A late-night ride home on the subway sparked a social campaign for Manhattan-based singer-songwriter Chris Leamy.
Last March, as he carried his guitar and approached a homeless woman asking for spare change, she remarked, “This would be much easier if I had one of those,” pointing to his instrument case.
At the time, Leamy, originally from Chicago, was just starting to branch out as a solo artist.
“I was always in bands before, and playing by myself still made me a bit nervous,” he recalls. “I thought, why not play sitting next to someone and help them get a few extra bucks? Seemed like a win-win.”
That very weekend he played and sang on behalf of several homeless people to see if his idea would work, and thus started #HePlaysForMe. Since then, he’s continued to showcase his talents for the cause, performing three to four songs roughly once a week, depending on the weather.
“We always made a few dollars minimum. Some went better than others,” says Leamy of his early days.
In November, Leamy partnered with The Bowery Mission, raising $4,360 in 30 days during the holidays, which funded more than 2,600 meals for homeless New Yorkers.
The guitarist’s campaign comes at a time when the number of homeless individuals in New York City is the highest since the Great Depression, at 600,000, according to Coalition for the Homeless.
Leamy sits and plays with different people each week, and he can often be spotted in the Union Square Station area. On Friday, Feb. 26, you can catch him at a free show at Rockwood Music Hall. “Crime,” the first single off his forthcoming EP, “The American Man,” is also available on Maxim.com via SoundCloud now, and on iTunes, Spotify and Apple Music on Feb. 26.
Aside from raising money — and awareness — the experience has taught the 28-year-old about homeless culture in the city.
“A lot of these individuals try to protect their sleeping and sitting areas and make sure no other homeless people are taking tips that should be theirs,” the musician explains. “This can lead to arguments on popular corners or streets with a lot of foot traffic.”
If you go
Chris Leamy is at Rockwood Music Hall on Feb. 26 at 8 p.m., 196 Allen St., 212-477-4155, FREE, one drink minimum