This extended discussion is supplemental to “Jeff Blaney: A Labor of Love,” and features our complete Q&A with Jeff Blaney, touching on his journey from Hartford to Nashville, and the release of his many EPs out of Music City.
Born in Hartford, you moved around the country a bit before landing in Nashville. When did you first arrive in town and what were your musical aspirations when you got here?
I moved to Nashville in July of 2008. I was feeling burned out with my music and wanted a change of pace. 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. Before I came here I was playing in two cover bands, an acoustic duo, hosting an open mic, giving lessons, and producing records. Moving to TN made me realize that doing that much at once doesn’t really allow me to see any of them through, so I had to prioritize and let some things go.
Did you play in any bands in your California or New York days?
When I moved to California I left a band that was very dear to me called Backtalk. The band was pretty successful on a local/regional level, but it got stagnant and I knew it was time to make a move. 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. Then I moved to NYC in August of 2001, and the tragedy happened not a month after I got there. 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.
Could you tell me a little about Caesar’s Palace? Moonlight Waltz is tagged as your first solo release, but your Bandcamp page for C.P. dates it back to 2002.
Caesar’s Palace was recorded during the time that I was living in New York. It’s a mix of songs I recorded with my brother at his little home studio and songs I recorded from my first sessions in Nashville. Those sessions were at The Sound Emporium. I had no idea how to release an album other than pressing CDs and selling them at shows, 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.
I read mention you made that a song of yours was featured in a film. Could you share a little more about when that was, which film featured your work, and how the opportunity arose?
I responded to an add on Craigslist for an indie movie looking for country or blues songs at some point in 2013. I got a response that they loved “Going Right Back Home to my Baby,” and it got placed. It’s a horror movie called Muck, and it’s coming out later this year. It was shown at SXSW, so we’re hoping it gets major distribution. I’m not sure where they are at with it right now.
What sort of outlet does playing in the Blaney Brothers provide you compared to your solo work? How often do you get to perform and work with your brother?
The Blaney Brothers is a musical project like no other I’ve ever been a part of. We play traditional Irish music and some originals I’ve written in that vein. It’s like getting to play a different role, so it’s really fun for both of us. The reason why it’s so special to me is that it literally has kept me in touch with my family in CT. We do a run of shows every year around St. Patrick’s Day, and I get to see my friends and family up there. I usually also schedule a reunion show with a funk/rock band that I played with for years called Pie. We have a lot of fun, and there’s very little pressure since it’s a one off. I’m flying back up there in September to play the Pipes in the Valley Festival. It is the premier celtic festival in that area, so my brother and I are excited to be a part of it!
There’s a quote from you that reads, “My biggest driving force is knowing that if I don’t write I become irritable, depressed, and just plain mean.” Has music always given you this outlet?
It has! 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.
As you and your work mature, have you grown closer to or farther away from the blues?
The blues is there for me when I need it. It’s like my imaginary friend that I can always have a conversation with. It’s a tricky relationship, though, because it’s not a very commercially viable outlet. Unfortunately it’s not a part of popular culture like it used to be (which is why pop music today sucks, but I digress). I know that I can’t sell records playing blues, but playing it live gives me the opportunity to tell the audience “It’s OK to have fun!” The blues is party music. It’s meant to be danced to, talked over, and felt more than heard if that makes any sense. It’ll always be a part of what I do, and I love the blues more and more every gig that I do.
Now well-established in the city, do you find yourself motivated to make musical goals for yourself? What drives you to give your music a proper release, rather than just playing the songs live?
I do it because I love it. 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. I’m working on a record right now, and I’m realizing that I’m doing it for myself and myself only. It will get released and all that, but the process of writing and recording is totally for me. There have been plenty of gigs, promo projects, scheduling, etc. that I’ve done that I consider “work,” and I do them because I have to to keep it all going, but producing records is what I love and I try to listen to my muse and not let music industry B.S. get in the way. I’m really enjoying making this one, and I think the fact that I’ve realized all this is the reason why.