Over the past few years, I have followed Jeff's career and travels from Chicago, to New York City, and even Paris. When I caught up with him recently he told me he's been living near D.C., collaborating on new material with musicians he has played with over the years, and enjoying the time now to be closer to home and family.
Currently in production of a new album, Jeff has decided to release two singles for our enjoyment; "Silver Spoon Denial" and "Leave Love Behind." I had the chance to digest them, and talk to Jeff a bit about where the heck he has been, what he's been doing, and most importantly, what we should know about the singles, and the direction of his career.
The first single may feature a slight diversion from the Jeff we know, sounding at first like an "anytime, anywhere, radio-friendly" offering. It also showcases his years of growth as an artist, having combined his talents with those of so many others over the years. "Silver Spoon Denial" begins with Jeff's unique, almost discordant rhythm, like a world beat waltz, followed by Jeff, almost in a mocking tone, singing "da da da da da..." to the melody of the song. As the band joins in, and the vocals soar, one might imagine a King's Court, listening to a traveling minstrel, spreading a message of love, and thanksgiving to those who desperately need to hear. I asked Jeff about his inspiration for this one, and he said it came to him while slinging drinks up in Brooklyn Heights. He explained that night after night, mostly affluent folks would sit, drink high-end liquors, and pour their problems or daily gripes on Jeff, bartender-therapist. Jeff remarked that his overwhelming feelings were generally those that many of us in that position would share. Just be thankful for what you have, look at your fifty dollar shot of bourbon as half full, not half empty. Jeff has gained great perspective in this area over the years, bouncing from band to band, and continent to continent. This really came through, not only in the song itself, but in the tone of Jeff's telephone voice. The message is clear, as the song winds down, taking a turn to the dirtier side of the musical spectrum, as he echoes the chorus, "give back the love you receive." In other words, instead of complaining, especially if you can afford to live a decent life, look around you, and help.
The second track "Leave Love Behind" features a little more of Jeff's trademark energy, although mellowed a tiny fraction, by his driving acoustic rhythm. In this song, his years of working with musicians from bands such as 24/7 SPYZ, Egypt, and Funk Junkies really show, as well as his growth as a songwriter and musician. The story is nothing new. People meet, fall in love, and then somewhere along the line it gets messy. This song tells that tale, and also alludes to the pointlessness of staying in a loveless situation for no other reason than familiarity, or habitual and hollow comfort. I particularly like the clean, chopping breaks, as well as Jeff's signature vocal delivery. This one is full of the rock and soul sounds we have come to expect from Jeff, and he takes those forces one step further by adding acoustic guitar to his ginormous vocal talent, combining various genres in one song to create a very listenable and upbeat cut.
Both tracks were engineered by Tripp Faulconer at Ravensworth Studio in Scottsville, VA, and mixed by one of Jeff's pals from the band Egypt, Andy Waldeck. Joining Jeff on these songs are; Will Thomas on bass and lead guitar, Jordan Marchini on drums, and Tripp played lead on "Leave Love Behind.” Jeff played everything else, and produced the tracks.
Finally, in talking to Jeff, we swapped stories of the music business. Jeff has learned over the years that if you believe the reviews, and the record sales, the business execs will lead you to believe you aren't good enough, and it can be a very discouraging process. One minute you are sharing the stage with Jane's Addiction in some stadium in L.A, the next you are hosting an open mic in NYC for a few bucks and a tab. We also joked about "getting signed.” Apparently, many hopefuls believe that once a label recognizes you, and grooms you, sets you up with showcases and the whole ride, then you instantly become a millionaire. Jeff and I laughed at this. Truthfully, unless you are a completely "buildable" TV and radio-ready package, you might be lucky enough for a couple of years to make about the same as your average city garbage collector, and then it's back to playing small clubs by night, and hanging drywall, or slinging hash by day. It can be a cruel business, but I am glad to see that Jeff has emerged happy, healthy, and full of inspiration for his upcoming solo release.
For review purposes, I do not give stars. I have no rating system, but I offer this in exchange, a little wisdom from a rock and roll icon. "Everyone is a star! Sly (Stone) told ya', everyone is a star. The problem is, not everyone has been put into the dipper, and poured back down on the world, that's what the answer is." -Little Richard circa 1970.
Jeff Brodnax has definitely spent his time in the dipper, swimming and bouncing among the stars and sharks. It's time now that Jeff Brodnax is poured down over this world, so that everyone may benefit, not only from his unique musical offerings, but from the lessons he has learned as a human being.
To hear these songs, see Jeff's bandcamp page here.