DS Exclusive Interview: Jeff Rowe talks about going solo, influences, and future plans

Jeff Rowe is a singer/songwriter fresh out of the Boston Punk scene who released his debut EP, ‘Barstool Conversations,’ in August of 2010 through Anchorless Records.  Jeff, being the nice guy that he is, agreed to talk to us about the change from playing in a band to going solo, his musical influences, being a terrible liar and exciting 2011 plans. Check out full the interview here.

You’ve been doing solo work for a little while now. How does playing alone feel compared to playing in your old bands?

I sincerely miss the collective effort and creativity that comes with playing in a band. The moment when you finally do a song justice as a group is not quite the same feeling of triumph when its just you and a cup of coffee. That being said, the fundamental positive difference between playing with a band or playing solo for me is the ability to take on tours and recording without having to run it by 4 or 5 people and see if it works for their availability. The feeling that you’re walking a wire of sorts when playing completely alone can be pretty damn liberating and is unlike anything I’ve felt while playing in a band.

Are you more or less critical of yourself when part of a duo or as a solo artist?

I think I’m pretty evenly critical of anything I’m doing musically be it solo or with a band. At the end of the day I want to feel like I’ve lived up to my own expectations but I’m the last person that is gonna strip the fun out of what I love by taking myself too seriously.

As a recording artist a lot of people that surround you can influence your music, add ideas etc. Are you always looking for fresh ideas? If yes, where do you get these from?

The vast majority of my ideas for songs come from what I’m surrounded by. I could have a passing conversation with a friend and for one reason or another, it will stick with me and work its way into a song. I also use the songs to help wrap my head around things in my life that I just flat out didn’t understand the first time around. I’m surrounded by amazing friends that make for late nights, hard mornings and endless material for me to write about.

Who would you site as your major influences, on both the folk and punk sides of the spectrum?

I could turn this question into a gushing 50 pages about how lucky I am to have come across the music that has had a profound effect on my life. I grew up on punk bands like Crimpshrine, Avail, Jawbreaker etc… and then stumbled my way into songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, Bruce Springsteen etc…

So many new folk punk artists are really starting to gain attention, such as Frank Turner, Defiance, Ohio!, Joey Briggs, Mischief Brew, and more. What are your favourite bands in the genre?

I really Like Erik Petersen and Mischief Brew… He’s a great songwriter with the enviable ability to write with both imagery and raw emotion. To be honest I’m not the most well versed person for the folk punk genre but I know there are many great songwriters that are under the radar so to speak.

Part of the rise of folk punk seems to be a movement that’s trying to break down the barriers between musicians and fans. Can you share a positive experience you’ve had with a fan?

While playing a show a few years back in an upstairs apartment in Oswego, New York (amazing kids up there!) there was a pig pile of sorts during my set. People were singing so loud that my guitar must have felt like an outsider. It was a night that I’ll never forget and the friends that were made that night are my friends to this day. When a night or moment like that happens with music it is made very clear to me that any barrier between musician and crowd is best put aside.

Boston has certainly had no shortage of punk rock. Who are your favorite Boston bands?

Boston is a great city for music, it ebbs and flows but what doesn’t? There are so many old bands from Boston that I love and could go on about but what’s important are the bands the city has right now. All of the following bands are local and deserve a listen… Wolves and the Radio, Larcenist, Billy Brown, Choke Up, Movers and Shakers, The Cold Beat and Dan Webb and the Spiders and the Fake Boys.

How was your experience at The Fest 9?

Fest 9 was my first Fest experience. I had an amazing time being surrounded by old friends and bands that I really respect. It felt great just to be a part of it. The hangovers hurt like hell though.

Your songs tend to be rich and full of emotion. I’d love to hear the story behind one of them. Do you want to pick one and tell us about it?

The song”Dead Authors” is about coming to terms with my relationship with my family and the city I grew up in. The scenes change and the times continue to pulse forward but there are cultural ramifications when you try and turn a working class city into a tourist town for the wealthy to summer in. The lyrics are very personal and very real. The family/city topic is a bit of a theme with my songs. I don’t want to write about things that I don’t know about or have no experience with, for me I’d feel dishonest and I’m a terrible liar.

Any exciting future plans you want to tell us about?

2011 is looking real busy for me. I’ve got a 4 way split with Brenden Kelly, Chris Cresswell (The Flatliners) and Mike Hale (Gunmoll) coming out on Anchorless in April that I’m real excited about. I will also have a new EP called “New Winter, New England” out in May also on Anchorless. I have a 7 inch coming out later in the year that will be released in Europe only on Gunner records and lastly I’ll be touring as much as possible. For now it looks like Canada in April, Europe/U.K. in May, Russia/Ukraine in June and the U.S. in July.


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