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Interview with Jac Dalton
24 March 2014
Inerview by Alexandra Mrozowska
After releasing a critically acclaimed debut album 'From Both Sides' in 2007 – an interesting country/rock crossover, which featured a stellar take on Bon Jovi's 'Wanted Dead Or Alive' – the Aussie-based American singer Jac Dalton returns, and this time he does it so with 'Icarus', a solid dose of melodic rock/AOR! His second effort was, however, only one of the topics he covered while talking with Alexandra Mrozowska, looking back upon his earlier days in the deep South as well as forward, to his exciting plans for the future.
Please give us some details about the musicians who currently form the line-up of Jac Dalton and whose collaborative effort is 'Icarus' CD. How did you guys get together in the first place, what were the circumstances of it?
There have been many exceptional, passionate mates I've had the privilege of performing with over the years – some, even childhood idols whose faces screamed inspiration from the Rock posters on my wall. Every step of the journey continues to be incredible – and I am eternally humbled for every opportunity that arises.
Due respect acknowledged... Of all the bands/artists I've performed with, this one – this 'family' of brothers and sisters - exceeds anything I ever hoped I'd find. The pathway to their doorstep carried me back and forth across the globe many times - with each show, port and performance driving 'not' towards a destination - but of a 'knowing' deep inside of what would one day come to be.
I was first introduced to the Guitar Shaman from Oz - Graham Greene - through a radio personality who insisted for months that I check out his website. Unsure of how the initial idea got into my head at the time, I had a very, very incorrect idea about his style. That was all corrected the instant his first squeal tore forth from my speakers piercing my skull and melting my face! That discovery was the first defining moment for this band and album.
My producer, Darren Mullan and I had been tracking songs for a follow-up album to my debut - 'From Both Sides' - continuing to pilot our country/rock destroyer ever farther into uncharted waters. But getting back a demo of a track we sent across to Graham to have a look at – any hint of savory country/rock flavoring crumbled to dust beneath the crunch and power of what he re-created. What you hear on 'Icarus' is the result of two oncoming freight trains - commencing from arenas at literally opposite ends of the planet and musical spectrums - crashing head-on to create a melodic arena-rock tsunami.
This new harmony-driven sound screamed for exceptional, pitchy megavocals from someone with equal attitude. Graham's wife, Donna G – international rock goddess in her on right - was the perfect – and logical - fit for rock combat boots sporting nine-inch stilettos. The rhythm section had to have thunder like they were left over from shifting continents during the Jurassic Age, so drummer/percussionist and righteous dude Troy Brazier along with Bass-Guru extraordinaire Jim Awram were the short list here, as they had already been playing this style of rock and working together for quite a long time. Graham's lead guitar hurricane needed co-guitar talent of someone with equal intensity and meticulousness, so Perth's Dragon Lady of Rock - Annemieke Heijne – stacked her amps up alongside. Rounding out the lineup, keys needed to be someone with both power and imagination – a digital wiz able to anticipate and deliver across an entire range of synthesizers. Jason Dohrmann, - 'Fireman' (literally) - tempers the heat and flames the band creates with his cool key manner. And every band member sings. With most songs, there are five mics in use.
Every band member but me lives in Perth, Western Australia. Does this make it difficult to maintain our polish and edge? Not at all – as band members are always working together in various capacities and castings, and the collective years of professional performing makes every moment we come together as 'Jac Dalton' a veritable honeymoon. Airfares between Adelaide and Perth could be viewed as a bit dear - but at this stage in the journey, and the degree of commitment we have invested in each other and the dream - cost matters little. What does matter is what we create and generate together. Borrowing a quote from Vin Diesel in his movie XXX: 'We live for this sh*t!'
'Icarus' portrays you heading towards different genre than before – now it's one hundred per cent melodic rock/AOR. What has prompted such a change in your music from the previous rock/country crossover album 'From Both Sides' to this?
At any point in the career or journey, one has to start with what you've got – what has inspired and colored your soul – what provides the spark – what you know. I was raised in North Carolina, right next door to the country music capital of the world (Nashville) and proximity to that hoofing storyteller style was what I heard most often when I first began to play. I've always loved a great story – any story – eternal child that I am. But the first time I heard my next door neighbor's band practicing 'rock' songs – I was totally hooked, as something inside sprung to life with the crunching guitars, throbbing keys and pants-shaking bass. I knew then and there that that's where I wanted to be. That first song rattling the windows of our house was Steppenwolf's 'Magic Carpet Ride'. Premonition...
