The slow burn... 

You work and work at this, and you’re so close to it that sometimes you don’t get to see the bigger picture and the progress you’re making.  Pick your metaphor: “forest for the trees,” “battle vs. the war”, etc - the point is that a few years ago I made a conscious decision to venture beyond America with my music, and I knew whatever was going to happen was going to be a slow burn: a grassroots kind of affair, and that such things take a while.  I wanted to grow my fan base, and you do that by abandoning your comfort zones and bringing your music to new people in new places, not by playing for the same old people in the same old places, which is a rut a lot of musicians get stuck in. 

Suddenly, this morning, I noticed that the majority of interaction I’m having these days (social media, email, website, etc.) is with people I don’t know from distant places, who either saw a show or came across my music online and sought me out. The shows I’ve been doing outside the United States have been a lot of hard work and the travel can be a grind.  You work it from the ground up and cultivate something a little bigger each time out (we ain’t exactly flyin' in private jets and sellin’ out stadiums yet, and that’s OK; we're doing better than last year, and last year was better than the year before that...you get the idea).

When you do all this yourself, the rock-star glamour is a very small part of your day.  And I like that, because we live in a time where people seem to be increasingly putting their stock in fake things and fleeting things and “virtual” things.  I'm keeping my eye on real things.  Stuff that comes without much effort usually comes without much value.

So thanks – and welcome – to all you new friends from foreign lands.  We'll be coming to see you all again in the spring.  Patience, people...we’re building things. And it’s good to build things. Remember – if you’re finding that something is hard, chances are it's worthwhile and you’re doing it right.

Country vs. Folk... 

Just heard some over-educated pseudo-intellectual blowhard postulating at great lemgth and with unnecessary nuance over what makes country different from folk. Dude, chill. Stop making shit difficult. It’s simple: country is Dunkin’ Donuts. Folk is Starbucks.

No fun allowed... 

Cutting a couple of tracks for the new record with Aubrey Richmond on violin.  As you can plainly tell, no fun whatsoever was had during this session.

 

A look back at the year that was, a look ahead at the year that will be... 

PLAY HURT - A RECORD, WITH A “LONG TAIL"

Released late in 2017, Play Hurt didn’t really take off until 2018.  This is because we were smart and didn’t try to crank up the promo machine in the fourth quarter of 2017, when radio and pretty much all media is playing either Ariana Grande’s new single five times every hour or Jingle Bells ten times every hour.  We waited until January when there’s traditionally less competition, and were rewarded with a nice run from three singles; Might Be Leaving, All The Way, and All I Ever Wanted.

 

VIDEOS.  LOTS OF ’EM!

Something new (and exhausting) for me this time out was doing a video for every song on the album.  Fourteen songs, fourteen videos.  That was a herculean effort; seemingly endless 20-hour days to get them done and out quickly, but I didn’t want to just do the tired old thing where you burn a new release out at radio in 12 weeks and then say, “Well, what do we do now?”  I wanted Play Hurt to have a slow-burn long life-cycle, so I tried to really embrace the grass-roots and viral possibilities of social media and the internet in general, and that decision has paid off; the singles burned brightly at radio and then naturally ebbed a bit, but it’s been very exciting to see some other songs suddenly catch fire in different places, different countries, and on no particular schedule.  

Surprisingly (to me), the most downloaded and streamed track by far has been Come In From The Cold, the most atypical tune on the whole album, and something that to this day we’ve never even done live (yet).  It was a completely self-indulgent personal statement that came together right at the end of the whole project, so I chose to make it the final track; if nobody was still listening at that point I didn’t even care.

As of this writing, the track that seems to be picking up steam heading into 2019 is Hometown Hotel, another sleepy non-single that was more personal statement than commercial venture.

You can view all of the album’s videos videos HERE.

CROSSING THE POND

With a fresh new release, it was then of course time for another slog down the tour trail, which started with a spring European leg that kicked off in England, at one of my favorite venues in the whole world, the Norwich Guildhall.   They’ve had me back every year since my first overseas jaunt in 2013, and it’s always a joy to play there.

 

BACK IN THE US FOR THE SUMMER 

For the second straight year, the spring European tour closed in Denmark, at the Geyser By The Sea concert series at Kulturhuset Islands Brygge.  Playing right on the river in Copenhagen while watching the sun set over the city is breathtaking.  Which means it’s a bit of culture shock when your flight lands at JFK the next day and it’s time for the summer shows in the US.  We then dutifully commenced to beat American audiences mercilessly over the head with the new tunes from Play Hurt.

