Monday, 28 July 2014 20:58
Written by Rudie Humphrey
Growing up on the outskirts of a dying auto industry, Jeb listened to the pop, rock and R&B sounds filtering across the Detroit river on Windsor, Ontario’s CKLW-AM. The inevitable quest for fame, or at least the opportunity to find the garage door opener, led Jeb and his rock band to Los Angeles where they landed several industry deals that never quite saw the light of day. While all this was going on, Jeb began to produce other artists. But the drive to write his own songs remained strong, and he formed a band with Solomon Burke, Jr., whose music he still produces. Fresh from fishing in the backwoods AUK caught up with Jeb.
Tell us about yourself and what you do?
I’ve always been a songwriter, I also sing and play guitar. Additionally, I engineer and produce records for others in my studio, Big Scary Tree, in Los Angeles. I’m also a staff teacher at Pinnacle College for Music Production and Recording Arts. When I’m not making music, teaching, or hanging out with my two-year-old son, I like to go fly-fishing, bird hunting and tele-ski.
How did you start out?
Over the years, I’ve played in many bands. In fact, I still play in a band with Solomon Burke’s kid. I write all the songs, play guitar and produce. It’s really cool, he sings like his dad and it's exhilarating to have that creative R&B outlet. However, my solo project is what’s really close to my heart. I work with session musicians when necessary, but at the end of the day I am 100% responsible for the music.
What is your current release?
My newest record is called Patina, released on Rankoutsider Records, featuring twelve original songs. As for future releases, I’ve already begun the process of putting together the next one. I plan to record in the fall of this year for a release in early 2015. Half of the songs are a little more rocking than Patina and I’m looking forward to cutting those with a live band. The rest will likely be acoustic and cut in a similar fashion as Patina, perhaps with a few string arraignments on top of my basic finger-picky guitar tracks. I’m pretty excited about getting back into the studio for my own music instead of everyone else’s!
What is the best part of being in a singer/song writer?
My favorite part of being a solo artist singer songwriter is that I have no one to blame but myself if things are not going right or sounding right. I also love the fact that I can draw an audience in with just my voice and a guitar. These days, so much can get lost in arrangements and layers of over-produced sounds. When you have a song that works with simple picking and singing it can be an amazing experience, pure and simple.
What is your most significant moment yet?
Hands down, watching my son being born! Musically speaking, it would be those moments when special songs seem to write themselves. I feel like they must have already existed, because the really good ones always seem to write themselves in under fifteen minutes.
What are your biggest musical influences?
I grew up listening to CKLW Radio in Windsor, Ontario which came in strong on the east-side suburbs of Detroit. They mostly played Motown and great, classic pop hits. I realized very early on that I wanted to create my own songs. As I got older, I became fascinated with progressive rock bands like King Crimson and hard rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and Humble Pie. After my rock/prog rock days, I moved to Arizona and got turned on to great country music. I fell in love the simplicity and soul of the lyrics and hearing the best musicians in the world playing with raw emotion and feeling. To get back to your question though, if you were to steal my travel iPod you would find mostly Tom Russell, James McMurtry, Greg Brown, Dave Alvin, James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, and Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell.
What venue/gig do you most want to play?
Anywhere and everywhere —- I treat all gigs the same. I tell my stories and play my songs with the same passion whether it's to six people at a bakery, a road gig in Texas, or a festival. That said, I seem to be at my best in the great West, where antlers hang from the saloon walls!
What is your favourite song you have written?
People are really responding to That's All She Wrote off my first album Grain, which I just released a new video for. It was one of those ten minute to write songs, from start to finish, and not much has changed over the years. I also think Pocket Knife off Patina is a special song, especially now that I have a son.
What is your favourite album of this year?
Lately I’ve found myself rocking out to a little unknown band from Durango, Colorado called Farmington Hill. They have a record out called Bridge to Nowhere and it rocks! Great slide guitar and funny, real-deal lyrics… check em out. It puts me in a good mood and is a great listen on road trips, too. Also, I’m hoping Tom Russell and James McMurtry will release a new record this year since it's been forever, and when they come out I’m sure those will be my favorite records of the year. I’m pretty confident about that!
What does the next six months have in store for you?
I'll be finishing up the songs on my next record and playing lots of local and a few regional shows… hoping to hit the road again soon!
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Working hard and feeling grateful to to still be doing exactly what I'm doing now, which is writing music my way, recording folks my way and living my life my way!
What is the best thing about Americana-UK?
I love the way that you guys are constantly raising awareness of the genre and supporting both individual artists and bands. I also like that I can go there any time to get a quick view of what’s happening now in the Americana landscape, and when I have time I savor the more in-depth features and interviews. Americana-UK is always inspiring!