There have been many chapters to my journey so far: concert violinist; bass player; acoustic guitarist/singer/songwriter (James Taylor kindled this fire sorrowing one misty metaphorical afternoon before anyone knew who he'd become). I've been an athlete, student, professional entertainer and dancer in many stage/musical theatre shows across the globe. One evening after completing a concert aboard a cruise ship, I realized it was time to start giving back to a world that had been very good to me, and returned to the halls of academia. The ensuing years of study were the toughest I'd ever experienced because there was no way I could complete a Doctorate and put time and passion into my first love: my music. Something had to give – for a while anyway – so the passions were packed away.
It was only after graduating and arriving in The Land Downunder that I was able to unleash my pent-up passions again. Songs and sentiments long suppressed and fermenting poured forth like lava, searing my soul, burning up literal volumes with heart wrenching lyrics. A lot of life had happened since last I'd played, sung, entertained – and all the fervor was demanding to be let out. My roots were in southern rock and that was the style the first demos took-on. My day job enabled me to afford some studio time, the talents of some exceptional musicians – and a producer who continues to color and polish everything to this day.
'From Both Sides' was my first real attempt – and any attempt for a long time – at writing and performing. It was/is an upbeat, feel-good, mighty gasping breath for me – finally breaking the surface of living again from all the suffocating focus, demands and studying for eight years – able once again to feel sunshine on my soul and the backbeat of my own heartbeat. The way 'From Both Sides' was recorded would've been difficult to achieve anywhere else in the world by a veritable newcomer – for (www.jacdalton.com) you'll find that the entire band at the time was comprised of 'A' list Australian icons coming aboard on but the word of a very special mate named Tony Savage, who saw something in me and convinced his mates to take a chance. They're all long tired of hearing this, but I remain humbled at their trust, belief and contribution to that album. The project was a success. It was also where I'd but come from. Little did I know how close I finally was to getting to where I'd always been running to – continuing that 'Magic Carpet Ride'.
'From Both Sides' put us into the public eye, and raised furrowed brows on many shores. Feedback was positive and inspired us to follow-up with a second album. Darren Mullan (producer) and I were experimenting with ways to 'harden' – carve more of an edge – out of our sound as we demoed new songs for 'Icarus'. A mate who had been trying for awhile to introduce me to Graham Greene finally succeeded in getting us together, and with the first track of his I heard, there was no doubt that this was the direction we, I, the sound, the band, the journey was supposed to go. During our first conversation, I sent Graham an mp3 of one of our demoes, and within minutes he responded emphatically with a very emphatic, 'Oh yea – I'm IN!' A week later when he returned that track with his signature guitar thunder, squealing and pinging more tastefully than I'd ever imagined a song could be - the roots of my southern rock beginnings were at an end. Wings had arrived to carry us onward and upwards.
What's the idea behind the new album's title?
'Icarus'. The very nature of the legend is an allegory for freedom; humble beginnings; faith/hope/belief/determination enabling us to proceed ever forward one-step-in-the-journey surely to the next; rising from the earth and ascending skyward; throwing off our earthly restraints and touching the clouds; soaring; reaching ever higher via the help of that which inspires and protects us and is vaster than ourselves. Herein there is a certain acknowledgement of my southern roots ending, and the unfolding of melodic rock wings to carry the band forward to where we're destined to go. Aim for the stars, and even if y'fall short, y'make it to the moon.
One thinker summed it up this way: "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, acted as a child, thought as a child; but when I grew up, I gave up childish ways." Perhaps this metaphor, moreso than any other, best sums up our nature as human beings: always striving and aspiring to seek, challenge, succeed, grow.
But the legend has its cautions and warnings as well. 'Don't fly so close to the sun that your wings melt, as it's a long hard fall back to Earth.' It seems the ancient, even in their time, understood our nature better than we do now. 'Don't believe all your own hype'. 'It's all but a 'maybe' until it happens' – and it may not – but remember its mostly about the journey anyway; and sometimes we really do reach the destination. Truth is, that in the big picture, all of us are but a wink of starlight balanced precariously upon a razorblade of favor from those watching us perform. Humility...
