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Jeffrey Gaines is the kind of artist that inspires absolute allegiance in core fans around the country. To many others, he is best known as the architect of the definitive cover of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes." But the real way to experience Jeff Gaines is live, as captured on his sixth and latest release, "Jeffrey Gaines Live." We caught up with him after a show at the The Attic in Newton, and asked him about his influences, his music, and his fans in Boston.

 

Boston Beats:  State your name, age and occupation for the record please.

Jeffrey Gaines: J.G. Jeff Gaines. Old enough, and singer, songwriter.

BB: How did you first get into music?
JG: As a child, I got involved with music immediately. Our society is riddled with music. Cartoons have music. Kids start singing jingles that are on commercials and stuff. Educators use music to get you to memorize the alphabet. Just the very nature of song is in everything we do. I realized I was interfacing with the music, humming and singing all the time. And I tend to be pretty good at it. I can pick out a tune and sing in key. So if you got some aptitude and ability, then you just start pursuing it.

BB: When did you write your first song?
JG: My first song was written probably about 1985. It was one long run on sentence, a song called ďFather Time.Ē I was in a band at the time, and they all went on a dinner break. I had dialed up a pretty good sound on the guitar and I didnít want to leave it, so I said, ďGo ahead guys, Iím not even hungry, Iím so into this sound.Ē And for the first time I was left alone. Being in a band you always have a project that youíre working on, thereís an objective. But being left alone there, not really rehearsing, I started just making music, letting it tell me where it was going to go.

BB: When did you decide that music was going to be your career?
JG: You find out itís going to be a career when grown men want to invest in you like a product. Itís weird, youíre just singing in some club having fun, and thereís a guy in a suit standing in the back of the club. He comes up with a card and says you should come by his office. So in a way, the powers that be approach you, and let you know that youíre a commodity, something they can sell. Thatís how it was for me, anyway. So Iím in the business, there you have it.

BB: Tell me about your songwriting process. How does a new song usually come about?
JG: Actually itís effort. Once youíre a recording artist, you have to produce. Writing songs for me now is just a matter of clearing the space and taking the time. I tend to be a scattered person, and I distract myself from the work with fun, friends, TV, movies, whatever. As far as writing songs, you just sort of have to get away from all of the distractions. So if you get a clear desk, a clean piece of paper, and a pencil with a sharpened lead youíll write a song. I write songs because I know that I want to put records out, to make a product to go to market. It would almost serve no purpose at all to me if it didnít get it out to the public, or if I didnít play a gig. If I were just sitting under a tree somewhere, I wouldnít be playing a guitar. I wouldnít be just playing to the wind or something. I want to play to public demand. Itís weird because, in a sense, Iím like an actor. I mean, you deliver the emotion, but youíre thinking about the craft of selling the emotion.

BB: So what are some of your favorites of your own songs?
JG: I am really proud of a song called ďA Simple Prayer,Ē on the record Galore. I just feel good about having a sort of peace-hippie-folksinger-antiwar song. I was very proud of those lyrics.

BB: For many people, youíre most famous for your cover of Peter Gabrielís ďIn Your Eyes.Ē What place does that hold in your career and in your life right now?
JG: I like it because Iím a singer, so itís real easy and fun, and I got it locked. When it became a hit again in 2001, it was playing on the radio nationwide. I was going to all these radio stations, and I had to play it like every morning. Funny jocks in the morning, telling jokes and talking about celebrities, saying, ďHey, weíve got Jeffrey Gaines coming by heís brought his guitar.Ē And itís like 7.30 in the morning, and every morning I just nailed it cold. I sang that fucking thing so many times, if I didnít love singing it would be a problem. My audience is completely split in a way, because some people are like, ďMan, I love that Jeffrey Gaines because he does In Your Eyes,Ē and the person right next to him rolls their eyes, going, ďI hate that thatís all you talk about. This guy is so important in my life in so many profound ways, other than some cover he does.Ē So itís a strange thing for me.

BB: How did that version come about?
JG: I was seeing a girl, and she liked this record and I was against it. At the time, I was listening to what I thought was cutting-edge cool alternative rock, so if it wasnít super punk and super underground I didnít want to hear it. Peter Gabriel at that time seemed like one of the monsters of rock, I didnít even want to hear it. So one day I was driving home from a gig, and this girl was in my lap sleeping and the song came on the radio. It was so peaceful and she was asleep, so I knew I wouldnít have to hear, ďOh my god this is the greatest song ever,Ē and I could just listen and see, alright, what it is about this song. So then I actually listened to it, driving home from the gig, with my woman and the sun coming up and no other cars on the road, and Iím just absorbing it without any hype around it, and I get it, I get it. I thought, if I turn those words around, and sing it to the audience, and not make it about one girl or one thing. When I look out at all those people looking up at me, Iím inspired. That is what keeps me ďawake and alive.Ē When I turned it into an audience song, it put power behind it for me.

BB: What are your musical influences?
JG: When I was a little kid growing up, my parents played so much music. Otis Reading, Wilson Pickett. You know, Memphis soul, not really Motown as much as the deeper south stuff. So itís sort of blues-based, gospel-based. And Iím a product of the musical time that I got a guitar, in Ď79. In Ď79 there was Cheap Trick, Kiss, the Cars, stuff like that. They wrote ďJust What I NeededĒ to be on the radio, to have people turn it up in their cars and rock to it. Thatís how I look at songwriting.

BB: Whatís your process for recording music when youíre in the studio?
JG: You know, the process changes throughout your career. When I write a song I demo it. Itís just me playing the drums, bass and stuff. Itís really exactly how I feel it, but it might not be up to snuff performance-wise, because Iím not a drummer. So maybe Iíll get a real drummer to come in and try to interpret what he hears on my demo. Now he might take it somewhere else. When youíre working on creating a record, you allow for things to be collaborated. There are some songs that I donít like once Iíve recorded them, but generally the only time I really hate a song is if weíve messed it up in the recording of it.

 

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*Pictures courtesy of http://www.jeffreygaines.com/

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