I’ve been going through a lot of my older releases, most of which are still on cassette tape. You remember those, don’t you? Anyway, as I’m going through these releases, it was like a trip down memory lane. This is where I got my start. These were the bands that got me into the whole underground scene. Now, there’s not one band that I wrote about 15 years ago that’s still around today. But, I thought to myself, “What about the musicians? Are they still around? If they are, what have they been up to these days?” So, I decided to look a few people up and see who I could find. Starting with my next column, I’m going to feature interviews with the people I’ve found because I firmly believe that good music…and the people who made it…should not be forgotten. I’m not going to mention any names now. But, when I do, I’m sure some of you will be like, “Hey, I remember that band.”
So, in order to get the ball rolling, I’m gonna start this issue off with an interview that you may have seen before. It’s not really an old one. It only goes back about five years. I decided to feature this one because Christy Jefferson is an artist that I really like and she’s still around and she’s still makin’ great music and I don’t think anything I’ve ever written about her has ever made it into this column. Most of what I wrote was featured on other websites and since this is the only one that I’m writing for at the moment, I wanted to introduce her to those of you who follow this column. What you are about to read is my original interview complete with the opening article. The only addition that has been made are links to all of Christy’s current websites.
Who is Christy Jefferson?
Her original music is an eclectic combination of folk, cabaret, rock, and pop, brought to you on piano and guitar (she plays both) with a delicious voice. Her style bears the influence of the likes of Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell, Ben Folds, and the Counting Crows. Her story is a well-rounded one, complete with an early start in music, formal training, brushes with fame, bouts of tragedy, and through it all, success. How DID singer/songwriter Christy Jefferson arrive in this melting pot of music? And what does she have in store for the world in 2005?
Christy Jefferson was born in rural Pennsylvania on June 5, 1980. From a young age, it was clear to her parents and teachers that Christy’s talent and interest in music would become a major part of her life. She began singing publicly in elementary school and later learned to accompany herself on both piano and guitar. By middle school, Christy was composing simple songs, and by high school, she was adding original lyrical poetry to more sophisticated compositions.
In the summer between her junior and senior year of high school, Christy traveled to France and discovered there the power that she has to captivate her audience. She returned home with passion and resolve that music would be her path. Shortly thereafter, Christy teamed up with producer Scott Simon – former member of Our Daughter’s Wedding, – whose resume includes touring with big names U2 and Duran Duran in the late ’70s / early ’80s, working extensively with Blue Oyster Cult, and being on the billboard charts with ODW’s song ‘Lawn Chairs’. On some of Christy’s earlier demos produced by Scott Simon, lead guitarist of Blue Oyster Cult, Buck Dharma, collaborated and contributed guitar leads. Christy’s active work with Scott Simon extended through her junior year of college.
In May 2002 Christy graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Music degree from Kutztown University. While her senior recital consisted of a difficult and varied operatic repertoire, Christy’s primary musical focus has been on a more contemporary folk music style. During college, she performed scores of concerts at cafes, pubs, festivals, and benefits, both as a member of various bands and as a solo artist. After graduation, she focused primarily on launching her solo career and promoting her EP Perspectives, Confessions, and Amendments. At the same time, her repertoire of original compositions grew to well over three-dozen, and her volume of public performances often reached beyond three times pr week.
In early February of 2004, just before a show at famous CBGB’s 313 Gallery in NYC, Christy’s instruments with other music equipment were stolen. It was the kind of unforeseen situation that breaks many, but with an overwhelming response of strength, support, and generosity of her fans, fellow musicians, friends, and family, Christy was able to afford new replacement instruments and find healing and peace. With an attitude and reaffirmed conviction that something good can come from every situation and to thank all those who helped her through this difficult testing time, she wrote, “Comin Round”.