Lyric-wise, 'Icarus' is pretty diverse. What has inspired the lyrics on the album?
I've always loved observing, describing as best I can, things I wish to remember about life – things I've found to be worthwhile. It's easy to forget in times as crazy and challenging as these that along with the uncertainty of the journey – wouldn't it be great if each of us could find our own special way to leave this place just a little bit better than we found it? To instill this concept into the kids of my family, each time we went camping, my parents insisted that we clean-up not only our own campsite, but the ones on either side as well – before we could depart. Amazing how such a simple metaphor has had the influence it has on the way I live and think – and compose.
I write and compose – describe – the murmurings happening in my life at the time. Collecting pages of observations until exhausted, I cut away all the 'fat', keeping only that which strikes a definite chord. I then try to convey what's left in a way that no one else would think to do, hopefully getting the words in the right order resonating with listeners the same way they do with me. At the time Graham and I composed 'Icarus', I was in the midst of a very complicated relationship literally dying a bit each day trying in vain to show someone through the mirror of my own eyes the good that was inside her. I've never worked so hard with another human being in my life. The lesson I took away at the end of that chapter was that no one person can ever love enough for two. This battle took a heavy toll on my spirit – but the wounds and scars that happened were tempered by great things progressing with the band. You are right in your observation that the lyrics are diverse. There was a lot going on at both ends of the spectrum as we created the album... the love of the human experience though getting smacked around within the hurricane of it - all textures inspiring the passion of the music. Here again... from the earth to the Heavens. It truly is all sooooo worth it.
Kip Winger once said his songs are like his own children and he can't pick a favorite. Do you have any personal favorites on 'Icarus'?
Composition-wise, they are all equally unique, as each is about something poignant and important I wish to remember.
That said, there are certain ones that are just way too much fun performed 'live'... especially with a band this big, phat and accomplished! 'Locked Cocked Ready To Rock' is always a crowd-pleaser as it truly does rattle the rafters - and anyone who's ever been in a band can relate to the storyline of getting the call to do a big gig that ends up being the catapult to Stardom! 'Armed and Dangerous' was originally the instrumental title track from Graham's 'Leap Of Face' album (available on his website: www.grahamgreene.com). No matter where we play, the dancefloor always fills with this song. No rhyme or reason – it just happens – and everyone remains pressed tightly against the stage until the end of the show. 'For Your Love' captures everyone's emotion, as couples embrace or pause doe-eyed - absorbing the lyrics. By the time this interview is released, a video of this track will have just been released throughout UK/EU/USA. It's a great mini movie guaranteed to tug at the heart strings (watch it on YouTube). 'State Of Rock' is the ultimate end-of-set track as that's pretty much the frame of mind folks are in by the end of the show.
A tradition of including one cover version of a rock classic per album continues – why AC/DC's 'Back In Black' this time?
We don't do many covers when playing live – as the style and genre of our music is familiar enough to audiences to have the desired effect. However, the band can and does do – exceptionally well – a Lady Zeppelin Show whereby Donna G – Perth's First Lady of Rock and our female singer – literally crushes the classics of Page and Plant. We often do three-shows-in-one when we perform – a terrific calling card for promoters and booking agents - commencing with Graham's instrumental show and Resonance Project tracks; adding a couple more of us for Lady Zepp; finally filling the stage with the rest of the band for the thick crunchy sound of 'Jac Dalton'. We cover a lot of ground.
That said, one thing we decided we'd do early on in the history of the band is make sure we pay due homage and respect to the trailblazing artists whose shoulders we've stood upon to arrive at this point in the journey. Everyone inspires, and is inspired by, everyone else - whether we realize its happening at the time or not. It all goes in, gets processed, mixes it up with other inspirations, then uniquely comes out as what it is supposed to be. If we're lucky, what comes out strikes a familiar chord with the masses and gets recognized.
