My next guest defines the term, “DIY.” Jared McCloud is a singer/songwriter by way of Connecticut. I caught wind of his music from his new album, ‘Romance of the Atlantic.’ Jared used to run with hard rock bands for many years, but decided to go solo. Since 2005 he has put out two full albums and has played venues all over the northeast United States. The music he plays is deep & personal and the tempo is laid back. Jared has got huge potential and he does music for all the right reasons so check him out!
Stoli: Your name Jared McCloud is very catchy. Is that your real name and what is your family ethnic background?
McCloud: Thanks! Yes, it’s real. McCloud is actually my Mother’s maiden name which I took some time ago. That’s Scottish, but I know that I have a little bit of everything in my family tree… kind of a mutt I guess.
Stoli: You are based in between Boston & NYC in Connecticut. How has that location helped you to make new fans all over that huge area?
McCloud: It’s been great! You can be in a major market city in about two hours in each direction. I have been steadily getting more and more people to shows in these markets, and since it’s so close, I can count on a few from back home to show up too. That helps when you are trying to get your foot in the door of certain clubs.
Stoli: Your songs are deep & personal. How much of your personal life do you put out there in your lyrics?
McCloud: I th ink that it’s sort of impossible for me to not write a song that isn’t personal. They are usually about something that I went through, or an event that happened in my life, or one that I wish could happen- like a conversation that I never got to have with someone for some kind of closure. Most of my songs have direct quotes from conversations, or narratives to them, describing things that happened to me. I think that is what makes playing them so cathartic- when you write something so deadly personal and someone else can take it and it means something to them, even if they miss your initial point… it’s the best feeling in the world. Like, you aren’t alone. It’s the reason I have to write songs.
Sometimes they are topics that haven’t directly happened to me, but I put myself in the situation and think how I would feel. Like my tune “St. Catherine’s Anthem”, I had the initial idea for that when I was in Montreal. There is a serious homeless problem up there, and it just=2 0kind of got to me after a while. One day I was walking around and saw an older man just talking to the air, and I thought well maybe he is talking to someone that I just can’t see. So months later I was playing guitar somewhere and came up with the riff and for whatever reason this man pops back into my head, only this time I put myself in his place.
I thought, well maybe he is talking to his wife… maybe she died a while ago, and he couldn’t deal with it and got into addiction and lost everything. Maybe he ended up on the street and now he is ready to go and be with her, but it’s OK because he is happy about this decision. It’s kind of a sad topic but really a happy song too. So even when they aren’t directly about me, there is still a piece of me in them.
Stoli: You started out in hard rock bands but then went solo. What was the main driving force to do that and are you pleased with the result?
McCloud: That was a hard decision to make but I am certain it was the right one. I had played in heavier bands for years and I loved it, but after a while you would come so far and someone would get an ego or have a problem with something and there that went. You would have to start all over, all new people, all new songs. It got VERY frustrating after awhile. So I finally decided that I was just going to be a solo artist, use my name, and write everything.
I put together a backing band after I made my first record and did prett y well with it, but that started to fall apart just as the other ones had. Also around this time my tastes really started to change and I was writing a lot of acoustic, solo material that I started to scrap as it wasn’t heavy enough to fit this pigeon-holing mold that I thought I had to be in. So you have members starting to lose interest and a lot of solo material coming out of me. Some of the last shows I played with those guys I tried out some solo tunes and afterwards people would come up and want to know if they could buy the record with those songs on it.
Then I had a show which was a pretty big deal for me, and a thousand and one things went wrong in the weeks leading up to it; two drummer changes, a last minute bass player add, about ten new songs… not a good start! We finally play the show and the crowd seemed to like it but in my mind it did not go great at all, which to me is like the end of the world.
So the next day I decided that I was going to write some new songs, make a really lo-fi demo and just play shows, me and a guitar. I think it was the best decision I could have made for so many reasons. I love the stripped down, intimate atmosphere playing solo, plus I have more of a passion for songwriting then I do trying to be some “guitar God” or something. I think that if anyone sat in a room long enough you could be an incredible musician, but I don’t know if everyone could write a song that moves someone. That’s what I am interested in.
