At the time of his move, Jeff Blaney was playing in a pair of cover bands and an acoustic duo, while also holding down gigs as an open mic host, music teacher, and producer. “Moving to Tennessee made me realize that doing that much at once doesn’t really allow me to see any of [my projects] through, so I had to prioritize and let some things go.” In 2008 he landed in Nashville. “I was feeling burned out with my music and wanted a change of pace,” he continues, recalling the journey via email. “I wanted to grow as a songwriter and musician, and I knew that Nashville was a place that I could do that. Nashville made me realize that I had no idea what my musical aspirations were, and it took me a few years of getting my butt kicked to figure it out.”
Born in Hartford, Blaney grew up in Enfield, Connecticut, where interacting with music quickly became an integral part of his life. “I started recording as a kid with my mom’s karaoke machine. I found that I could record parts from one cassette onto the other, and I started tracking songs. I never stopped.” Blaney started writing music around the age of 15, when he got his first guitar. Once he was done with school, he hit the road.
Leaving behind his band Backtalk, he found his passion renewed with a move west. “When I got to California I loved the freedom of writing and performing by myself. I wrote a bunch, and sort of found my voice again.” By August of 2001 Blaney had ventured east where he settled in New York City, continuing to write and perform without a band behind him. “I fell into the AntiFolk scene and performed a lot at the Sidewalk Cafe in Alphabet City. I didn’t want to play in a band at that time because my music felt too personal to get anyone else involved.”
The five-track Caesar’s Palace EP captures music recorded in New York, recorded with Blaney’s brother Rob “at his little home studio,” as well as the songwriter’s first Nashville sessions, recorded at Sound Emporium. (The brothers have also recorded and performed together for years as the Blaney Brothers, taking on a style that’s distant from Jeff’s solo work. “We play traditional Irish music and some originals I’ve written in that vein,” he says. “It’s like getting to play a different role, so it’s really fun for both of us.”) “I had no idea how to release an album other than pressing CDs and selling them at shows,” he continues on Caesar’s Palace. “So it never got an official release. This is a perfect example of not following through. I just didn’t know what I was doing, other than making a record.”
By 2010 he was ready to record again and that year he issued Moonlight Waltz, an eight-track release successfully funded through Kickstarter. The recording is “a fabulous taste of what country music radio is missing,” wrote Larry Vanderpool of the roots music collection. In 2011 Blaney followed with the Blue Heart EP, featuring three originals and three blues covers recorded at the Art Institute of Nashville, while 2012 saw the “modern day troubadour” release the five-song Labor of Love EP. This year the lead track from Labor of Love, “Going Right Back Home to My Baby,” was featured in an independent horror movie titled Muck.
While having lived in Nashville for six years, Blaney’s still continuing to discover what his “musical aspirations” are. At this point in time he says he’s “realizing that I’m doing it for myself and myself only.” And while he’s in the process of developing another record, he’s slowly coming to understand what his true relationship with music is. “I honestly think I would be toys in the attic crazy if I couldn’t express myself musically. Both the intellectual process of songwriting and the physical exertion of playing shows allows me to blow off whatever steam has built up.”
Jeff Blaney will be performing at foobar Friday, June 6. The free event also features the Danberrys. Music is at 9:00pm. Jeff also plays The Family Wash every Thursday from 6:30-8:00pm. Click here to read the Fringe’s complete Q&A with the songwriter.