That was the point when we decided to do 'Back In Black'. AC/DC is the most successful Rock act ever to originate on Aussie shores. They will always be awesome, massive, popular, irreverent – classic - definitely an influence. And the genius of their songs is their simplicity, leaving them wide open for amazing possibilities – provided that what is attempted is absolutely 'nailed'. It was our producer, Darren, who came up with the idea of doing a double-time version adding banjo as a bit of tongue-in-cheek. Aussies, as part of the culture, are always 'taking the piss out of each other', and this sense of humor knows no bounds. As with our rendition of Bon Jovi's 'Wanted Dead Or Alive' on 'From Both Sides', attempting a varied version of this absolute classic was yet another all-or-nothing risk. One thing about this band is that we don't frighten easily – either on or off stage. So, we double-timed the beds of the track, added the banjo, had a ball with the vocals, laughed a lot imagining what Angus and Malcolm might say should they hear it, and bounced it down as a novelty. Seems everyone who's heard and commented upon it shares our sense of humor... performed with due respect, to the best of our abilities. Nothing risked, nothing gained. (Blot sweaty brow here.)
Another track off the album, 'Suck, Bang, Blow', was co-written with Rose Tattoo's guitarist Rob Riley and one of the most renowned musicians of South Australia named Doobie Whitehorn (ex-Counterfeit). Please tell us more about this songwriting collaboration.
My family still resides in the US - in South Carolina - where one of the biggest Harley rallies in the world occurs each year. One of the main gathering places for the brethren during these rallies is a watering hole called 'Suck, Bang, Blow'. While at home visiting, I happened to pass this landmark late one night, and the flickering logo jumped out slapping me between the eyes with the perfect song title demanding to be written – and suggestively enough - to pique curiosities with a big 'fatty' of an innuendo. Naughty-but-nice ideas for the point of the song buzzed about my head for the rest of the trip bringing me to one undeniable conclusion: if this was gonna kick the right amount of ass, I was gonna need help from some bigger rock guns than I had stuffed down my own boots.
Rockin' Rob is one of those rare righteous individuals who is absolutely unique and can be as irreverent, crass and unmade as a week-old bed - but you never doubt for a instant his abilities, genuineness or sincerity of heart. I love the guy. He is truly a righteous Dude in the full sense of the word. The first time I met him, the greeting wasn't a typical handshake, but rather his demanding that I 'pull his finger' - and the trumpeting that rumbled the room set the unpretentious stage for a wonderful friendship. Rob is a Harley aficionado himself (you'd be lost for a week if you ventured into his garage alone) with a massive history of the kind of music that gets brethren motors running. Aussie rock sensation 'Rose Tattoo' was fired in the kilns of such audiences... and with Rob as the head-shredder of that iconic band of outlaws, he was an obvious choice.
My good mate Doobie Whitehorn is another equally gravelly, mud-and-guts guitarist - and equally righteous Dude - nothing Counterfeit about him! He too is a motorcycle aficionado – his brand of smokes: Norton. So I called these two heavyweights, shared my 'lightbulb moment' about the bar I'd seen, and asked if they were interested in putting our calluses together to write something truly wicked. It took us all of ten minutes to come up with the groove, and about an hour to finish this ballbuster. A bit of advice: if you're working on something that absolutely has to ring true, recruit mates that are experts. Originally, we were gonna use the throbbing idle of an actual Harley as the kick drum track... perhaps we'll do that the next time we three rebels conspire.
The eponymous track 'Icarus' is probably the most sublime and poetic (and also, one of the best!) of the entire album. Am I right in thinking it's kind of throwback to your Southern heritage and such genres as blues, southern rock etc. music-wise?
Short answer is 'yes' – there are indeed elements of my Southern roots and early rock influences herein – even a bit of Carlos [Santana] from the Abraxas days. After all, we're the sum total of all we experience, and per the old adage: 'y'can take the boy out of the country, but...' That said, such familiarity is unintentional as Darren and I went through the possibility of several styles and genres before knowing this version was exactly what the song had to be.
'Icarus' is the title track for good reason - the notable history surrounding it worth sharing. I conveyed earlier that my music passions were interrupted for awhile. Even after finishing my studies with my spirit exploding to reconnect with reality, what jump-started me to emote and write again was the unexpected phone call I received one evening informing me that my childhood sweetheart had been living with AIDS for 15 years. Any words I might choose herein can't begin to convey the hole that impaled my heart hearing this – for she was supposed to've been the victor in the Cinderella story of our neighborhood. But that night, something inside me 'happened', and sentiments like I'd never felt before, and didn't even know were there, erupted forth in a deluge that lasted several days. Thirty-eight songs were written during that time. Among the first of those was 'Icarus'.