Christy’s exciting new high-energy album “Live in Philly” was recorded at the renowned Tin Angel just this past December. “Comin’ Round” is the song to watch. The album, long-awaited by her fans, is a follow-up to her 2002 EP and features Christy on piano, guitar, and vocals with “partner in crime” Jolene backing with harmonies, percussion, and harmonica. In addition to releasing the live album, Christy is back in the studio recording a full-length fully produced album to be released in 2006. Even while working hard to expand her discography, Christy continues to perform her music regularly throughout eastern Pennsylvania at clubs, restaurants, cafes, colleges / universities, house concerts, wineries, festivals, on radio, and on TV, often in intimate settings and sometimes for audiences of thousands.
The above biography can be found on Christy Jefferson’s website. I decided to include it with this interview so you can really get a feel for who Christy Jefferson is and what she’s all about. When it comes down to it, she’s a friendly, down to earth artist. In fact, my recent conversation with her was so casual, we’d often go off into another subject that had nothing at all to do with what we were talking about. So, when it came time to type this up, I had a hard time figuring out what to use. I think it turned out rather well.
I’ve heard a good variety of Christy Jefferson’s material starting with the 2002 release that was recorded for WVIA FM. I heard a three song demo which was recorded in 2005 and, from there, I recieved her five song EP, “Perspectives, Confessions & Amendments” and her exceptional live album. With all this music to take in, I was able to get a good feeling of how she’s grown as an artist. Now, I’ll throw a lot of well deserved praise her way. But, I don’t think she’s reached her peak yet because each release is different. They’re all good in their own way. I believe the album she’s currently working on, which we talked about a little, is gonna be the album that takes her to the next level. This is where we’ll really get to see Christy Jefferson shine. Until then, be sure to check out “Perspectives, Confessions & Amendments,” which contains her version of “Come On Eileen,” and “Live In Philly.” You won’t be disappointed.
Having said that…here’s how my interview went.
Paul Autry: So, how did you get started in the music business?
Christy Jefferson: Well, let’s see…when I was very young, even as early as elementary school, I sang and I was involved in those cute little kid musicals. As I got older, around middle school, I was playing piano and singing. I started to write poems and I put some of my poems to music. Then in high school, I picked up the guitar and I had this life changing experience in France where…I was there with my sister, we were studying French at this university. This one night, I had made this friend, this French kid who was there. He let me borrow his guitar. So, I wrote this song and I was so excited when I finished it because it happened so quickly. I had to play it for my sister because I had actually used her poem to write the song. So, it’s like midnight and everyone’s asleep because we’re all on this rigorous university schedule even though we’re all still in high school. So, I go over to her room and wake her up and I was beside myself. I was like, “You’ve gotta hear this!” I played it for her and she got so excited too and she was like, “Hold on, you’ve gotta play this for Alex, who was a friend that we had met there from Germany. She goes off to get Alex and she comes back with like, eight or ten people, and I got really nervous because, at this point, I had never played my own thing in front of a group of people. I started playing the song and I got really into it, my eyes were closed. I got to the end of the song and I opened my eyes and the room was filled with people, there were people out in the hallway. It was amazing, it was such a thrill. They were all just listening so quietly and, when I was done, everyone just kind of erupted and they were clapping. It was a very magical moment and it was the one moment that really changed everything.
Paul Autry: Was that your solo debut?
Christy Jefferson: You know, it might have been. I think it really was, at least for the singer/songwriter genre. I had sung other things in front of people before. But, this was the beginning of what I do now. Then, when I came back to the states, I started working with a producer, Scott Simon. He was in a band called Our Daughter’s Wedding back in the 70’s I think. They had a number one hit. Anyway, it became a very developmental time for me because I was working with Scott, we were recording all the time. I was learning about recording now. I was learning about the craft of songwriting. From there, I got into bands and different kinds of musical situations. I started performing more. I went to college and I started at college for art even though music was really what I wanted to do. I got accepted for a graphic design program, which was one of the best in the country and I thought, “Well, I’ll just major in graphic design and I’ll support myself through design to do music.” But, it wasn’t gonna be fulfilling. I was gonna be stretching myself too thin. So, I took a leap of faith and changed my major to music and that’s how I graduated.
Paul Autry: I was listening to your CDs before you called and I noticed your first release, which was back in 2002, was more Tori Amos-like in terms of style. Was that what you were doing at the time?
