Interview by Luc Brunot.
Original version of the interview published in Bands Of Dixie #83 (November - December 2011)
The common thread between Asphalt Ballet, Coup De Ville, the Regulators, Alligator Stew? Gary Jeffries of course! Here is an endearing rocker, an honest and uncompromising artist who doesn't calculate and who gives all to the music he loves... Southern rock! Here at Band of Dixie, we loved talking with the one who probably released the best Southern rock album of the year.
You made a name for yourself with Asphalt Ballet. What was your musical history prior this period?
Before Asphalt Ballet, I was quite busy. Where do I start? Okay, the first gig I remember was a 4-H (youth program) talent show at the Reynolds, Indiana Fair Grounds. I was probably around 13 years old. I had been playing my Silvertone guitar for about a year or so. I remember learning songs like "Dirty Water" by the Standells, "You Really Go Me" by The Kinks, maybe "Sunshine Of Your Love" by Cream.
I put together a three piece band that I called The Gallaways. We were local friends from an area called The National Homes. We practiced in my backyard, or when my parents got tired of hearing us, in my bass player's garage - that was Did Landrum's house. Jim Ware, my drummer, lived next door. We practiced after school and weekends. We played locally - in our home town, the Armory and Youth Center and soon, high school dances. Things were startin' to progress - more gigs and busier schedules. It was at this time that I began to see music turn into an important part of my life - a career that I'd take seriously. (This is the phase where you see the real musicians develop and the not-so-serious musicians make excuses and slowly fade away.) Within a few years, Jim Ware left the band. I brought in a new drummer, added another guitarist and keyboardist, and renamed the band to H.O. Brown. Soon, we were opening for group acts like REO Speedwagon and Cheap Trick. I was serious about music and it was during this time that I decided I wanted to be a rock star and to do this for the rest of my life.
This was the 1970's. We covered top 40 radio hit to stay booked and put in 10 of our own songs, which we recorded (and, I still have). We played at top 40 clubs, four to six days a week, four hours a night. H.O. Brown played a Southern Rock style with flavors of bands from the American Midwest, like Night Ranger, Styx, Head East, Ted Nugent, and also bands from the South like Molly Hatchet and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The band was growing more mature as we entered our early 20's. Some band members moved onto college, some members wanted to settle in to getting married and play only a couple times a month, and other changes. But, I wanted to be a rock star, so I played in several more cover bands doing shows all week long to pay bills and get tighter on my singin' and guitar playin'. It was then that I started to get deeper into Southern Rock groups like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot and Marshall Tucker. I also started listening to Bob Seger and Credence Clearwater Revival (CCR.) I loved the slide guitar and pursued a band with three guitarists. I was crazy over Southern Rock bands and was ready to move further on in my career.
In the late 1970's, I ended up moving to Louisiana. I wanted to hook up with a Southern Rock band with a bluesy slide with kind of a swamp feel. I jammed with a lot of great players and bands, but just never felt it was materializing. I met guitarist, Danny Whitherington, at this time who had a three piece band called, Coup De Ville that was playing every weekend. They been around for years and this was my first knowledge of Coup De Ville. It was several years later that we actually got together and did a CD. They did a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughn and blues flavored music, but they never did any original music. I always admired them.
I was ready to take another chance and I got the wild hair to move to Los Angeles, California. I had heard Quiet Riot was auditioning singers, so I wanted to see if I fit. So, I talked my girlfriend, Cindy (who is now my wife), into driving with me to L.A. We took off in 1984 in Cindy's 1984 Pontiac Sunbird with everything we owned. I did two auditions with Quiet Riot, but didn't get the gig. But, we stayed in California and I continued to pursue my musical dream. This was at the time when Ratt and Motley Crew were on the scene. I wasn't sure about that music, but it looked like it was 'happening'. If I wanted to be a rock star, I knew that I'd better make it happen soon, even if it turned out to be a wrong move.
I cut off my mustache and goatee to be in a band called Passion. Ok, in short it just wasn't me. We played shows with Warrant, Saint Valentine and other similar bands. It was just not my cup of tea. I continued to play with several bands on the California Sunset Strip before I fell into Asphalt Ballet. I was at a Los Angeles, California rehearsal studio doing an audition with guitarist, Alex Masi, when the owner said that the band, Mistreated, was auditioning singers. These guys were looking to get away from the poppy glam sound to something more fun, original and interesting. I did one audition and got the job. Mistreated soon became Asphalt Ballet.
