatoes. My other favourite is

Crystal Head

created by Dan Aykroyd, it’s very smooth and comes in a glass skull-shaped bottle. Very rock’n’roll! Haha! The ginger ale? Gotta be Fever Tree – it could be a branding thing… but it does seem to taste better!

What’s your favourite kind of pub? Which ones do you go to in the Cotswolds?

The Cotswolds is fantastic for the variety of pubs you can find. I often have people stay from out of town and they always love the options we have available in Cheltenham. I tend to go to a lot of the places I perform music at, as ‘LEO LIVE’

The Retreat, Harry Cook’s, The Bayshill, Smokey Joe’s, Gin & Juice/131, The Tavern. I also like the bar at Cowley Manor with the fun art on the walls, and other places outside Cheltenham – The Prince Albert in Rodborough is also an amazing place, I need to get back there sometime…

Photo: Cowley Manor

If a track came on – what would make you dance? What would make you make a swift exit?

Currently, it would be ‘Good As Hell’ by Lizzo. I love old-school stuff like Funkadelic and Sly Stone.If there’s music on, I’m unlikely to make a swift exit… unless it’s Nickelback, that is!

You started out on the Camden indie circuit – what lead you to that life? What was the best memory?

At the time I used the live in South-East London, but used to spend as much free-time as possible in Camden. I loved the shops, the market, music venues and general vibe of the place. It was the 90’s, and we would often bump into well-known band members in pubs like The Falcon, The Monarch, The Dublin Castle and The Underworld.

We supported FEEDER at gigs around this time. Hard to pick a ‘best’ memory, but probably playing to a packed house at the infamous Water Rats in Kings Cross. The band from that time are doing a reunion gig at The Water Rats this July, so I’m looking forward to that one!

Photo: The Water Rats

Tell us a little more about the War Songs project. How long did it take you to put it together and would you like to do something like that again?

It took around six months to pull-together. I worked on the compositions with George Moorey who is a great producer and music creator based in Gloucester. Our concept was to create 2 pieces of music from WWI poetry to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, one that was 19mins 14secs long and one 19mins 18seconds long – 19:14, 19:18 – to represent the years of the war. We attracted Heritage Lottery funding for the project and they recommended we focus on the local Gloucestershire composer and poet, Ivor Gurney.

I absolutely loved visiting the Gloucestershire Archives and having the opportunity to read Ivor Gurney’s actual note books and letters, and then interpret his poetry into music with George. His story resonated with me having lived with my own mental health issues and challenges. So it became incredibly important to deliver a good piece of work.

We co-ordinated with local musicians and schools and community groups to perform the pieces at The Guildhall. On the night there were 99 musicians on-stage – it was wonderful to see the younger musicians enjoying and benefitting from working alongside the professional and semi-professional musicians.

Photo: Ivor Gurney/AZQuotes

We love your new venture Tuneriver – how does it work?

Thank you! In a nutshell, Tuneriver help customers to send personalised songs as gifts for various occasions – Birthday, Valentine’s, Anniversary, Mother’s Day, Congratulations, Motivation… the list goes on!

Through years of working in the creative-arts fields, I’ve found that music artists are paid very poorly for their work that appears on regular music-streaming services. For example, an artist can dedicate weeks and months-worth of time and pour their heart and soul into working on an EP or album. Yet, to receive just the equivalent of minimum wage for their work, they will need to achieve over a million ‘plays/streams’ per month. With singer-songwriters are able to get paid well for their personalised tracks with each order.

There is also a possibility for the artists to have their work promoted to an international audience and also build up a community where the artists support each other. So, each purchase made on goes toward supporting the artist by paying them for their musical art and songcraft and investing in their creativity.

On the site, you can review and choose a song to be personalised and have it ordered within a few minutes. After ordering, the song goes into the studio for the song personalisation to be added and within 72hrs it’s delivered as a personalised webpage with the downloadable personalised song, personalised lyric sheet and message. With some songs you can even personalise up to 40% of the song!

We’ve been receiving an amazing response from our customers, people are genuinely ‘wowed’ and it is so heartwarming to hear their incredible feedback.

And yes… we’ve heard that our personalised songs have made people cry happy-tears!!

Tell us more about some of the artists that you can find on Tuneriver.

We’re so happy to announce four new artists for 2020.

The first is Oli Gosh. Oli began her career as an actress, training at RADA and then performing roles ranging from Juliet in Romeo and Juliet to Dirty Dancing in the West End. Coming from the underground up, Oli found her true home on the dance floor of Amnesia in Ibiza where she discovered Techno, teaming up with fellow south east London producer, Naive Machine to create the track ‘Silva’ which combines ethereal vocals with the raw power of flamenco stamping samples. She also worked with Danglo and their 1st release, ‘Never let you go’, was picked up by Pete Tong. She now has tens of thousands of followers on Spotify and is working on songs to be featured on

Next up is blues-rocker Marc James. Marc is a gifted vocalist, guitarist, and lap steel player, worship leader and songwriter. If you like Eddie Vedder’s voice you’ll love Marc’s! He is the author of many well-known songs such as ‘Surrender’. Marc is also famous for fronting the band Verra Cruz, an English blues-rock band originally from St Albans.

The next signing is our first international artist, Janet Renders (pronounced: ‘Shanet’) from The Netherlands.

She is a solo artist and singer in her band ‘The First Resort’ and has performed during the international Four Days Marches in Nijmegen – an event that promotes sport and exercise. Janet is currently studying Music Therapy at the HAN University of Applied Sciences in Nijmegen and would love to give a special person in your life an unforgettable gift: your unique song.

Our latest signing is Gina Larner, who I spotted singing at The Cheltenham Songwriter’s Guild at Smokey Joe’s. Gina is an up and coming folk/country artist, originally from Brighton.

She has been playing guitar and singing since she can remember and is just about to finish her degree in Popular Music. Gina has performed up and down the country, being a grand finalist in Open Mic UK and other major competitions, along with playing with her band consisting of double bassist, electric guitar and violin. She has released 2 singles, and continues to write new songs to perform/sell. I can’t wait to have her songs featured on

What’s your next venture?

I’m looking for a piano player that I can team up with to create a duo. I had a band before called The Holy Sinners. We used to put on events titled ’Songs of Intimacy, Romance and Doom’ (!) and I’d like to put on some evenings at places like Chapel Arts. Songs by Nina Simone, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, with some jazz and swing.

What are you going to be eating after your pub drink?

I’m a sucker for sticky chicken wings and sweet potato fries, it makes me feel like I’m back in New Orleans.

Where do you go in the Cotswolds to unwind?

There are some wonderful walks. I like Cleeve Common, Leckhampton Hill, Robinswood Hill and Painswick Beacon. There are also wonderful parks in Cheltenham: Sandford and Pitville and my faves. Lunch or brunch at Baker & Graze in the Suffolks is also one of my favourite places. I also love the steam railway that runs from the racecourse to Broadway.

I studied Ancient History/Classical Civilisation at school and university, so I love visiting historic Roman sites and the Corinium Museum. To fully unwind I usually go to a local jam-night, like the one at The Bayshill, though… and I’ve starting singing some blues in The Berkeley Arms in Tewkesbury on a Monday night with Bryn Thomas, Roger Petley, Nathan Thomas and Stef Stevens, that really helps me unwind!

Leo Saunders tuneriver

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