Christy Jefferson: Well, my older stuff, especially the piano-based material…I was coming out of college and I had this really thick classical training, in voice and also, to some extent, in piano. I think some of that came through. Some of the earlier stuff, songs like “Warm,” which is on the first album, “Karaoke.” I think the new album is more Tori than the old album actually. I guess maybe that’s why I’m kind of talking through the question.
Paul Autry: Yeah. Because you just totally lost me. I had no idea what you were talking about. I guess I’ll figure it out when I go to type this up. Anyway, I noticed that you went from the 2002 demo to the 2005 demo and on to the five song EP, it was more the singer/songwriter, acoustic guitar kind of music. So, what made you change.
Christy Jefferson: Uh…I guess I’m still not understanding what your hearing. You’re talking about the EP, I know what you’re talking about there. Part of the confusion might be that I might have sent you certain CD’s that I don’t release to the general public.
Paul Autry: Okay, the 2005 demo that I have has three tunes, “Party Play,” “Pictures Of Faces” and “Retreat.”
Christy Jefferson: Ah…that’s not one that I released to the general public. It’s one that I use more for booking or stuff like that. It’s a really good representation of what I do live for solo gigs.
Paul Autry: You should release that. Those are some really good songs, especially “Party Play.”
Christy Jefferson: Well, thanks. Those songs are gonna be…I’m back in the studio right now recording a third album. I have one release that I have out now, which is the five song EP, “Perspectives, Confessions & Amendments.”
Paul Autry: Okay, while we’re on the right track again, let’s stop and talk about that one. Could you give us a little information about that one?
Christy Jefferson: Well, it’s a five-song EP. There’s four original songs and one cover…and the cover is “Come On Eileen.” The originals are fun songs, they’re sentimental songs. I think the title of the EP really sums it up. They’re perspectives on life and certain situations. There’s a little bit of confession in there, like the song “Warm,” it’s a very confessional song. Amendments…for a song like “Come On Eileen,” this is my amendment to a classic.
Paul Autry: Out of all the songs you could’ve chosen to cover, what made you decide to pick out…and I don’t wanna say obscure song because everybody’s at least heard that song at least once in their life. But, really, that’s the only song, I think, that Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s have ever been known for. So, what made you choose that song?
Christy Jefferson: It was an interesting situation that happened. I was recording the other four songs and making plans to do this EP. I was in the studio just warming up before doing a take and I was warming up with “Come On Eileen.” The guy who was helping me record the album was like, “Christy…why don’t you put that on the album?” So, we decided to do a take. We did one take, we listened to it and I was like, yeah, we can put it on there. It was not planned at all. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing that happened.
Paul Autry: Maybe that’s why it has such a fun vibe to it, which I noticed. I mean, I like that song to begin with. But, I think I liked it even more when I heard you doing it.
Christy Jefferson: Well, thank you.
Paul Autry: Now, if I’m not mistaken, you’re about to release a live album, right?
Christy Jefferson: That’s right.
Paul Autry: What made you decide to do a live album at this point in your career?
Christy Jefferson: It was a happy accident that fell into my lap. To get the full perspective on what was going on, it’s important for me to mention, as part of explaining this live album, a third album that I have been working on for well over a year…an album that I thought I would have released months ago. It’s created a lot of pressure that I put on myself because I have this collection of songs that I’d really like to have released and in the middle of all this pressure that I’m putting on myself, I have this gig at The Tin Angel. At the gig, I had no plans of recording the show. I had no plans of releasing a live recording. I did a lot of preparation for this show, my friend Jolene backed me and, we get to the venue the night of and we’re doing our sound check and George, the guy who was doing the sound, started playing back our soundcheck. It sounded really awesome. It sounded better than any attempt I’ve ever intentionally made of setting up to recording a live show. So, I went up to him and I asked if he could record the whole set. It was magic. It was meant to be. We were right on the nail with the performance. The songs were just full of energy. We were playing off the crowd. It couldn’t have been more perfect if I had planned it. I’m really happy with this album.
Paul Autry: What would you say your musical influences are?