That was a long answer. But, it had been a long ride for me to just that point in time.
In an interview for the French "Rock Hard" magazine a few years ago, you said "The press saw us as a band of four Metal boys from Hollywood behind a Southern rock singer." What defines a Southern rock singer to you?
Yes, that quote came out in "Screamer" Magazine or maybe it was "Rock City News" magazine - both are local music magazines in Los Angeles and the Hollywood, California area. I think that the local music press came up with that comment because I didn't sing like the local screamers and singers that hit all clean high notes. I think I came on the scene in a beat up cowboy hat, singin' in a style that was a little more blues-based with more soul. I was a singer who appreciated being there at that time and I appreciated our fans.
'To define a Southern Rock singer' - is to me is someone who sings from his heart and soul. He sings a story about real life, not just made up stories in order to sound like the current 'flavor of the week' singer and songs he's singin'. A Southern Rocker's song is a story of his life that is sung with pain and passion. A Southern Rock singer has a voice that is a little whiskey soaked because he's either partied too much or drank his pain away as he sang. A true Southern Rock singer will always be a Southern Rock singer. He doesn't have to fit in with what's currently on radio. He'll stay true to himself and his Southern Rock style. I think a Southern Rock singer is tied to family and the meaning of family, and is a provider. I don't think a true Southern Rock singer will sell out. He ain't gonna change his style 'cause there's no market for his style. He probably wants you to like his music that's truly from his heart. That's how I define a Southern Rock singer. Not a whole lot of em left, but I do think they could resurface soon. Country music is trying to take on a Southern Rock sound, but it truly isn't the real deal.
What are your influences, especially about the singers?
I do have my influences along the way, just like the original pioneers of Southern Rock music. I first remember Elvis Presley, who my family always played on vinyl and listened to on the radio. Then came artists like Chuck Berry and soon, The Beatles. I remembering liking bands such as the Rolling Stones, Kinks, The Animals and Yard Birds and singers such as, Mick Jagger, Ray Davies, Eric Burdon, and early English bands and their sounds. I also liked Jim Morrison of The Doors, Bob Seger, Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) and of course, Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd. They all had a big influence on me as I developed my own style.
I loved Skynyrd when they first came out. I bought a brown Gibson Explorer in 1976, after I seen it used in their band. I think Allen Collins played it. It was about that time that I was truly finding my own style and being more myself vocally. And, I wanted to start my own thing.
It seems you were the only one to pulls the band towards Southern rock. Was it frustrating or was it a wish for you to mix these different influences?
With Asphalt Ballet, I heard a lot of Southern Rock potential. Yes, they were a hard-edged rock band. They had two great guitarists that worked together really well - two different style guitarists with great sounds. Ok, most Southern Rock bands have at least two guitarists. We had a simple hard hitting drummer and a good bass player. We wrote real songs based on good stories; some true stories. I sang how I liked singin', maybe threw in a few screams, but stayed blues-based. Shoot, we did a great version of "Wishing Well" by Bad Company / Blackfoot. So, it was fun. This was an era of bands like Slaughter, Scorpions, Damn Yankees, Skid Row, Bullet Boys, Mr. Big, Cinderella and London Quireboys. There weren't many Southern Rock singers in those bands. We were different than a lot of late 1980's early 1990's bands. People on the Hollywood Sunset Strip didn't know if we were cool or not, or if we could be the next big thing. I was enjoying it and I was being me and that made everything OK. You gotta be true to yourself. I always have and always will.
When did you leave the band?
Well, I think I left Asphalt Ballet in late 1992 or '93. We had been on the road touring for almost a year. I remember when we did our first music video for MTV, "Soul Survive". Our producer, Sam Bayer, had said he had just returned from Seattle, Washington, after doing a video for a strange band called Nirvana. It was Nirvana's, "Teen Spirit", a video with yellow tones and a rougher edge. Our video had a flavor similar to the "Teen Spirit" video, thanks to Sam who produced both. On a side note, our manager at the time had been asked to manage Nirvana, but chose to only work with us. Anyway, that band, Nirvana, and their "Teen Spirit" video totally changed the music scene. All anyone heard about was Nirvana and Grunge bands and Grunge music. Record labels were ready to jump on this next 'flavor of the week" music and shelve the current line ups. I could see that our label, Virgin Records, wasn't into us anymore because we weren't a Grunge band.
