Check out the new song from JEF – Tangerine
Tell us about where you are from and how you got to this position today.
I’m originally from Corona del Mar, California, a small-quaint little town located along the California coastline; very affluent area, not a lot of struggle other than to keep up with the “Jones’” next door. I grew up playing golf, a little prodigy, which took me all over the globe very young. Even with all the trophies it still felt empty, felt like I had more in me. There was a creative side I could feel burning to get out.
I was given a guitar my freshman year at ASU, taught myself some chords, started playing in bands, next thing I know my songs are playing on soap operas. Long story short, I recently moved from LA to AZ, found a great music scene here, more gigs, etc. I did a cross country music tour from LA to NY last summer, just me, my jeep, and a trailer full of my gear.
That tour really opened my eyes in more ways than just musically speaking. It made me really appreciate all the nuances, good and bad, of America. I’m planning another tour this upcoming summer and really am looking forward to it; hitting some new clubs, making more friends, fans, etc.
Tell us more about the current song you are promoting to everyone.
This song Tangerine, like most songs of mine, tends to be somewhat auto-biographical. I write made to order stuff when called upon, but when it comes to my own songs it’s usually what I’m dealing with at the time. Music is my therapy, other times it’s an escape. As this song came to life typically my relationships, love (good & bad), life, the struggle of life (which I seem to embrace) and as for this song, it’s from a memory.
I was in San Francisco one cold foggy afternoon running through the streets of downtown and I heard this homeless guy singing his heart out on a street corner. He was oblivious to the fact this huge crowd had gathered around him. His heart was bleeding with this pretty melody pouring out his voice. His eyes tightly closed and he kept singing something about “Tangerine,” but not the fruit. It was clearly about a girl and with it this wilting, tender melody, and it stuck with me all these years.
Fast forward some 15 years later, as often happens, I’m sitting down in silence with my guitar and waiting from something magically to appear and out pops this one. Every time I perform this song it takes me right back that cold foggy SF afternoon, the imagery of that day, and mostly that homeless man – rumpled coat, beat up shoes, and yet he has this beautiful voice. If only I could find him and pay him my debt of gratitude for his pretty melody. I wish I could, maybe this interview will help with that.
Tell us about one of the hardest challenges you had to face in the industry?
Well, very early on in my “band” days playing the LA scene, my band Factory was doing pretty well, creating a good buzz. We played a show at the Dragonfly in Hollywood. We were opening for Letters to Cleo who was hot at the time and Irvin Azzof (head of Giant Records) happened to be in the audience.
After our set his assistant asked us for a demo and next thing ya know we are about to get signed to a major label finally we all thought. Lawyers were negotiating with our management team and all looked great. We were gonna crack the code and then the next day came the sad news. They decided to pass on us and it devastated our band, so much so, we broke up shortly there after. We were so close and we deserved it because we were so good! But it broke us into 5 little pieces and we all went our own way.
I guess that’s the hardest part of the record industry. That it’s subjective, unlike golf, where it’s just you against the course. You turn in a score and if it’s the best you win! Having your fate decided by what others think can be challenging to say the least, but that rejection, like most things in life, hurts like hell at first but in the end, cliche as it sounds, it truly does make you stronger. Sadly, you need those hard knocks, it shapes you.
I’m an artist and with that comes the constant judgement of the world, each day, because I put songs out all the time and each time it’s with the little caveat of praise or rejection. I guess my point is rejection is the hardest part of the music industry but now, being that I’m basically my own entire entity, a record label, distribution, booking agent, promoter, etc no one can pull the plug on my art or my artistic endeavors ever again. To me that’s what creates the most pure true art: uncensored, honest, and pure. To get to this point it’s been a long road, but it is liberating to have 100% creative control; freedom produces 100% true art.
What was one of the biggest set backs in your career and how did you bounce back?
There have been many other similar stories to the one I mentioned above. Even as a solo artist, as I am today, you get people all the time promising you great things. Usually it’s in the heat of the moment. After a gig someone thinks you’re great and they themselves or someone they know … blah, blah, blah and we all know how that story goes.
You grow thick skin in this industry real quick. It’s even harder with what technology has done. Anyone with a computer can basically, with a few clicks, make music. The world has more music bursting into light everyday, more so than ever before. For an artists it’s more competitive than ever. So how do you take that all in? As a songwriter trying to make a living writing songs it can be quite a daunting thought but what it’s taught me is what it’s not.
Art is not a sport. I may never be famous, get rich from my songs, I may continue to struggle each day just to pay rent and that’s ok. I’m used to it. I’ve been miserable at times when I’ve had “it all.” Happiness to me means being transparent, doing what you love, reaching that point and watching clouds lift and seeing the result. There’s joy too in seeing people light up when they hear my songs fills my soul, validates me, makes me feel “love” knowing I’m leaving footprints behind that will last forever is quite gratifying as well.
I will never stop writing, it’s in my blood, I do it everyday; it’s something I’m born with I guess. To answer your question about the bounce back? There is no bounce back, it’s just accepting your lot in life. I love what I do, I’m blessed with a gift. It’s not a quit or I’ll just try something else. As long as I am alive and live with this freedom, sorry, but I may just be the luckiest guy in the world!
What are some things artists need to be careful of?
Drugs, knowledge, plastic people, and jealous lovers.
What suggestions do you have for other artists like yourself?
Like I tell my boys Tyler and Weston, both who, like their Dad, have the creative gene it’s one thing to take classes, educate yourself, etc that can only add to a deeper understanding of your craft. One thing I’ve cherished in an innocent sort of way throughout my musical journey is that I taught myself all I know. No one told me what note or chords should go next when you’re creating a song. Nor did anyone ever teach me what knobs to turn when mixing, what guitar to play, how to sing, etc; knowledge stunts creativity.
I keep myself far away from theory, technique, scales, and big budgets. I throw away road maps and I guess that’s how I approach songwriting. In order to be original, you need to keep your innocence and the best way to do that is to first learn by doing, honing your craft, practicing, but most of all being you. Don’t worry, you don’t have the latest recording gear, the best mic, the best players in your band, or money for that matter. It’s what you don’t have that makes you find a way around the tallest mountain. If you want it bad enough, trust me, you’ll find a way.
What is one of your favorite ways to promote yourself and your music?
I have played to thousands, at drunken beer soaked frat parties, and to 3 people in a bar (and that’s counting me and the bartender). What I have embraced greatly lately is simply getting out in random crowds of people and you can find them anywhere in the world on any given day.
Busking to me is the most gratifying, the most immediate feedback, and certainly the best self promotion you can do. Case in point, I made more fans and more money in one hour of busking for a sea of people passing by during a lunch rush hour one sunny afternoon on Park Avenue in New York city. It was straight profit and I didn’t have to invade someone’s media privacy to sell them on liking my tunes.
Where can people visit you?
Cheers and thanks for the nice chat.
Well … enough about me, tell me about you?