Christy Jefferson: Tori Amos, Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell, The Counting Crows are like my favorite band in the world.
Paul Autry: Okay, cool. Going back to the live show, when you perform solo without the addition of anyone else, is it all original or do you throw in some covers.
Christy Jefferson: My performances are original. But, I almost always do “Come On Eileen” at shows, it’s a crowd favorite, especially by people who have my album and are aware of my version of it. There’s only a handful of other songs that I’ve tried to make my own. I do a Paul Simon song, a Joni Mitchell song and a Stone Temple Pilots song. Those are like the four covers that I’ll do if I have a long show. If I’m at a club or something and I have a three hour show all to myself, I’ll do all four of those. As you can imagine, four songs in three hours is not a very large percent. So, it’s mostly originals.
Paul Autry: As a musician…what are your goals?
Christy Jefferson: Some of the short-term goals include launching the “Live In Philly” album, strumming up some press, some radio interviews, which I’m doing really well on and, through that, expanding my fan base and getting my name out there. Beyond that, I wanna continue to write and record, increase my discogrophy. I’m in the studio right now recording my third album which is gonna be a full length, fully-produced album. It’s the one that I’ve been working on for well over a year. But, it feels really good. Going back to that one CD that I had sent to you that you said was really good, but, it wasn’t released to the public…two of the songs on there will be on this album.
Paul Autry: Quick question here…out of all the releases that I have, which ones are available to the public?
Christy Jefferson: The five song EP, “Perspectives, Confessions & Amendments,” people can get from me…and, when people buy that one from me, if I have these, I will usually give them, for free, a CD that’s in a white envelope, which was recorded at WVIA Studios. So, that’s something that’s available to the general public. I don’t sell that one because I’m actually not allowed to sell it. I just give it away because it was recorded for the radio station. So, that’s like, ten songs that I have available. With the release of this new album, you know, it’s a live album and it’s another collection of songs that people can listen to.
Paul Autry: You had mentioned radio interviews. How has radio embraced your music?
Christy Jefferson: Radio has been really good to me. Let’s see…WESS in East Stroudsburg, I’ve made some really good friends at that station. WDIY has always been good to me. That one’s out of the Bethlehem/Allentown/Easton area. When you tap into these local and college stations, you’re not only getting your songs played on the radio, you also start to become part of this community of musicians, which is a really great thing, especially in times of crisis and supporting each other. I had my instruments stolen from me in New York City last year. My keyboard and my guitar and that was a really big deal for me. I was days away from having insurance on all my equipment. It wasn’t through yet. I just wanted to die. I wanted to crawl under a rock and stop breathing. But, you know, when I finally had the strength, I sent out an e-mail, I told the whole story of what happened that night and I just kind of said, “I don’t know what to do. I’m asking for help.” The response was overwhelming. I had hundreds of e-mail messages from the musicians in this community, offering to let me use their equipment and then, most mind boggling, people sent me money…a lot of money. Enough money to get a new keyboard and a new guitar and upgrade. It was really out of this world. The song “Comin’ Round,” which is on the “Live In Philly” album, I wrote that after my equipment was stolen and I dedicated that one to everyone who reached out to me after that because that’s what that song is about. No matter what happens to you, no matter how bad it is, there’s always something good that can come from it.
Paul Autry: Did you ever recover your equipment?
Christy Jefferson: No, I didn’t…and I have a funny story about that. I was in New York one night at a house concert. It was an awesome house concert and I sat right in the front. Awesome musicians and, it gets to be this one girls turn and she picked up a guitar that looked exactly like the one I had stolen. It ruined the night for me. My mind was going nuts. I’m like, “that’s my guitar, could that be my guitar?” Beyond that, it was like, “did she take it, is she the one who stole it, did she get it at a pawn shop?” My mind just went nuts, you know? After the show, I went up to her and I was like, “You have a really beautiful guitar…where did you get that?” If she was telling the truth, she had it for her whole life and I was inclined to believe her.
Paul Autry: Well, the person who stole it…I hope they don’t sleep well at night.