My wife became pregnant, by me of course, and I asked my label for $500 to help on a doctor bill. If you know rock star wages, you should know we might make $150 a week with no benefits as far as health insurance or anything. My label told me that they "couldn't take care of rock stars' kids". So, I had to get a day time job to support my family. I directly left the Asphalt Ballet tour bus to go get a regular job in Monroe, Louisiana. Here I was, working in a shopping mall and I occasionally had seen my video "Soul Survive" as well as two others by Asphalt Ballet on MTV. Go figure.
After I left the band, I think Asphalt Ballet tried to change to fit more into a Seattle Grunge style, the new 'flavor of the week'. I remember reading in one of their interviews that they said that the second time around, they didn't want a singer with a bluesy or soulful voice. When they hired a new singer and recorded a new CD, they were immediately dropped from the record label. Virgin Records was no longer interested in Hard Rock, Hard Rock bands, including Asphalt Ballet.
I wrote a song, "Southern Pride", on my ride home from my last show with Asphalt Ballet. Read the lyrics; it talks about me going through thinkin' that I was crazy for leaving a touring band with a popular video on MTV. People told me, "You're crazy!" Not true. If a multi-million dollar record label couldn't spare enough money for just a little medical help, I wanted nothing to do with em. And, I'd do it all the same again. But "Southern Pride" on my new Middle Class Man CD is about that whole time.
Then, in Louisiana, you joined Coup De Ville. How long did this adventure last?
Coup De Ville was a three piece cover band that played all over the South. I met them in the late 1970's before moving to Los Angeles, California in the 1980's. After I left Asphalt Ballet in 1993, I started jamming with Coup De Ville. It was fun, and the band was staying busy doing covers and top 40 bar gigs. But, they didn't make enough time for originals. So, I decided to move back to L.A. around 1994. I still had California fever. I had to get back.
In 1995, Danny Witherington called me in Los Angeles. Coup De Ville wanted to come to Los Angeles and I thought this was GREAT. These guys had been together forever and are tight together. I thought that Los Angeles would love these true Louisiana rednecks. I couldn't wait to hear their new songs. Well, when they got to Los Angeles, they only had two original songs, but wanted to record a full length album in a two week time period. I had a few new songs that I had been workin' on a recent jam session with some friends. I showed Coup De Ville these new songs "Rose Thorn Bed", "California Cowboy", "Southern Pride" and "Free My Soul" ("Free My Soul" is included on my new CD, "Middle Class Man"). And, we wrote a few new fast ones in my garage.
During the other 10 days that they were in LA we wrote, rehearsed, got things ready and lined up a recording studio. We recorded a CD worth of material in four days! Our CD, "La. To L.A.", was done very fast. The band returned to Monroe, Louisiana and never returned to Los Angeles. They were satisfied with doing those four hour cover gigs and now having a new CD. I think Coup De Ville pressed 400 copies of the CD and has since never pressed another. It was a great CD, but, not too many people heard it.
Coup De Ville still plays Louisiana as a three piece band. Great guys and good band.
Thus, in 2001 was released "La. to L.A.". What was the line-up on this record?
On lead guitar was Danny Witherington, drums was Dave Reeves and bass was Robbin Antly. Chris Turbis from The Regulators played some keyboard and I played rhythm guitar and sang lead. The CD recorded in 1995, was released around 2001.
When did you join the regulators and why?
Actually, I was jamming with The Regulators a couple years after Asphalt Ballet at the time when I had left Asphalt Ballet and moved back to Los Angeles from Louisiana. A management company hooked us up. They seemed like an established Southern Rock band and maybe something I was looking for, but you don't know how the boot fits till ya try it on and wear it. It just never fit right. I know what I wanted in a Southern Rock band. This was good, but not quite the right band for me.
What in the Regulators was not for you?
As far as why The Regulators didn't work for me, I felt that they had already written the music that they wanted for a new CD. They weren't really open for any changes on melodies or lyrics. I was not feeling the melodies that were goin' on in these songs. I really wanted to add my own style to them, but I don't think they wanted that. I felt that I was just singin' another cover song. Plus, it seemed that the band was going through some changes that didn't seem to be positive to me. I wanted to contribute more and not just sing and play their music only...so I went on to do my own thing.
