Jeffrey Gaines

Looking Towards The Sun

While touring the country and delivering his music to live audiences, Jeffrey Gaines readies himself for the isolation booth of his next recording process by taking photos of his audience. He collects these photos, puts them into a collage, and pastes them onto the studio wall, in order to recreate to the live energy of the crowd.

"I just stuck up all these photos of people in the audience, just sending you joy" Gaines, who grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, said. "These photos just capture people giving you love."

This process, Gaines said, was used during the recording of his latest release "Toward the Sun" (Artemis Records), which is scheduled to hit stores on February 11.

Maintaining the live energy in the studio is obviously important to Gaines. Sticking to the bare essentials, not overdubbing mistakes, and imagining himself on stage are all a part of his efforts to stay true to his fans during the recording process. Nuances such as a voice crack are kept on tape to continue the integrity of his live shows.

"I want the record to say 'this is me'," he said. "It's like a snapshot. Do you want to base a relationship with the audience on a lie? I want the record to represent the truth and have fans come to a show and say, 'Holy shit, it's better live.'"

For Gaines, recording is just a continuation of his numerous live performances each year. The goal is to keep as much of the energy he has attained on stage as possible.

The inclusion of the audience in Gaines' creative process doesn't end there. The title track of 2001's "Always Be" (Artemis) was written as a goodnight song for fans at his shows.

"[During "Always Be"] people will yell stuff out in the dark," he said. "It's almost like a barbaric yelp. It's very touching."

"Come Out Tonight," the final track of his upcoming album, is the new finale for his live shows.

Since beginning his music career at 15, Gaines said, he has been focused on writing music so he can get on stage. The ability to write quality songs affords more chances to get out and perform, he said.

"I spend the highest percentage of my time traveling for shows, playing the guitar and getting on stage," he said. "Some of my most profound feelings are given from [the audience/performer] exchange." Gaines said he wants keep the feeling he's attained from the audience going in his recordings. This formula has provided him with positive results.

"It's a wonderful cycle," he said. "If it's benefiting as many people as I find out it's benefiting, while I'm pursuing my dream, it's worthy. I'm enjoying it."

Gaines' success is evident in his longevity, producing a steady career and reaching a loyal fan base for over a decade. He still remembers how it felt when his career began to take off.

"It was more exciting in the beginning," he said. "You're just excited to see what's going to happen. That mellows out when you start to understand it."

Now Gaines' joy is brought from the satisfaction of obtaining the goals he sets for himself. This supercedes any recognition that many of today's artists seek.

"It's not about enjoying it on a superficial level," he said. "Later on, you enjoy it and see a bigger picture."

Gaines' success has put him in contact with other artists, such as Peter Frampton. Seeing the level of success Frampton has reached has humbled Gaines into thinking realistically about his career. Growing further into the music business can make you forget what you got into it for, Gaines said. For this reason, he pays less attention to the charts.

"You may or may not be on them," Gaines said. "If you are, it may be shortened. Focus on the love of making music. If you keep that in your sights, it's always enjoyable."

Hearing his songs on the radio, however, always adds to the enjoyment. While between record companies, Gaines received major radio rotation for his cover of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes." This, and opening arenas for rock icons like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Stevie Nicks, has increased worldwide awareness of his music.

Hearing his songs on the radio produces a satisfying reflex.

"I turn it up real loud," he said. "I turn it up when that happens. It's always a surprise. I turn it up really loud and look in the cars next to me and wonder, 'Are you bopping your head to this song? This is me, man.'"

After finishing an album, Gaines uses a deny-to-create method of not over-listening to his past work in an effort to concentrate on new music.

"That's the mother of invention, being without," he said. "Once you put it out there, you don't want to be too satisfied with the work that's been done already."

This process was used on his upcoming release, which showcases Gaines' diverse songwriting range, and his penchant for creating fresh music while keeping his signature sound. Throughout Gaines' career, he has subtly grown with each effort rather than haphazardly reinventing himself.

"Toward the Sun", produced by Mitchell Froom (Los Lobos, Suzanne Vega) and Gaines, tells separate stories of people maturing into new stages of life. Gaines simultaneously sings with the depth of Bob Dylan and Otis Reading, abstract and meaningful, while at the same time soulful and uplifting.

This range is displayed through his songwriting as well. Whether it is the thought process set to music in "Falling Apart," or the pleading ballad, "Without You," the new album represents an artist who consistently writes with sensitivity and sensibility, leading to the longevity of his career.

Gaines' songs challenge the listener to fight their own daily challenges by lyrically getting to the heart of each song's character, telling their story with detail and passion. From the vocals to the instrumentation, each song is stamped with a signature voice, while still possessing an individual sonic statement from song to song.

While, in the past, Gaines knew his band members previously, this time around they were all chosen by Froom before Gaines reached the studio. It took a little time to become acquainted, but the musical cast was able to add its own nuances to the Gaines sound. The group was able to get past the fear of working together for the first time and develop a trust, Gaines said. In the end, he added, it was a shared love of music that helped them create together.

"What's weird about it is that it's a non-verbal thing," he said. "You don't communicate everything. If you play with musicians a while, you can read their body language. If it's not natural, it's not right; you can vibe off of that. What you're going to find out is that the universal language of music is going to take over."

"It felt really good," he said. "As soon as you start playing, you're like, 'Yeah, ok, these cats know what time it is.' We're like kindred spirits in the choice we made of making our lives out of music."

When asked about the current state of the singer/songwriter, Gaines said one must be careful how one uses the term. The term can apply to most artists who sing and write their own music, he said, but an artist in this category must keep things fresh in order to continue a prosperous career.

David Gray, for instance, is a wonderful artist who used drum loops to his advantage to broaden his audience range, Gaines said. This, however, doesn't diminish Gray's songwriting abilities, he said.

"The singer/songwriter is like the dinosaur," he said. "If you don't evolve and make it clever, that scene will die out. Our society's growing, the nation's growing. Everybody's going faster and faster. Staying in the music business means that you have to keep some people interested."

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Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.