Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Day I Understood What It Was Really About

Back when I was playing at the children’s hospital, I would show up a few minutes early to move some furniture around in the common area to set up.  This day there was this African American guy who looked to be mid 50s sitting on one of the sofas reading the paper.  He saw my guitar case and asked if I would be playing soon. “In a bit but there’s no rush” I replied. He said, “oh cool, my son and I really love music I’ll go get him.”

He rolled his son over in a mechanized wheelchair with several tubes, wires and blinky machines attached. I’d been working on not letting surprise or pity cross my face. I gave a big smile, a hardy hello and some small talk about the quality of hospital food. Though his son was small and frail he was 10 years old. I apologized that I only had preschool tunes to offer.  I thought to myself of course I also know tons of raunchy pub tunes but those would likely get me disinvited from playing there again.

They looked at each other, both a bit disappointed but not wanting to be rude said, “Oh that’s ok. We’ll just hang out for the show with the little ones anyway.” A few seconds of odd silence hung over us while I kept setting up. Then I spastically blurted out “I do a James Brown version of wheels on the bus you might like?” I suppose it was a bit prejudicial to assume he would appreciate an homage to Soul Brother # 1 over say, Rupert Holmes’ Pina Colada song but I was desperate for a connection point.

The father said, “What’s that now?” with his left eyebrow right up against his hairline. “You want to hear it?” I tried to sell the idea with excitement in my voice. The boy shrugged his shoulders with his palms up and eyes down. 

So I bust into it and ask them to tell me when to do the stop time breaks. They were sitting side by side about 7-10 feet from me. By the end of the first verse they were both singing with some volume, looking straight at each other with faces that acknowledged the silliness and awkwardness of the moment. By the third verse I had stopped singing, it was just them, singing to each other, having their own moment without me, laughing and dancing in their seats. Their moment must have been about a great deal more than my version of wheels on the bus. But it was that stupid song that gave it to them. I was just a six-string karaoke machine in the background of their moment together at that point. 

I’d always thought I had to be the show, fill the room with my presence and take over all of the audience’s senses. This experience showed me that I could provide something special by not trying to fill it all up myself. It was one of the best musical experiences of my life.

In that instant I really felt like I had given them a gift, something they shared together. I have to acknowledge that the power of the moment was of course born out of their traumatic circumstances. But that only underscores the importance of making sure things like the gift of a simple silly song are brought to those who need them.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Meet The Artist (Mock Interview)

Ok, so my album is just out and who knows if anyone will notice.  In the mean time I thought it might be interesting to pretend as though one of the media outlets of merit did notice and decided to interview me. I feel like a dictator with my own state run media.

Meet The Artist 
by Ollie Evver-Duz 
Noise Floor Magazine

File under “Children’s music” if you must but Jake T & The Jamboree’s debut album “Kitchy Classics” is a delightfully entertaining game of hopscotch through America’s, and in fact the world's pop music traditions, playfully mocking and celebrating icons and genres in rapid succession.  Though not the first to put a fresh face to old classics, to music nerds, it’s an audio trivia game inviting the listener to name the quotes and influences.  I recently sat down with founder, actually the only member of Jake T & The Jamboree, Jake Thorne.

Question: Why didn’t you include any originals? And of all the cover songs out there to choose from, why did you pick the most tired ones in all of human history? 

Answer: This recording is not my rock opera, nor is it going to establish me as the new standard barer of good taste in children’s music. Please remember that the point of the CD is to hopefully raise a bit of money for children’s charities, specifically for now, the InnVision ShelterNetwork. At this point I’m a complete no name with no following. My as yet untested theory is people will search for some of these classics songs anyway, tired though they may be. If they eventually find one of my renditions maybe I can win them over. If I’m able to create some traction with this CD it’s possible I could put out some original follow up material.

Question: What do you think makes you unique as an artist? 

Answer: (you like how I called myself an artist? I could get used to this writing in the 3rd person thing) I’m blushing, I play the hokey pokey and you called me an artist. I don’t have a manager to kick me under the table but a truthful answer is probably nothing.  For one thing, recording software today is just amazing and so cheap if you ever do hear a terrible sounding record it’s because “awful” must have been the aesthetic they were going for. I guess it could be said that I have the musical attention span of a ferret on crack. I don’t really focus on one musical genre or even on one instrument, just dibble dabble here and there and hopefully I don’t lose people along the way.

I did find from my live shows that even when the kids don’t get a joke or a gag they still light up if they can see their mom or dad entertained.  So I thought I should try to make something everyone stuck listening in the car can tolerate. Only the sales numbers will tell me if I got that right. 
Question: What were your musical influences? 

Answer: Any self-respecting disassociated musician out there will know to link themselves with the cult classic iconic hipsters of yester year.  You know, your Dylan, Reed, Black Sabbath, Anne Murray, but instead I choose to be pretentious about not being pretentious.

My story starts like many others, with two musical parents. Dad once sang in a 50’s Doo Wop group and mom sang in a choir for most of her life. There always seemed to be loud music on in the house. Dad was into everything from Tito Puente to Bobby Bare and Mom, MJQ to Steely Dan. Her records were so good I took half of them with me to college. My older brother Will and I started on instruments young and quickly began to prioritize collecting records over most other toy options from early in grade school.

By fourth grade I would take the bus for a dime down to my local Rainbow Records / “head shop” to spend my Saturday afternoons monopolizing the listening stations.  I remember that summer Will bought Ohio Players Gold because it had a naked lady on it and it opened up a new world of Soul and Funk music for me. I devoured it all, often choosing instead to sit inside and listen to yet more music on my big wooden lift top stereo rather than go play in the street with the neighborhood kids. For me there still are only two kinds of music, good and bad and it all influences me. (Hopefully more of the good than the bad.)

Question: What is your ultimate goal for this project?

Answer: In a perfect world this project would raise enough money to hire a pre-school teacher at one of the shelter network locations. At a minimum I’d like to increase their children’s supplies budget by 25%. If we can beat those goals this will have been a wildly successful project. So I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who has taken an interest in this project or help spread the word for the advancement of its goal. Thank you.