But that's only part of the story. For as well during that time, I had a patient who had just graduated from University - standing at the precipice of his adult life – a committed idealist ready to go out into the world to shine and do great things. An opportunity arose for him to work abroad. The project needed big hearts and willing hands, so he took his trust fund and flew away. Naivety is a wonderful quality to have in places and situations where the ideals of children can be nurtured and protected. But in places where the wolves run wild, innocents have no chance. When word of his death filtered back, I had no idea what to say to his mother. For days and days I tried to put heart to paper. Eventually 'Icarus' was the result. I'm certain gentle Ben - from wherever beyond is - was standing beside me whispering the words he wanted me to convey - for the lyrics have not been altered since they were penned that night.
Yet about 'Icarus' – why do you think the story of 'Icarus' has been so inspiring to the writers and songwriters throughout the years? What potential did you see in using it while writing a song?
The seeds of 'Icarus' were likely first planted within me when I was a youngster mesmerized by mythical tales like The Iliad and The Odyssey. I always had a vivid imagination, and the possibility of being able to fly was a big fascination (hint to kids and impaired adults: umbrellas are not parachutes!). It wasn't until I was a bit older however, that I encountered a magnificent painting by Herbert Draper called 'The Lament For Icarus''. I knew absolutely nothing about art, but something about this picture affected me - so much so that I went searching for the largest print I could find. It hangs above my bed to this day.
'Icarus' probably resonates within us for many reasons – both literal and metaphoric. The possibility of breaking free of the Earth, throwing off the shackles of conformity and rising above anything that might hold us back. There's the aspiration of being like the Gods, unlimited in our reach, abilities and possibilities. 'Icarus' reminds us, inspires us, to reach ever higher and farther – expanding beyond where we are at the moment towards where we might go in the next. It is an allegory for 'that which is bigger than us all - that which connects us' – whatever our souls and cultures perceive that to be. The story of 'Icarus' transcends all doctrine and religion. With expansion, reaching, aspiring, growing, learning, evolving as human beings - we learn more about ourselves and, in turn, each other – recognizing more often our likenesses than our differences. With such expansion comes understanding – and acceptance. After all, it takes the same amount of energy to shake hands as it does to make a fist.
There is also the built-in warning of the story: "careful not to fly too close to the sun". Here again, there are both literal and metaphorical interpretations. For instance, drugs will never replace the thunder of applause or the murmur of emotion – especially love. 'Everything in its time and place' was likely inspired by 'Icarus'. Before moving forward, we must first understand and master where we are now in arenas like school, professional position, level, rank. Move too soon or too quickly and the results can be disappointing - even cataclysmic. Simply, some boundaries were never meant to be transcended; do so and we fall from the pedistal to our deaths – like 'Icarus'.
Personally, 'Icarus' harbors a reminder to myself not to let heart and soul completely superimpose. The people I love - have loved - in my life, I've done so with all the honesty, genuineness, sincerity a heart can give... for that is the nature of loving another. However, I've learned to keep a small corner of my heart in reserve for only 'me'. Because eventually if you're involved or survive long enough with another, that which you love can one day... not be there. And trumping our human impulse to love is the instinct and necessity to survive, continue to grow, expand... carry on. Hence the lyrics: "Don't let your heart fly too close to your soul."
The majority of tunes on 'Icarus' are a deliberate throwback to 1980s arena rock – massive choruses, keyboards, powerful guitar riffs... There are more and more bands who go for such a sound now. What do you think prompted a current '80s nostalgia within popular music?
I believe it comes down to a desire - a need - to nurture our hearts and the backbeat within our chests once again. Music is the universal language of the soul – something inside each of us knows this, even if we don't participate or acknowledge it. And souls need sustenance just like our bodies.
