Alright: A Conversation with Jeffrey Gaines

Mike Ragogna: Jeffrey, your new album Alright is your first studio album in fifteen years. You recorded the project in LA with producer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Price plus you used musicians who’ve backed Jackson Browne, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams, Elvis Costello, and Squeeze who record on their own as “Jackshit.” How did you assemble this team?

Jeffrey Gaines: Chris Price was highly recommended by the record company, I knew that I was going to be recording in California so I suggested/insisted that we use [the band] Jackshit. I’d grown quite fond of Beau Shits’ video blogs on guitars and tech. Val McCallum and myself enjoyed working with one another on my last Hollywood recording Toward the Sun produced by Mitchell Froom, and we’d always kept in touch and hoped that we would get to work together again. This would serve as the perfect opportunity.

MR: From the artist’s perspective, what are the major differences, thematically or creatively, between Towards The Sun and Alright?

JG: Thematically the records I’ve made in Hollywood, USA, aren’t too far removed. With “To Be Free” and “I Will Be,” it seems to me they’re speaking from the same soul’s voice. I just think that this recording sounds like a closer, more intimate connection.

MR: What was it like working with this group of people?

JG: Working with this group of people was a joy for sure. I had a great time making a great record with really great people. Mr. Pete Thomas from Scheffield, U.K., I believe…well, I’ve been lovingly listening to his playing with The Attractions since 1978. Prior to this recording experience, I had only ever dreamt of playing with him. Davey Faragher from Redlands, California, I first met as a member of the band Cracker. We were on the bill together on NPR’s Mountain Stage. I fondly recall how we hit it off instantly. So it was terrific getting to work with him finally. Val McCallum from Los Angeles is at this records center musically and personally. There’s just an awful lot of good chemistry that we shared out there at Fox Force Five Recorders. Chris Price from Miami is so accomplished and excels at so many things. I mean, he’s the walking talking example of what one can do when one puts ones mind to it. So, sure, he’s a multi instrumentalist. Put anything in front of him and immediately some involuntarily impulse within him will begin to deconstruct, devour, and then very quickly master it. His abilities only strengthen when pressure is applied. A true champ whatever the game. Having him sharing his many talents was priceless.

MR: How did the songs come together? 

JG: Songs I have, and songs I’ll make to suit the situation. You unfurl your wares and the folks that you’re working with will gravitate naturally to a certain batch of songs. You go with the ones that feel right and you put the others away until they hopefully find another occasion. This offering of songs was just a matter of natural selection given the circumstance. To be continued.

MR: What is involved in the creative process for Jeffery Gaines these days? Has anything changed personally in how you’re approaching your music?

JG: What has changed in the creative process for me is the reward system. Of course, music is its own reward but there is also an undeniable allure that drives and motivates ones output. What I’m referring to is music matters more or less based on many variables and whom you’re hanging out with. Oh if only I had a Muse to amuse.

MR: [laughs] Back in 2001, your album Always Be included your take on Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” that became pretty popular. Your album Jefferey Gaines includes your hit “Hero In Me,” and over the years, your fans have elevated many of your album tracks to JG “classics” status. Which of your projects are you most proud of and why?

JG: I’m proudest of the collected works and I hope that that work carries on. Hopefully, a momentum from this recording swells positively whisking me surely and quickly into the next offering. I’d be quite prepared for that eventuality.

MR: How did Alright go to Omnivore and how will they be promoting the project?

JG: I was introduced to Cheryl Pawelski of Omnivore Recordings after a show that I played for Miles Davis House at SXSW March 16, 2017 and was very happily delivering this recording thanks to everyone involved by the end of August 2017. Like anything worth doing, it came inexplicably and without method. It’s my hope that all parties involved will be promoting this project to the extent of all of our abilities. Thank you for the opportunity to tell your readers about this record!

MR: Of course, thanks for the thanks! Has anything changed for on the “live performance” front? What are your touring plans for the album or in general?

JG: Touring plans are unfolding as we speak, day to day things are shaping up nicely. Hopefully, this record opens up some unexpected surprises and new avenues to journey–summer festivals, some intercontinental touring and the like, the reaching of many more ears.

MR: Jeffrey, what advice do you have for new artists?

JG: None of the advice that I would give is anything that I am the product or embodiment of. However, I would wish for anyone that they do an empowering thing, a thing that, when it finishes, they’re left on a psychological, physical, spiritual and emotional high. A high that doesn’t necessarily depend on how that artistic expression is received by others. For an example, see Talking Heads. But most of all of my advice can be summed up succinctly this way: Strengthen your strengths and rejoice, distilled down to focus on the good.

MR: Beautiful. What will you be working on in 2018, creatively or even personally?

JG: I’ll be working on taking my own advice in 2018.

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