By Ashley Zimmerman
By Dana Krangel
By John Hood
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By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
By Steve Brennan
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When Jacob Jeffries was growing up in Broward County, his parents filled their household with music. Pianist, singer, and songwriter Jeffries says they "impressed upon us so immensely the Beatles, James Taylor, Paul Simon, old doo-wop. There was never silence in the house." Of his and his sister's verbal and musical abilities, he added, "Soon after we learned to talk, we learned to sing along to everything."
The Jacob Jeffries Band makes piano-driven pop music. Besides Jeffries, there are two core members and one rotating bassist. The regulars are guitarist Jimmy Powers V and drummer Eric Jackowitz. The three are all from the Davie area and met in high school. Of Powers, Jeffries points out, "He was a senior; I was a freshman. I really looked up to him as a musician." Luckily, Powers accepted the younger singer, and they've been friends and collaborators ever since.
In 2007, Jeffries' father passed away unexpectedly right before they were set to put out their first EP, Life as an Extra. "He was at the forefront of all of my thoughts," Jeffries admits. "My dad's name was Jeffrey. I kind of adopted his first name as my 'stage name'... I just like having him attached to me all the time."
His birth name runs a little less smoothly off the tongue: Groten. "I've always been short, I'm like five-foot-seven," Jeffries says. "In middle school, I was much shorter than everybody. They always used to call me Jacob Gro-ten inches." Recently, upon meeting the beautiful girlfriend of a singer friend, "One of the first things she says to me [is] 'You look taller in pictures.' "
Though Jeffries makes music full-time, he spends his summers working at a musical theater company, Lovewell Institute for the Creative Arts in Davie, writing musicals from scratch with teenagers. "It's not even work; it's a blast," he emphasizes. The institute has been around for more than a decade and has facilities all around the world, with, according to him, its biggest program at Nova Southeastern University. He calls it "the most fantastic collaborative program I've ever seen in my life for teenagers."
Jeffries didn't study music but took chorus and musical-theater classes in high school. He believes this helped his vocal performances. After half a semester at Broward Community College, he dropped out. "I was too lazy, thought I'd make more music and get people to know who I am," he says. "Then, I really didn't care about English." He, of course, doesn't bring this up at the summer camp, joking that he tells the students, "Guys, don't worry about college; it's not a big deal." But he does think the college experience is irreplaceable and feels he missed out on it. On the road since he was 18, traveling through college towns, he opted for one lifestyle instead of the other, calling it "a decent, fair trade."
Tell Me Secrets
The Jacob Jeffries Band opened for the Gin Blossoms and Sugar Ray. It has put out three releases prior to this newest LP, Tell Me Secrets, which will be released on Boom Boom 88, a label created by Jeffries and business partners. "I'm very pumped. This is our first release in over three years," he says, adding that the industry emphasizes frequency, asking artists to produce more and more. "This is hopefully the start of more to come."
The actual product itself, he says, is definitely his best yet. While before the band's albums were written by himself alone and the sound molded with the help of studio musicians, this album is more collaborative. He cowrote some songs with other band members, noting, "This is presently where our heads are at. Now it represents more of what people see of us live."
As for lyrics, Jeffries doesn't write about his own drama; rather, he creates what he calls "fictional ideas that I inject my emotions in." The first single off the album, "Crazy Under the Moon," is a story about a boy and girl who were once in love, now no more. "I never really wrote that with the intention of it revolving around something that's happened to me," he says, but he did add little bits of girl problems he's experienced into the verse. A personal song he penned, "Over and Past," was dedicated to his sister, who is also his best friend. Their father's passing was hard on her, and she, like all of us, struggles with romantic problems. This was the first song he'd written for her.
Of Tell Me Secrets, he says it's the result of endless hours of work, not forgetting that "for the next year, you're going to be pushing this one album over and over." It's not just something creative that you introduce into the world; it's a commitment.
Jeffries has been making music professionally for close to ten years, and he's only 24. "Right now is a pretty pivotal moment in our lives," he says. The band and its music is or will be featured on AOL Music, the MSN Listening Booth, Deco Drive, in the Sun-Sentinel, Ocean Drive, and Orlando Magazine. The band has been traveling a lot. Its publicist Big Picture Media and management the Black Key Group are getting the band an abundance of interviews, but he's not complaining.
To keep track and find a little focus in this whirlwind, Jeffries works on an online tour diary, which he says he uses to create "something I can look back on like, 'Oh, I remember we ran into this problem and the car broke down, or on the van the tires went crazy and we spent three days in Atlanta.' Little memoir stuff that I can look back on. I feel like I'm losing track of what happened where and when." It's good for the future, he thinks, when you can reflect "and chuckle to yourself and show your kids."
The diary notes quirky and serendipitous stories. The group first played at Ohio University recently. It turned out it was the weekend all the moms visited their daughters. "We ended up playing a show in front of a roomful of people and their moms. We made a joke that we were checking out girls, see them walking down the street, next to themselves in 25 years," Jeffries kids. He was the designated driver that night. After getting in the van, he heard two girls behind him say, "Mom, are you here?" Turns out the van was full of college ladies and their mothers, squashed together with the band. "We ended up at this sorority-esque house with these girls and their moms; we all slept on the couches," he laughs. This is a soon-to-be-written entry.
"The puzzle pieces are slowly coming together," he says humbly of the buildup to the album's release. "All the gifts, they add up," Jeffries says. "All the experiences that you have on the road, the more you play together, the more you play period, the tighter you're going to get and the more aware you're going to be of where you want to be."