Christy Jefferson: Yeah. I hope not too.
Paul Autry: How has the public reaction been towards your music?
Christy Jefferson: They’ve been very kind and supportive. I’m very lucky because I have some really wonderful fans. People who never miss a show. Some people who are hearing me for the first time and they say the kindest things. It’s great. I’ve also been very blessed with the local print media. It’s been very positive.
Paul Autry: Before we wrap this up, I’d like to ask you…what are your thoughts on the whole file sharing issue?
Christy Jefferson: Well, I’ll tell you what, for artists who are starting off, it’s a blessing. I love it when people say, “Hey, I heard some old songs of yours.” For big name acts who might be losing money, it’s a different story. I guess I would say I support it because of the position that I’m in. Personally, I want people to hear my material.
Paul Autry: Final comments?
Christy Jefferson: Potential new fans…come on out to a show, send me an e-mail, say hello, check out the website. Don’t be a stranger, let’s be friends.
3 KISSES – LETHAL LOVE ADDICTION (BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED): I really hate to say it…but…this is the best 3 Kisses album that I’ve ever heard. Okay…you’re probably wondering why I hate to say that…well…it’s because I’ve said that about every album that they’ve ever released and I think it’s kinda sad that I can’t come up with something new to say about them. But, you know, it’s the truth. My first experience with the band was a live show and I was really blown away by what I heard. Then I heard their album, “It All Comes Down To Me,” and it was a bit of a let down for me because…well…first of all…it was a great album…still one of my favorites…it just didn’t capture the same vibe that the live show had…and I think I mentioned that in the review I did at the time. Then they released “Nut Job,” which was another great album. It blew the previous release out of the water…but…it still didn’t capture the energy of the live show. They followed that album up with “American Breakdown,” which was even better than the previous two. I think this was the album that came closer to what I really thought they were as a band and, of course, I said it was the best album that they’ve ever done. I was really hooked on that release. Now, here we are, it’s 2010 and 3 Kisses has another album out and, as much as I hate to repeat myself, I’ve gotta say that it’s the best album that they’ve ever done. You might think I’m just saying that…but…no…it’s the truth. I mean…they really hit the mark with this one. It’s got a great production and vocalist Tish Meeks has never sounded better…and I’ve gotta give ’em credit…since I’ve been following this band…it’s clear that they worked really hard to find their sound and now that they did…yeah…it’s just…wow…I can’t even begin to tell you how I feel about it. I’m on cloud nine. I was suprised to see them whip out some heavy aggression, which is something I don’t believe I’ve ever heard from this band before. “Feel The Hammer” was the track that did it for me. It was like a good hard punch in the face. It’s like…my new favorite song. I can’t get enough. Of course, my other favorite song, “Girls Night,” is here once again…and…with the solid production this album has…this song has never sounded better. Another thing I like about this release is there’s a little more variety. Oh, don’t worry…3 Kisses is still your favorite Texas party pop punk band…they didn’t shy away from their roots or anything like that…they just expanded their sound without going too far away from what you expect to hear from them. There’s some great new tunes to be heard here. “Psycho Stalker,” “Lethal Love Addiction” and “All That Matters Is Love” to name a few. Bottom line…if you’re gonna buy one album this month…make sure it’s this one.
DENNY WHEATLEY – BLAME IT ON THE WHISKEY: I’m not a huge fan of country music. I wouldn’t even consider myself a casual fan. It’s just not my trip. Although, every now and then, I’ll hear an album that will stick with me for one reason or another. This one…okay…maybe I got hooked on it because it goes well with Captain & Coke, which happens to be my new best friend. I can really relate to this album while I’m in a drunken state, especially the title track, “Blame It On The Whiskey.” What can I say…I love me a good drinkin’ song…and this one is worthy of kickin’ back with a cold one. Now, as I’m sure you all know, EVERYTHING sounds good when you’re intoxicated. So, in order to form an honest opinion, you have to sober up and give the album a listen with a clean head…which I did…and…BIG SUPRISE…I still got into the album. It’s kind of hard for me to explain because, under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to an album like this. Like I said…it’s not my trip. But, I do like good music regardless of the style and I have to give credit where credit is due…this is a pretty good disc. It kinda grew on me. Now, I’m not sayin’ that I dig every song on this disc. There’s a few that didn’t do too much for me. I just happen to like more than I dislike. Goin’ through the disc…let’s see…the tunes that really do it for me (besides the title track) include “The Faker,” “Cry, Cry Baby,” “Now You’re Gone,” “The Bottom Of A Bottle” and “If It Weren’t For You.” If you’re a country music fan, I’m sure you’ll like this album and, if you’re not, at least give it a chance. It might suprise you.