For many years, the pop music dominating our environment has offered little for our spiritus. Styles ruling major stations that 9-5ers and teens listen to as background was formulated – intentionally - to take advantage of the repetitive way our brains work, with but a single goal of those owning and controlling the airwaves and industry: liberating pocket monies from young inexperienced, impressionable hands who pay neither rent nor taxes. From a business perspective, this goal is brilliant, as trillions of dollars have changed hands over the decades with nothing worthwhile surviving in the wake.
A rift in the masterplan has started to develop in recent years however because minds addicted to these controlled, limited, sounds-literally-dumbing-down-our-ears, have started to become bored and uninspired. Y'can fool people for only so long. Minds yo-yo back and forth as part of our very nature, curious about pretty much anything perceived as 'new' or interesting. However, minds – spirits/souls – need nourishment. And all this filler music is failing to curb the appetite – quickly falling by the wayside.
Little of lasting value or inspiration has been created for quite awhile. Remember all those classic albums and bands from the 70s and 80s – the ones you still play, know every word to, and feel good when you listen? Those bands, times, songs had something to 'say' that touched – resonated – with something deep inside us. There were messages in both the lyrics and the music that filtered all the way down to the depths of our souls, instead of just piquing or irritating fleeting surface emotion. The world is screaming for that type of message, passion – nourishment – once again. We need reminders in times as uncertain as these. For reminders instill 'hope'; and with hope, we rise from the ashes. Artists and bands feeling this are starting to emote, create, listen again to the backbeat of their hearts. And the soul nourishment they're creating isn't plastic junk food anymore. It's a veritable banquet for the senses and emotions that make us human. Life has a purpose for each of us. Often – especially in times like these – it's hard to see, feel – even believe. But no matter what happens to us on a frustrating daily basis – the most basic, essential part of the human journey and condition is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Some steps are muddy and stinking; some cut our soles all the way to the bone; but eventually, we come to places beside the road where the sand is warm, the breeze invigorates, and the waters quench. And that is what many bands are reconnecting with and creating at the moment. We are remembering, creating and conveying the true nature of ourselves once again. Big, phat, harmonious, driving songs – veritable orchestras coming together - with flow, pinging accents, squealing edgy guitars as exclamation marks. And lyrics not so unlike the tales and myths of old... tales like 'Icarus'.
Please tell us about the charity song "Can Almost Taste The Rain" you co-wrote with Darren Mullan and your active involvement in supporting Australian rural communities.
For all of us comprising the Jac Dalton band, the journey, music and performing isn't about sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Don't get me wrong – music is the drug, and anytime we perform, we bring everything we've got to the stage, then leave it all out there for the audience. And we love it. We're good at it. We live for it! But our true purpose isn't about us. It's about using our abilities and passions to help the world to be just a little bit better place for our having had the privilege of being here, and succeeding to a degree.
The best way we've found to utilize the band's visibility is through a national charity we've established called LandAid (www.landaid.org). We first established LandAid when drought was the biggest challenge to our country. Farms were literally drying up and blowing away leaving heaps of families destitute when we began. With some of our friends and family coming from such roots, this was a logical place to start. However, it is one of the most difficult exercises imaginable to establish a charity in this country. Requirements are tough and stringent to meet all the requirements before the nod is given to commence. It took us four years to finally be recognized. During that time, the drought took care of itself, and LandAid's purpose has been redefined. But everything the band does is with the goal of support and perpetuation of LandAid and its mission to do what we can to aid struggling communities.
Darren Mullan and I wrote 'Can Almost Taste the Rain' as a rallying song for LandAid and in effect, all rural charities in Australia – to generate funds directly by its use, sale and downloads. That goal is presently in the process of coming to fruition, as its taken us just a little longer than anticipated to get things to a point that we can attract and generate funding of the size necessary to make a lasting difference.
Now let's look back a bit. Differently from a typical clichéd rock star – usually a high school dropout – you went on studying dance and completed a doctorate. What was the impact of your studies on your artistic life? Was there any?
It matters little where one comes from; their history, background, culture, family, politics. Anyone can come from anywhere and achieve anything. In the end it's what one does with the experiences and opportunities that present themselves – and how they are used – that are most important.
When I was in seventh grade, I took a creative writing class. One of the biggest demands the teacher made upon us was to find our own unique and original ways of observing and describing things. For most of the year, my papers literally bled with remarks like 'cliché' and 'trite', which was disappointing as I'd taken the class in hopes of getting an 'A' to boost my grades. But this exceptional teacher's insistence and tenacity to get her message through to me has colored pretty much my whole creative world ever since.
