'Bouncin' His Way To The Top!'
Singer/songwriter Jeff Black takes one of American music’s most unique journeys to some remarkable new places with the July 26th release of his fourth album 'Tin Lily' on Dualtone Records.
It's his finest record to date, showcasing the bare-knuckled, blue-collar brand of songwriting that has become one of Black's trademarks. His desire to dig deeper, to cut to the marrow is another hallmark of Black’s writing. Songs like the blues-inflected “Easy On Me”, the swaggering rock of “Libertine” and “Free At Last,” or the tender ferocity of love songs "Hollow Of Your Hand" and "Heaven Now" delve into a complex emotional territory with a simplicity that often belies the songwriting craft.
Songs from 'Tin Lily' were also featured on "All Things Considered" when Jeff appeared as a guest on August 9th.
But beyond his powerful new album, Jeff has broken new ground with Black Tuesdays, his free podcast that unleashes a treasure trove of rare live shows, unreleased tracks and songs from Black's album catalog. And for an artist with one of the most rabid – and growing – followings in music today, these wildly popular podcasts have defied current industry trends to become an instant global sensation. "No one can really steal anything from you if you give it away,” Black says. “Getting the word out about the music is all that matters. I write songs and perform because I want to share my music. 'Black Tuesdays' is an exciting new way for me to connect with people."
Chatting recently with the man himself, I first wondered why the time was now right to unleash this album on the general public? "I just follow the songs around ... they dictate what the production will be and what other songs they want to live with. Then in the end you come to a place where you're just finished with it. You have to start and finish in some sort of timely fashion or you might become one of those folks who have been working on their project for years. I couldn't do that. Creatively it's not healthy. There are always things you would change if you had more time and money but ultimately you have to finish what you start and move on. It had just gotten to be that time I suppose."
Was it always to be called Tin Lily? "Yes. It was in passing that someone pointed out a hand-smithed lantern on the wall of an old meeting house in Kentucky and referred to it as a 'Tin Lily.' It haunted me for a few years."
Which of the tracks taken from the new album do you feel encapsulates Jeff Black at his finest? "I hope there is someone out there who is more qualified to answer that question. I couldn't put anyone through that. My self deprecating Irish disposition would only lead to heartache. I'm partial to them all."
And, while we're on the subject of revealing things, is it true that you when you were still only ten years old that you 'persuaded' your parents to buy you a guitar?! So, what acts of persuasion were needed at that young age?! "My brother played a little and I had to convince them that I would really learn. I begged a lot and made promises that I'm sure I did not keep. They may have been afraid of the noise and aggravation. I made good on that and proceeded to drive everyone insane. When I bought my first electric (60's Harmony hollow body for $60.00) and a Fender Twin reverb, I know they were convinced that I was serious and ... loud. My folks were always the best about instilling the ideas that we could do anything we wanted to do in life. I probably didn't need to persuade them all that much now that I think about it!"
Tell us more also about your free Podcast, 'Black Tuesdays' and how people can obtain it? "It's rare takes, live cuts, interviews, and some entire shows from my cardboard box archives of a life on the big highway I guess is the description. I love to share the music and it's a great way to get in touch and keep in touch with the people that like what I do. Fans and friends from all over the world have been tape trading my music for a long time and I love the idea. I would just ask for a copy and put it in a box. I didn't know I was archiving a weekly retrospective at the time. It's a great outlet creatively to be able to give all these songs a home."
"It's really easier to subscribe to than what some folks might think. We've got all the details on the "almanac" page at my website (www.jeffblack.com), but if you have iTunes or a similar program such as iPodder for PC's or iPodderX for mac you can subscribe by dragging the link on my site into the iPodder software window and it will download automatically. Each week the new podcast is automatically available. You don't have to have an iPod and the software is free and easy to download. You listen when you want and that's the only way a lot of people can operate these days."
Before your professional career in the music business, you worked at a gas station, a car wash, a warehouse, and even in a club as a bouncer ... but which was your favorite at the time and why?! "Being a bouncer was my favorite only because it was the closest to the music. I never really liked any of it because my heart was someplace else. I knew when I was a boy that I wanted to play music. I was lucky to know. I have fond memories of working at the gas station."
Have you a funny (or inspirational!) story to tell of just one of your musical encounters among the many journey's that you have taken thus far? "We used to close down the bar and stay up all night after throwing people out and slinging whiskey. I played guitar with Luther "guitar Jr." Johnson at an after hours party in Kansas city one time ... I don't think he was impressed. I had a great time though and then one time I was touring with Steve Earle on his "Train a Comin'" tour when Bill Monroe showed up to guest on a song with him. Bill stayed and played for about an hour when Peter Rowan gingerly thanked Bill in a way that sent a message that the jam was complete. Bill smiled, removed his cowboy hat and exclaimed to the audience "When the captain's on the bridge, the captain's on the bridge!" I wouldn't have traded being in the wings for that one for the world!"
All your songs seem smothered in personal realism, but can they all truly be such ... or are some just fanciful stories constructed for the listener's pleasure? "I always have an audience in mind. Every artist does I believe, or should anyway. I can only write what I see and know from my perspective. I don't think the people that listen to my music care about fanciful stories or ones coming from me anyway. I've always treated my writing as a journal. I like to document the episodes in my life and the influences of my neighborhood seem to fall right in."
OK, what "cheesy" '80s song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! "I don't ever want to go back to the 80's ... ever!"
What would you say has been your crowning musical achievement thus far? "Teaching my kids little songs then hearing them sing."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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