For "Bar & Grill" (reissued as "Above The Law"), you are on the rhythm guitar and sing only once. Was it frustrating for a singer like you?
No, not really. It was fun and more about helping the band out. I did love playing that brown Gibson Explorer in a Southern Rock band again. There was no pressure, but I knew deep down inside, that I really needed to form my own band. I sang several of their songs on an EP called "Real Deal" that was never released. I just wasn't feeling it. Three of those songs I do sing on "Bar And Grill": "Burn Them Bridges Down", "Above the Law" and "Lies" [Editor's note: the two versions of the CD credit Gary Jeffries on vocals only for "Lies" but he really sings the three songs]. It was a good CD.
I also sang "Eatin Crow" and "Real Deal" on what they called their EP. It was a 5 song EP [Editor's note: Gary Jeffries is on vocals for all the songs]. I really dug the song, "Real Deal".
The album was released in 1998. Had it been recently recorded or done a few years back?
Some of the songs I sang in 1995 and 1996. Ronnie sang them again in 1997 or '98. So, it was probably 1995 to '97 that the songs were actually recorded. The Regulators had gone through a lot of member changes and some rocky times.
What was the audience about the Regulators?
Bikers loved The Regulators. We had the same kind of audience as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet and Blackfoot. We had a hard drinkin', rowdy party crowd.
Did they only play in bars and clubs or sometimes in front of bigger audiences?
The Regulators mostly played clubs and bars. Occasionally we would get a big gig here or there. I think The Regulators had their better days in the early 1990's when guitarist, Jimmy Hughes, was in the band and they were on Polydor Records. Tragically, Jimmy Hughes was shot by a gun after a show and killed. This caused a big change in the Regulators. Jimmy was the nucleus of the band. When he was gone, I'm not sure they regained the right line up. They were a very good band but might have lacked that perfect chemistry after Jimmy was gone.
We don't have here too much info about the Regulators history. Could you tell us a little bit about them?
Well, The Regulators were a real bunch of beer drinkin', hell raisers. We sometimes let the alcohol abuse ruin a few of our great times. Sometimes, instead of rehearsing, we got drunk and talked, not that I always remembered what we talked about.
The band featured great musicians with a great manager, Ray Carver. We played motorcycle events and some very cool Southern Rock shows. The Regulators was a great Southern Rock band.
When and how was Alligator Stew set up?
Around 1995 I had met this incredible swampy slide guitar player named, John Andrews. He was playing these great guitar licks and I put words to 'em. He knew this drummer named Pappy who was kind of like The Cream drummer, Ginger Baker. This was about the same time Coup De Ville was in L.A. recording when I was also checking out The Regulators. So, I had three things on the burner while tryin' to put my own band together out of all of these pieces. John, Pappy and I always had a cheap recorder plugged in and we recorded almost everything we did. It was just real jam sessions on tape that later came out on the Grouchy Rooster CD, "Real And Raw".
My cousin, Doug Richardson, also a Southern Rocker, had just moved to Los Angeles, so I asked him if he wanted to jam with a new band I was putting together. He said sure! Now, we had four band members that would become Alligator Stew. We needed a keyboardist, so I asked Chris Turbis to join, but he was too busy with The Regulators, helping them finish record "Bar And Grill". So, we found this incredible keyboardist named, Danny Bierne, who is a lot like Jerry Lee Lewis meets Billy Powel (Skynyrd)! Pappy went onto another band, and so we picked up another drummer that we found through the Hollywood magazine, Music Connection. T. C. Markle was the last piece of the puzzle.
We started playing Southern Rock in Hollywood and then in Los Angeles, and the crowds were loving us and the change! They were tired of the Grunge and Metal. We were selling out on the Sunset Strip and getting great reviews while doing all original Southern Rock music. Soon, we did our first CD, "Alligator Stew", that we released through CD Baby and a label from Germany called, Halycon Records. Halycon re packaged our CD, added two songs and re-released it as A First Taste of Alligator Stew. It did okay. We didn't financially profit, but had a good time. We got our CD around the world in middle 2008 or maybe sooner and that was very cool.
We recorded one of our big shows in Monticello, Indiana and released CD, "Welcome To Monticello LIVE". We included a few new songs but it was mostly a fun, live performance that we wanted our fans around the world to experience. We produced our own music video with the help of K.C. Amos and Steve Mullsberry. It is called "Blood Money" and it had rotation on Country Music TV (CMT) and Great American Country (GAC) TV. You can see it on my website, www.garyleejeffries.com
, along with my other music videos.