Every lyric I write, begins with unbiased observation and emotion of the moment inspired. After that, it's about taking however long it takes – using whatever means are necessary - to find poignant, original, unique, fitting ways to share that which was observed. I've had many interests and passions throughout my life, and have invested the time and effort necessary to pursue them to satisfaction. The more experiences we have – in any arena of life – the more depth and perspective we have to draw upon when considering these experiences further – especially when writing. Our brains are huge roadmaps; and each time we observe, learn, participate, do, consider something new – more connections show up upon our map. The more connections we have, the more options there are to get around, figure out – and create.
My passion for observing began when I was a child rushing home from choir practice at my Granddad's church literally knocking over everything in the living room to claim my place in front of the TV to watch shows like Jacques Cousteau and Walt Disney. That interest in Marine Biology/Oceanography led to a graduate degree. The ballet classes I was encouraged to take while studying Marine Biology aided sports interests and accolades I achieved competing in diving and gymnastics. After College, dancing and entertaining took centre stage enabling me to travel extensively whereby the interaction with locals in each port colored my spirit in ways I pray will always remain so inspired. While singing and dancing in musical theatre shows, my passion for healing was piqued prompting the return to study and the long separation from my music as described earlier. Upon arriving in Australia, the music was rekindled coinciding with commencement of a post-Doctorate degree in Functional Neurology. This stretched the boundaries of my mind and colored writing abilities significantly for both albums. In a word, things have become clearer, easier, more logical and more cohesive for the music because of what has been introduced and experienced across the spectrum of interest and curiosity along the way.
If I had but one suggestion to share regarding passion, it would be this: keep doing that which excites you; experience as many things as possible in even unrelated arenas; read; stay active; travel; talk to folks all around you and all over the world – the internet is great for connecting in an instant. Watch, and listen. Feed your passions by feeding your mind. Dare. Ask 'what if'. Dream. And as you do, find your own way to describe and share the experiences.
The happiest man I've ever met was a garbage man collecting some of the most God-awful stuff you can imagine, one sweltering summer day. His words to me when I asked how he could be so happy surrounded by such sh*t were: 'it ain't what you do, my friend, but how you do it.'
You were raised in the US South, which in terms of music and culture is probably the richest and most diverse region of the country. What influence this musical richness had on you, when you were a kid?
Born in New York City, I was raised in the South indeed – and can think of no better place I'd rather be from. My musical roots are undeniably country in flavor, yet solid rock in attitude and performance.
The first singing I ever did was gospel, so the thick rich nature of these sorts of harmonies has been a major love and ingredient with current songs. Phat, melodic lead guitar solos and tasty riffs are another characteristic Southern Rock factor. Add to this the underlying identifiable throbbing presence of killer rhythm sections (bass, drums, keys, rhythm guitars) and you've got the makings of force-5 hurricanes to be reckoned with. It ain't just the weather that wreaks havoc across shores at certain times of the year! The music, the bands, the influence of all this is still alive and thriving throughout the Southern US. So it's no doubt that overflowing and intermarrying of styles is so common down there.
Local inspirations I couldn't get enough of during the infancy of my becoming include: Molly Hatchett, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, The Allman Brothers, The Marshall Tucker Band, Jeff Beck, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Dixie Dregs, Canned Heat, 38 Special, The Eagles, Crosby/Stills/Nash&Young, Dickey Betts, Mountain. As I've shared, I love a good story - and Country music has always had the best stories. It's rock, though, that puts size 12EE boot to backside and drives it all home. Each song I write is a mini story, as the plot is either something I'm experiencing firsthand, or a drama playing out in my mind like a movie. Our new video For Your Love depicts perfectly what my mind sees when I've found just the right lyrical hook to hang my soul upon. It's definitely safe to say that the roots of my beginnings are as diverse and colorful as the region they come from.
Most reviewers compare your voice to this of David Coverdale, Paul Shortino, Paul Rodgers, David Reece... The question is, who's the guiding light for you in terms of singing, whom you'd call your biggest influence?