JAKOB MARTIN – LEAVE THE LIGHT ON: I don’t have too much to say about this release. There’s five tunes. Radio-friendly singer/songwriter material that’s solid and well written. However, it’s a bit too laid back for me to listen to on a regular basis. It’s an album I’d have to be in the mood for…like…maybe when I’m in the car or something like that. I think the people who read this column will be into it because it’s not a bad release. Not at all.
MISTER HYDE – HYDRO-LIK: I’ve known Mister Hyde for a few years now and even though I’ve been to more shows than I can count, I wasn’t too familiar with his music due to the fact that…well…I didn’t have any…other than the few that I got from his MySpace page. So, this is the first time I can actually sit down and listen to what he has to offer…and what a way to get started. “Hydro-Lik” is a 23 track CD. After going through it a few times, I noticed that Mister Hyde has two sides. On one side, some of his tunes are middle of the road. Not a lot of energy…more laid back. On the other side, which is the side I like the best, Mister Hyde is a ball of energy and his rapid-fire lyrics make you wanna get up and move. There’s a lot of music to hear on this album and it’s hard to pick out a few favorites. But, I feel he’s at his best on tracks like “Pass The Rock,” “Invincible,” and “From The Streets” (with Lil D) to name a few. Ask me tomorrow and I’d probably name a few different tracks. It changes daily…and that’s a good thing…because the album does have a lot of variety and that’s what keeps me coming back for more. If you’re into rap music…check out what Mister Hyde’s throwin’ down. You’ll dig it.
MICHAEL McGRATH – GOOD THING GOING: If I’m not mistaken, “Good Thing Going” is Michael’s second release and, for the most part, the tunes are, I think, in the vein of radio friendly singer/songwriter material. Although, there are some tunes on here that are more close to the style of rock ‘n’ roll that you heard on the radio in the 80’s. Tunes like “Good Thing Going,” “Back On The Same Track,” “I Don’t Care” and “Looking For A Good Time” are the kind of songs that put you in a party mood. They’re energetic and upbeat and, for me, they’re probably the best of the bunch. Now, if you want to hear something different, he also has an album called “There Goes My Heart” which is a bit more mellow. Piano ballads, acoustic material, some of the tunes could even be considered folk. At least that’s the way I hear them. Obviously, Michael is a musician of many talents. For me, personally, I’d rather sink my teeth into his more rockin’ tunes because I think that’s when he’s at his best.
SORAIA – SHED THE SKIN: I’ve been writing about music for a long time. Every now and then I get into this mood where all I think about is calling it a day. It’s like…why continue…why not find something else to do? When I get like this, I end up going through the motions. I’ll throw in an album…yeah…that’s good…next. Here’s another one that’s not so bad…this one’s okay…yeah…another one…blah, blah, blah…and just when I feel like I’m at the end of my rope…I hear an album that gives my passion for music a good kick in the ass and I’m excited again. It’s like…here’s the reason I do what I do. This is why I go through album after album…just to hear that one record that has that something special…that spark…that magic. Well, “Shed The Skin” is the album that does it for me this time around. It’s interesting because I’ve had this album for quite some time now and I would listen to it here and there. I never really gave it the attention it deserved. But, when I did…wow…it hit me like a freight train…and it’s not like they’re really doing anything new. They’re kinda like…classic rock mixed with garage rock and an energetic female vocalist. It’s just that they deliver each song with such power and passion…you can’t help but get hooked. It’s a worthy addition to any collection.