It was around this time that my father had become very ill with cancer. I had spent so many years chasin' my rock 'n roll dream, and hardly any time with my family. My father had hardly seen my kids. I felt a deep need to help my Dad and to let his grandchildren get to know him. My mother had passed with cancer when I was younger when I was too busy playin' rock star to spend enough time with her. When my Dad got sick, I wasn't going to miss spending quality time with him as I had missed with my mother. Also, on a note "Middle Class Man" is dedicated to my Mom.
I moved back to the Midwest to be near my father again, and I left all music and Alligator Stew behind. Family was comin' first. But, Alligator Stew had been a great swampy Southern Rock band.
You mentioned another band, Grouchy Rooster ("Real And Raw" in 2003). Can you tell us a few more words on it?
Grouchy Rooster was a jam type band. Earlier in this interview, I had mentioned that when I was working with The Regulators, I was writing with this incredible slide guitarist named, John Andrews, and drummer, Pappy. The tapes and rehearsal sessions we recorded later became the CD, "Real And Raw". We felt that those recordings had something cool about them. It wasn't officially produced, it was just real and live rehearsals we recorded so we could remember our songs. Some of the songs on "Real And Raw" were one-takes; we left the mistakes. I played bass on a few songs. Pappy started going through all the recordings. We sometimes ran through a song 10 times or more before moving on to another song. So, we had some fair recordings of some of the songs.
This group was a project that led into Alligator Stew. Some of the songs on Grouchy Rooster's "Real And Raw" were also on the Alligator Stew CDs - songs like "Louisiana Man", "You Gotta Give" and "Far Beneath The Rubble", and maybe a couple more. I don't know if we should have released Grouchy Rooster's "Real And Raw". It was an unproduced recording, during an era that developed into an Alligator from a Rooster. Ha! Grouchy Rooster was great fun. This is the only group of this type that was just a fun rehearsal band with music that ended up on CD.
And did you have a lot of others bands like that?
But wait, I forgot, I recorded probably 20 songs with Danny Clarke, lead guitarist from Asphalt Ballet. Together, we recorded some really great tunes. Their style and sound was sort of a cross between Asphalt Ballet and Southern Rock. "Flowers On My Grave" and "Free My Soul", on "Middle Class Man", were both writtin' with the help of Danny Clarke from Asphalt Ballet. We didn't gig a whole lot but did a good bit of writing and recording. We couldn't find the right players at the time. I will put some of these songs out someday soon. So get ready. I think I sent Didier a few from that era. Also, I just added some of them to my Reverbnation page www.reverbnation.com/garyjeffries
, as free downloads.
You just released the great "Middle Class Man". Did you work on it for a long time?
I guess you could say, yes, for almost 20 years. The second song on the CD, "Heaven Winds Blow", was on the Asphalt Ballet CD. Some of the songs covered 20 years of my life. I have done approximately nine CDs to date, and I feel that none of them have really been heard enough. So, for "Middle Class Man", I wanted to re-record some of my all-time favorites from the last 20 years. People ask me why? Well, I want them all on one CD, kind of my 'best of' collection. For example, considering Coup De Ville only pressed 400 CDs, not many people heard "Free My Soul" that is also on the "Middle Class Man" CD.
Asphalt Ballet might have sold 40,000 copies. But, not many people really got to hear "Heaven Winds Blow" or "Blood On The Highway" - great songs and that sounded somewhat like Southern Rock and I thought maybe people could appreciate them today, so I included them on "Middle Class Man". "I Know Ya Too Well" was recorded on "Welcome To Monticello LIVE" by Alligator Stew. But, I wanted to record that song in a real studio. So, I did just that and put it on my "Middle Class Man" CD.