I still blush when fans compare my voice to the greats who've challenged me from posters on my walls once upon a time. To think I'd ever be able to contribute similarly in arenas alongside these absolute powerhouses is something humbling indeed. To those making such comments, heartfelt thanks. All of the masters you mention have been influences along the way. Every time I hear a lead singer fronting any band, there is something unique and valuable I take away from the show to consider for my own performance. That said, I've never tried to emulate or copy any singer I've ever heard. The key to shining and standing-out is being/becoming unique and identifiable enough in ones own right so we're not like anyone else. I've been told on many occasions by colleagues I respect that one hasn't truly 'made it' until folks hear your voice somewhere and know instantly it's you.
My vocal career has not been the easiest aspect of my journey because until I started actually recording my own stuff, my voice was completely wrong for everything I ever tried. When I was young, my voice was too high to sing the male parts in church choir. Later when I started entertaining in variety and country shows, my voice was relegated to but harmony parts because my range was only bass/baritone and I was not deemed 'polished' enough to solo. When I started dancing professionally and performing in musical theatre shows, I was deemed too 'country' for the lead roles. When I tried cracking the Australian country music market, my voice was described as too gravelly – not silky or smooth enough to be considered any sort of country candidate. It was only when we started writing and recording our own music/albums that I finally ended up in the appropriate place, in the arms of the right band of brothers, at the right time. The process of rehearsing and performing with this exceptional band has finally chiseled-out and solidified a sound that is uniquely, identifiably 'Jac'. After twenty years of searching, trying, failing, changing, bouncing from one genre to another, getting slapped down and laughed at - all the while thickening my skin while being true to my heart – my voice has finally found its home. And I am at last comfortable and content.
The best advice I can share from all the scars and bruises criss-crossing my chest is this: if you wake up in the morning and the thing you want to do most in the world is sing - then no matter what anyone tells you, sing! That's what you're supposed to do. The thing that is most important to remember about the singers we love and aspire to be like, is that it's not just the voice, but more importantly all the mileage, blood, sweat and tears of their journey that captures our attention. A soul that has been to hell and back has a much more believable story and truth to share than one that is just pretty. A pleasant voice piques our attention, but won't hold it.... something to acknowledge next time you watch contestant shows where the untried and untested vie for instant stardom. Point in fact is that Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan are two of the most successful artists in the history of the music industry – not because of pretty voices, but because of what they share about the journey. From the depths of despair to the heights of elation they remain committed to life itself, sharing their experience with those hungry for truth. Bottom line... there are no shortcuts to becoming. Accept that. Embrace it. That's why you signed-up in the first place.
Now let's look forward – what are your future plans? Is there any tour in the pipeline?
With the recent completion of our newest album, 'Can't UnRock Me', focus of our management and PR is on building and expanding our profile to the point that we're invited to some of the big UK/EU/US Festivals next year. Towards this goal, our manager Judith Fisher (BJF Media/Management) and home promotional firm (SkyFire Interactive) have been successful in piquing the attentions of some industry PR giants both in Australia and overseas.
Five of the seven tracks from the new album are scheduled for release as singles commencing in May, following on in July, August, September and November. Of these tracks, videos are planned for three, the first already in pre-production coinciding with the July release. This song is the much anticipated follow-up to Rick Springfield's epic hit, 'Jesse's Girl'.
We as well are scheduled to record a third album later this year. Most of the songs for this have already been demoed and are too, as is our nature, serious butt bruisers!
A domestic tour of Australia will pre-empt our long-anticipated arrival and debut upon European stages and festivals in early 2015.
As a caveat to the former question regarding 'clichéd rockstars', in my offstage role as a Chiropractor/Functional Neurologist, there is already talk of me attending the 2016 Olympic Games to look after the Australian Ladies' Beach Volleyball Team. Coinciding with this presence in Brazil, we're working to organize a Rio tour with the band. Pieces of the puzzle are already being carved out and put into place.
Our ultimate goal is to keep placing one foot in front of the other for as long as we're able - ever vigilant and knowing that the hurricane knows where it's going, with us in tow.
And thanks heaps Alexandra for noticing us amidst all the terrific artists and bands out there. Thanks sincerely for the opportunity to share a bit of ourselves with your audience. We look forward to rocking out for you live one day very soon!