Stoli: You have released 2 albums so far. You had “1717 Vine St.” in 2006 and “Romance of the Atlantic” in 2009. How have you grown from releasing the first albu m to now and what did you add to the latter album that was not on the first?
McCloud: “1717 Vine St.” was my first record and I released it myself. I wrote it as a sort of “snapshot” of a period of time in my life. It was about when I graduated high school and couldn’t figure out who I was and thought everything in the world was awful and was trying to figure it all out. Then one day I got a call from someone telling me a friend of mine had shot himself. And I realized that my problems were not nearly as bad as I thought they were and tried to move on. So the record is really about growing up I guess. The funny thing about the record is I had written it not too long after all this had happened to me, so late 2001 at the latest. Well the bands I would put together kept falling apart so by the time it came out I was already a different person.
Now if I listen to it, all I hear are things I wish I had done differently or parts that I wish were there. Plus that is still a bit heavier of a sound than I would like to do now. That is probably the main difference between the two. Also, on Romance, I took the time to try a lot of different things, and wasn’t afraid to have other things stripped down. This record was done at Aliehn Productions in Bristol, CT which is a professional studio with a professional producer and the first was done in my drummers basement. He produced it and I don’t think that either of us really knew what we were doing, just what sounded good or bad. It made a big difference this time working with people that knew what they were doing. “Vine St.” was good for the time but I think that my tastes and demands have grown in leaps and bounds since that record.
Stoli: I love your song, “Under Midnight Star.” What does that song mean to you & what inspired you to write that song?
McCloud: Thank you, that is one of my favorites too. It’s a narrative about the end of a relationship I was in. We both knew it wasn’t going to work but for whatever reason we kept on trying. Then one winter night it was over, and I’m sure it was for the best, but at the time it was rough. It’s funny, that was one of those songs that came about in two minutes. I started playing it before it even had a name, and at every show I would introduce it as “I don’t know what this one is called…”. One night my cousin was at a show and thought up the name.
Stoli: Erika Gradecki gave you a nice review on Skopemag.com. How personally do you take criticism whether positive or negative in the press?
McCloud: Yeah, she said some amazing things about me… made me blush! Criticism is something you have to get used to if you are going to do this so I am trying to get better at it. Friends of mine are better at it than I am. I got a review back the other day that was like 98% positive and the guy gave me some of the nicest compliments I have ever received, but me being the eternal pessimist could only focus on the one comment that he made towards the negative, which in itself was not at all bad. I just have to learn how to take it more constructively. I actually have a hard time taking praise too. I am always a little pleasantly surprised when people like my record.
Stoli: This is such an exciting time to be an independent musician with the Internet. What is the most exciting & toughest part of being a serious musician in 2009?
McCloud: I think that the most exciting part is getting out there in different places and playing to different crowds and meeting other singer/songwriters like myself. I played a ton of festivals all over the Northeast this year and met some amazing people that I hit it off with, which wouldn’t have been possible without getting out on the internet and doing a little digging to be a part of these shows . If you look in the right places you can really do a lot on your own.
The toughest part I think is how the economy has affected the way musicians work. You have to consider higher and higher gas prices when trying to put together your tours, people might not have the money to go out to a shows and buy your merchandise, and especially with downloads and pirating music changing the business model, the labels have basically given up on “artist development”, they want a shiny new product ready to sell now. Everyone is kind of collectively hurting. If anything I think that you are going to see who is in it for the long haul- the ones that are doing it because something inside them says they have to, not to try and be famous or wealthy or something. If you are doing this, prepare to be broke!
Stoli: If you had to compare your style to one or two musicians that came before you who would they be and why?
McCloud: Wow, there are so many! I guess it would be the guys that can tell you a story in four or five minutes that can change your life, someone like Dylan or Springsteen. Tom Waits has been a HUGE inspiration to me. He is just pure genius. It was actually listening to Waits that I decided that I had done about all I could with the direction that I was heading in, and was going to work more on just writing the best songs I could, be it with a band or solo and no matter what genre they might fit into. Other people have inspired me differently- I think that there is a lot of Dave Navarro (more from the solo days but as a rhythm player too) and Chris Whitley in my playing. I use a lot of open tunings like Whitley did. Also stuff like E from The Eels, always using different instruments in his tunes. I used a lot of new stuff on this record that I thought about trying listening to them and Waits. Jeff Buckley, Kurt Cobain, Brian Wilson, Ben Folds, Fiona Apple… I could go on all day!