Of course, while growing up, 'Bad Moon Rising' by CCR was one of the first songs I learned when playin' guitar. It was always a personal favorite so I felt it would be a good cover for the new CD. So, I put my favorites from the past and some new ones on the "Middle Class Man" CD. I had been planning for the CD for a few years. Just never had the finances to get it off the ground. Too busy paying all my other bills with nothing was left over - the new plight of the middle class. Then, last October 2010 I said, "Screw it. I'm spendin' every last cent on this CD. I'm tired of paying the mortgage. I'm tired of paying my light bill and gas bills and everything else". I went for broke. I spent everything I had, which ain't a lot in comparison to what a record label spends. Doing so got me several mortgage payments behind on my house. I had my electricity shut off once and my water shut off once. I still get a lot of daily telephone calls from bill collectors. Matter of fact, just yesterday I put a recorder into the phone to record my conversations with bill collectors. I'm putting them on CD with background music. It kind of goes with the "Middle Class Man" theme, because we can't keep up with our bills. I will send you one of these recordings someday. They are funny!
Do you have regrets putting all your money in the making of the CD and get these problems?
I know that I mention putting all of my money in the CD on that last question and I was VERY PROUD to do that. I was ready to put my money into my real love, rather than see it constantly eaten up by all of the monthly expense crap a person has to owe. I have NO REGRETS and would do it again very proudly. I still believe that the investment I have made in this CD will pay off, if the CD gets any airplay or people just give it a chance. I think it's one of my best and I have included some of my all-time favorites. So, DEFINITELY, I HAVE NO REGRETS. Even though I sounded like I was complaining in the last question...sorry... No Regrets!!!
According to MySpace, you are now based in Ohio. Are the musicians from the area?
The drummer is Randy Trent who I've been working with him for about five years. We have played a lot of shows throughout the Midwest (Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee) together as the Gary Jeffries Band. On bass is Steve Fletcher who has also played with me throughout Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee. He and I have worked together about five or six years. I play a lot of guitar and sing lead. Then, I add great local lead guitarists to play live gigs. I like to work with the keyboardist from the Alligator Stew CD, Danny Bierne, who lives in Columbus, Ohio. So, this gives me five great players.
A true Southern Rock guitarist is neither too Metal or too Country, but plays in between these two genres, and they are kind of rare these days. So, for the "Middle Class Man" CD, I brought out a buddy and friend from Santa Monica, California to record lead guitar, Mr. John Goodwin. He is one of the best Southern Rock lead guitarists in the country. He's recorded many CDs and is well known in Los Angeles, California. When I go to Europe, I will bring him to play lead guitar. I also, brought in a keyboardist, Jimmy Rogers, to play key parts on the CD.
Are John Goodwin CDs in a Southern rock style?
John Goodwin has a lot of Southern Rock style demos. He has worked with members of Thin Lizzy and the drummer from Megadeth and did session work for many groups, giving them what they wanted. His heart is really into Blues and Southern Rock. John and I are workin' on his next CD at the moment. It's great stuff that is kind of like a Robin Trower or Mississippi Delta style Blues. I will keep ya posted.
Do you have precise plans for coming to Europe?
No precise plans for Europe but I really do believe that if the CD picks up some momentum, we will be in Europe in 2012. I love that area; they have always been very supportive of my music over the last 20 years. I talk to people and fans from all around Europe every day, so I need to get over there.
I found two songs that were on "La. to LA but I didn't see nothing on the Alligator Stew CDs.
Well, the song, "I Know Ya Too Well" was on the "Welcome to Monticello LIVE" recording, but was never really recorded in a full blown, 24 track studio, so, I recorded it. Listen to "Monticello LIVE" - it's on there. The song versions may sound different, but they are both "I Know Ya Too Well". I love that song. It was influenced by my wife. Of course, I made it more interesting by throwing in some crazy and exaggerated lyrics!
Indeed, I had not spotted it.
In your favorites, how did you choose the songs?
In my live shows as the Gary Jeffries Band, I play usually three hours of original music - songs from Asphalt Ballet, Coup De Ville, Alligator Stew and other songs from the last 20 years. A few really stand out with the crowds and go over good. So I chose them from how they went over in live performances. Also, some I just liked singin'.
It's entitled after my song, "Middle Class Man" that pretty much tells the story of the struggle of my middle class friends and neighbors of the Midwest.
Can you tell us about the sessions?