 

RADIO VISTS

Various tracks from Play Hurt were still catching fire on their own when I hit Houston in September, and did a couple of radio visits there at KPFT and KACC.

You can check out more fun we had at radio in America and abroad HERE.

 

NEW SINGLE TO HOLD YOU OVER 

In December I released Don't Keep Me Waiting, a single to hold you over until the next JT release.  Which is coming sooner than you think… 

 

GOING INTO 2019

In October, work began in earnest on a country record I’ve been producing, due in the new year.  I’m happy to say that it’s actually ahead of schedule; it’ll be wrapped by mid-January and released shortly thereafter.  The debut of JONES is a throwback to country before it lost its identity and became a caricature of itself.  It's been a joy producing this album, delving back into the unapologetically corny hayseed - and totally genuine - music I grew up on. Disclaimer: if your idea of "country" is anything that would show up onstage in some lame-ass annual awards show from Las Vegas, this ain't fer you. 

That clears the way for March, when I’ll be doing a direct-to-vinyl live recording (the way they did it 80 years ago) in Brooklyn for a limited-edition vinyl-only release.  This will be available exclusively via pre-order, and of course we’ll harass you relentlessly with the details when the time comes. I’ll be doing solo arrangements of the material to be included on the next “proper” JT full-length release slated for later in the year.   That’s technically three releases in the pipeline for 2019.  We’ll sleep in 2020.

OH YEAH, AND…

On a personal (and completly anti-climactic) note, I cut all that hair off, dammit.  I wanted long hair, but I didn’t want BAD long hair, which is what it was.  It was fun looking like some throwback 70’s cokehead for while, but one day I was wearing a flannel shirt and some mountain man tried to hire me as his protege, so I said “Aw, screw this, man.” 

Best wishes to all of you for a safe, happy, and prosperous new year!

 

LISTEN. LEARN. ADAPT.  

OK, you spoke and we listened!  First it was iTunes, then it was Spotify.  Now the wave of the future seems to be ever-more direct artist-to-fan contact.  We’ve noticed that, particularly on the Jefferson Thomas “music” page, where business is booming.  And we think that’s a good thing!  So we’ll be offering more exclusive stuff (I just can’t bring myself to use the word content”) that only our subscribers can get.  Doing that seems to make you guys feel special, which is good…because you are special! 

Case in point; in the spring I’ll be doing an exclusive live-recording direct-to-vinyl release that will NOT be available everywhere you get your music.  It will only be available via pre-order through the label that’s putting it out…and through jeffersonthomas.com. 

Where is all of this going?  Look for the new JEFFERSON THOMAS APP which we’ll be rolling out in 2019.  Getting your Jefferson Thomas fix will be even easier!  It will also help us get to you more quickly and efficiently.  So often many of you ask, “How do I get you to play in my town?”  Traditionally, that’s been a several-step process that, by the time we select, book, and play a venue, it can be weeks or months after your inquiry.  With the app, we’ll be able to interface directly with you and engage YOU in the booking process more quickly and efficiently.  It’s the commando approach; if we see a hot market, we’ll line up a show there pronto, while it's breaking!  Fans involved in booking the gigs for the artists they wanna see? I call that a pretty exciting future. 

-JT

Once upon a December 3rd... 

Several December thirds ago we lost a road buddy, roomate, and the most brilliant, diabollically twisted, and tragically troubled musician I ever knew. We'd had a falling out and didn't speak for a long time, but then buried the hatchet at a friend's wedding in Atlanta and drank and talked and laughed all night at the rehearsal dinner until we were the last two in the place and they threw us out. But smiles and laughter sometimes hide dark things. Four months later he was gone. 

A few days after he left us I awoke suddenly around 2am to a distinct presence in my darkened bedroom. It was not malevolent or frightening, it was warm and funny. I turned on the light but there was no one there. I sat up in bed and said, out loud, "Dude - did you just HAUNT me? Seriously, you just fucking HAUNTED me. Cut it out!" I immediately got out of bed, fired everything up and wrote and recorded this. By dawn it had taken shape. 

We tried to record it "for real" a few weeks later, but part of the magic of music is that some things you just can't re-create on demand. Conceiving that song was so in-the moment that I decided to use the original guitar, mandolin, and vocal tracks from that night's freaky possessed demo session and we just dubbed bass and drums over it later. Sometimes life is your "producer."

 

Mangia! 

I live in a predominantly Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian and South American 'hood with 167 different languages spoken and a virtual Epcot Center of cuisine within an eight-block radius. It's so awesome here that I haven't bought groceries for my fridge in years. Someone just opened an Italian restaurant here. As an Italian, I find that prospect both slightly intriguing and positively terrifying.

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