STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
Exemplifying the reality of the human experience through words and music, multiracial singer songwriter Garland Jeffreys is the genuine article.
“I don’t classify myself musically,” says Jeffreys, speaking from his New York City home. “I don’t think about it. I write a song, a groove, a rhythm, and then lyrics come. It could be one or the other. It could be the lyrics that start out. Then I try to develop them into a story, into something that’s meaningful. It’s always about that. It always has to have some kind of power in it as far as the lyrics. It’s not arbitrary in that way. I want to say something; something that reaches out to people. I’d feel like I wasn’t doing the right thing if I was just writing something that had nothing.”
Jeffreys, a Brooklyn native of African American and Puerto Rican descent, was routinely exposed to a variety of artists, igniting a passion for rock and roll, jazz, reggae, soul, folk and blues.
“Growing up, there was a lot of music in my house,” recalls Jeffreys, “ — not being played, but the music that I heard my folks listening to -everything from Louis Armstrong to Nat King Cole.”
“Music and songs have always been, and continue to be, a way to express myself,” added Jeffreys. “People are going to get a variety of styles from me. I like to do that — a real spread of different things, all kinds of influences, always with my point of view that comes from my heart — what I feel, and what I think. This is what I do. I don’t stick with one style. I find it limiting.”
Possessed by a hunger to play music for as long as he can remember, Jeffreys eventually found himself in the heart of the mid 1960’s New York City music scene.
The legendary Gerde’s Folk City, The Bitter End, Gaslight and Kenny’s Castaways provided Jeffreys a stage for what rapidly evolved into an audience eager to hear his racially conscious themes.
Years later, following racial abuse he experienced while attending a New York Mets game at Shea Stadium, Jeffreys captured the complexities of racial tension in America on his powerful “Don’t Call Me Buckwheat” (1992) album.
“I’m interested in all kinds of people,” says Jeffreys. “If I can persuade people to be friendlier to one another, that’s part of my story. I say what I think and continue to say what I think the world should be like, especially when it comes to race.”
“I want to see more of an interracial world,” adds Jeffreys. “In some ways, we can’t help that — it’s already happening. In other ways, there are still limits on all of that. I’m an optimistic kind of person.”
Signed to Atlantic Records in 1973, Jeffreys released a highly anticipated self-titled debut album. Not included on the record was the single “Wild in the Streets.” A favorite on AOR FM rock stations at the time, the song has become an anthem for Jeffreys and is one of his most widely recognized works.
Remaining true to his music and his message, the poetic Jeffreys made his debut on the European and U.K. record charts with the release of his “Matador” album in 1979, peaking in the Top Five.
Two years later, his “Escape Artist” album would make the Top 100 in America on the strength of the single “96 Tears.”
“I just came back from playing a tour in England that was just fantastic,” says Jeffreys. “It was great rocking with my band and having a lot of fun making music. Jimmy Page came down to one of the shows. That was great. The crowds were really cool.”
“I’m glad there is still interest,” adds Jeffreys. “For some reason, I’ve never really pursued the English market. I went last year, and we had a great little reception. This time was even better. We played from Scotland all the way down to the bottom of the U.K. I’m quite thrilled about it.”
Jeffreys was featured in the 2003 documentary “The Soul of a Man,” part of the film series “The Blues” produced by Martin Scorsese.
Look for a new album release from Jeffreys later this year as a follow-up to his 2013 jewel, “Truth Serum.”
“I’m in a great place,” says Jeffreys. “I’m a pretty happy guy these days. Things are going very sweetly. It couldn’t be better. I keep going. I’m fortunately healthy. I’m out there for an adventure to play music and wherever that takes me.”
IF YOU GO: Garland Jeffreys performs at the Sellersville Theater; located at 24 West Temple Ave., Sellersville, on Saturday April 18, 2015 at 8 P.M. Tickets can be purchased by calling 215-257-5808 or on-line at www.st94.com.
To stay up to date with Garland Jeffreys visit www.garlandjeffreys.com