Yes, we had been doing all these songs in our live shows for about the last two years. Some were just really going over great. Around September 2010, we went into my drummer's basement and I hooked up my handy 12 track recorder. We were getting our tempo's right and listening to the tapes to simplify or changes parts we thought didn't work. This pre-production didn't cost us and we would save us time and money when we got into the studio. During that time, I had saved enough funds for almost 20 hours of studio time. The bass and drummer parts were finished in 11 hours. So, I had nine more hours of time that I could afford, rather, not that I could afford, but would pay for it anyway. After listening to the drums and bass tracks, Ron Pease, from Refraze Recording Studio, and me decided we had to do some more work on the drums and bass. We spent nine more hours on that. So, I had rhythm tracks (bass and drums) recorded. Well, I said to myself, "I'm broke and I don't give a shit. I'm going to finish this CD, even if I lose everything I own." So, I quit paying my home bills and went back into the studio to lay down all my electric rhythm and acoustic guitar tracks. Of course, this process always takes longer than originally planned. But, I put down all guitars (acoustic and electric). It was soundin' good.
Next was vocals. I did a lot of one-takers on these. I knew them pretty well and I wanted a real sound without a bunch of overdubs. So, I finished vocals in two to three days. Next, came the harmonies. They went fast. I brought in a girl, Kristin Kincaid, from a church that had a nice gospel sound. She sang on "Free In Heaven", "Southern Pride" and "Middle Class Man". This was Kristin's first CD. Now, we needed a lead guitarist. I auditioned several guitarists and they just didn't feel right, so, as said previously, I contacted my buddy, John Goodwin, from Santa Monica, California. I sent him the Mp3s of the songs' basic skeleton tracks. He recorded lead guitar in about three weeks and sent 'em back to me. He had the guitar parts down great. They were so good he cut the tracks in his studio on all 12 songs. He then flew out to Ohio from California and together, we went in the studio. Basically, he laid his tracks onto our tracks. John re-recorded a few more things, then we mixed all tracks together. This took about three, eight hour sessions.
We were ready for the final mix. This took a good week of listening to and tweaking. I knew I wanted the CD to be called "Middle Class Man", and after spending every cent I had and more on this CD and having bill collectors call every day, I felt this CD was appropriately named. Star Ruotolo and Nancy Fallon had my artwork right on schedule; they are a big part of my grass roots, promotion and help on my new CD.
Hey, wish me luck. I gotta sell a few CDs to save my house. No, just joking. Thanks for all your support!
Why didn't you use your usual guitar and keyboard (Danny Bierne) players?
Danny Bierne is one of my favorite keyboardists and I wanted to use him on this CD. But, Danny was so busy touring at the time that I couldn't manage to get him into the studio. But, I'm gonna get him in on the next one. He is one of the greatest. John Andrews, who I consider to be one of my usual guitarists, was back in Los Angeles when I was doing this CD, and he too, didn't have the time to record and write parts for my new CD. I had considered several local guitarists that I used for gigs, but they just didn't have much experience with recording and writing original guitar parts. I remembered that John Goodwin was available and looking forward to recording. He was on it immediately. Great guitarist!!!!
Musically, how would you describe the style of the record?
I feel this is a good, edgy Southern Rock CD. It kind of intertwines my styles from Asphalt Ballet and Alligator Stew with a touch of Coup De Ville. It's kind of 'Rock' at times, and at others, has a 'Country' flair. Its real music from the heart and is done with a lot of passion. The last song on the CD is about four children that lost their lives too early in life, "Free In Heaven". Of course, "Southern Pride" was writtin' when I left Asphalt Ballet. In short, it's a hard hittin', Southern Rock CD that is guaranteed to make your road trip much better.
Is Gatorjaw your own label?
Yes, it's my very own independent label. I hope to put out more CDs on this label.
Do you seek a bigger label that could better promote and distribute you?
Yes, I would love to find a bigger label to further promote and distribute my music. This has been my intention. By putting it on my label and covering cost and production, I can do a CD the way I want. I have more control over it. I might even make a bigger share if it's on my label. But, I don't have the extra money to promote and I don't have the connections of a bigger label. So, I do feel that if the CD was to go platinum, I would need some help with extensive promotion and distribution. If I don't get a bigger label's help, I'm still gonna be pushin'. I'm gonna be on the Internet pushing and out gigging all I can. I will do everything in my power to push this CD, because I believe in it. I have a great website, www.garyleejeffries.com
, and the hits are growing. Please visit me there often!
Band of Dixie has been of great help and I appreciate it.
Sometimes, artists tell us they are struggling to sell their CDs in the United States and that fortunately there are Japan and Europe. Is it the case with you?