Stoli: How did you come up with the title of your new album “Romance of the Atlantic” and what does that mean?
McCloud: Well, the title comes from a short film script I wrote of the same name. It’s a “guy meets girl” story and takes place over one night on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which is my favorite place in the world. I had planned on doing a 5 song EP as a soundtrack to the movie, but I just kept writing and decided to make it a full length. Actually, my producers had to talk me into including “Colors” and “St. Catherine’s Anthem” on it, as they weren’t part of the story, but they ended up being perfect for the record so I am glad I listened to them! I thought of the title before I wrote the story- I wanted something that sounded majestic and wrapped up the story in one sentence. It’s funny, I have had a few people interested in actually making it, but it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe someday, but at least the soundtrack is finished.
Stoli: When you are not working on music what do you like to do with your personal time?
McCloud: Well, I travel a lot, so when I am home I usually just like to spend time with the family and my pets and catch up on TV and movies that I have missed. Art also runs in my family so I spend a lot of time on that, but music is constantly going. I have a voice recorder that I am always singing melodies or lyrics into while I am driving or can’t get near a guitar or piano.
Stoli: You have a bunch of live shows coming up. What can people expect from a live Jared McCloud show and will you be taking the show outside CT soon for fans all over the USA?
McCloud: The live show is really what it’s all about. I love trying new things out and see how a crowd reacts. Or I’ll try new songs that I only have a piece of done and see what the response is. I read somewhere that Prince used to do that. I still play just me and a guitar, but I recently found some people to put another band together and they make the show a lot of fun. The band make the songs sound more like the record, and are really good players. I love it when the crowd will get up and dance and sing along with you. I remember the first time that the crowd sang with me on one of my tunes… it was pretty intense. I have a bunch of home shows planned right now, but I am in the middle of planning a tour for the end of the year. I am going out with a few singer/songwriters that I met while playing festivals this summer so I can’t wait to see everyone again. Hopefully soon I will be getting out west.
Stoli: There are various people in the world like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran who are set on apocalypse and murder. How can the music community come together come together to promote peace & prosperity and rid the world of such evil?
McCloud: I don’t know what motivates people to do the things they do, but it’s something that unfortunately seems is happening more and more. I think that the best thing the music community could do is just keep writing and playing! I just saw Michael Moore singing Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” on TV the other day, and it is just as relevant today as it was back then, maybe more so! Songs like that can change the way a community thinks and reacts. And if people aren’t making “rally music”, then maybe just music to use as an escape from everyday life- if only for a little bit. It’s something that eclipses race, culture, class and location.
Stoli: Besides fortune & fame what would you like to to convey and achieve through your music for the people?
McCloud: I just want to go down as a good songwriter. I am not interested in being rich or on TV or anything like that. Obviously if it were to happen there are worse things in the world, but it’s not the goal. Just that, maybe someday, people might look at what I have done and think that it was pretty good. Maybe I will be a part of the tradition and someone might hear one of my tunes and it might inspire them to write the next great song… who knows, right?
Stoli: What is coming up from Jared McCloud and where can readers get more from you?
McCloud: Well, the rest of the year and probably most of the beginning of next is going to be spent touring and playing wherever I can. I will also try and be a part of as many festivals as I can next year to so look for me there. Then I guess I will make another record and do it all over again! I have been playing a lot of new stuff at shows, and I am still deciding what is going to go on the next record. I think it might have a little more of a rock n’ roll vibe to it.
The best way to see what I am doing is go to either my website (www.jaredmccloud.com) or my MySpace page (www.myspace.com/jaredmccloud) to see when I might be playing near them or releasing anything new. But everyone should DEFINITELY come out to a show and have a drink with me very soon!