Yes, this is somewhat of the case. I think that the US is into what I call the 'flavor of the month' bands. These are the bands we hear on mainstream radio 10 times a day. These bands have a record label that buys them onto the radio in the US. Sometimes people don't venture out past the mainstream style here in the USA.
Southern Rock in the US is almost past tense. But, Country music is becoming popular. Even though some Country is trying to sound like watered down Southern Rock, Country Pop shoved down our throats, here. Fortunately, groups like Montgomery Gentry, Van Zant and Kid Rock are crossing Country with Southern Rock and people here are likin' it. Maybe again someday, Americans will like the real Southern Rock, if it's still around.
France, Germany, Italy and several European countries have supported me for years. Japan is now embracing my new CD, "Middle Class Man". I appreciate this so much. I talk to a lot of friends and fans from Europe. They are the ones keeping Southern Rock alive and I thank them! Then, there is Argentina in South America, too!
What do you think of the Internet influences and of the music illegal downloading problems?
Well, as far as the Internet, I LOVE IT!!! Thank god for it. If it weren't here, I don't know how I could get my music to other countries and heard by more people. It's been a life saver for independent artists. I'm not too good, tech wise, on the Internet, but I'm slowly getting around on it. I met you. I talk to my fans and friends all around the world. I don't know if I'd still be goin' if it weren't for the Internet. It's changed the whole music promotion scene. It's cut out some of the control by major record companies. I love the Internet.
As far as illegal downloading, it's just a part of the Internet game. I'd rather that listeners rip me off and at least like my music then be stuck in a contract with the big record label that owns my soul and every cent I make. So go ahead and download me, but at least tell a friend how good my song sounds. Please!
Do you play many shows?
Well, I don't feel I play enough shows. It's tough to get gigs in a lot of clubs in the US if ya don't play a lot of top 40 cover tunes. Maybe I should play more covers to get more gigs. The clubs might let you play two original songs per set. That's cool. Eight original songs per night. I think to play music and do it right you gotta play music you love; I don't love playin' songs written by other artists. A few ain't bad, but a whole night of covers ain't my thing. I see cover bands playin' four hours worth of music and every 10 minutes or so, looking at their watches sayin' "We only have 20 minutes left in this set." The night drags on and becomes de-energizing. When I play my original music, the night flies by, like a machine that's workin' great and I am in the zone!
I still play about eight to 15 dates per month. In the summer, I do a lot of motorcycle events and festivals. I play music from my current and past CDs.
In concert, do you play some rock standards covers nevertheless?
I play 95% of my own music. I throw in few Southern Rock classics from Blackfoot, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Marshall Tucker, Outlaws, Charlie Daniels and others.
I suppose you shared the stage with lots of famous bands all these years. What are your most vivid memories?
I think it was in Reno, Nevada when Alligator Stew opened for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Rickey Medlocke was on stage with us for the whole show, and then later partying with Ricky in the casinos after the show. I am a big Rickey Medlocke fan.
Being on the TV talent show, Star Search, in 1989 and winning second place against band, Little Texas, was also a dream come true. I met Ed McMann and spokes model, Bobbie Brown who later appeared in "She's My Cherry Pie" music video.
What are the Gary Jeffries projects then?
I am currently pushing this new CD, "Middle Class Man", playing shows to promote the CD and am planning to do a music video for the song, "Middle Class Man". I'm also writing new songs for a future CD. I have three almost finished. Also, working on a CD, featuring those annoying bill collectors who call my house (not to mention names) and see if I can make something interesting out of all of that! I'm recording their conversations and will put music tracks behind it. Kind of works for all us hard working middle class people, don't ya think?
Maybe the next "flavor of the month" musical style?
Don't know if it will be the flavor-of-the-month, but it will be interesting. My next CD will be ALL new music that I've written or will co-write with others. I'm workin' on a CD with my guitarist, John Goodwin, from the Middle Class Man CD. He has written a lot of the music and needs vocals, which I will write words and melodies. I will keep you posted.
What are your favorite Southern rock albums?
I can't remember all the titles, but I have always enjoyed listening to all the older Lynyrd Skynyrd albums, Blackfoot when Rickey Medlocke sang for them, the early Molly Hatchet, Greg Allman and Aerosmith "Get Your Wings". Oh, too many albums to list.
Thanks for all your time and supporting all of us independent bands and artists. You guys at Band of Dixie ROCK, and I truly appreciate your help and support!