Jake Clemons, a gifted singer/songwriter and musician, is an intelligent, deep thinking musician with strong emotions which are palpable in his music. His new sophomore album called Eye’s on the Horizon is the perfect example.
The first single from the album is Jake’s interpretation of the Leonard Cohen classic song “Democracy” that finds Clemons reaffirming a family tradition. His father was a Marine Corps band director whose dedication to serving the nation was instilled in Clemons at a very early age.
What was it like having a father in the military?
I loved it. I found the military community to be very tight. Everyone is from some-where else and everyone takes care of each other. I liked going to different places, meeting new people and making new friends. I was always the new kid because we didn’t stay any place too long. Once everyone got to know me we would move again, and I got to meet more new people.
What was the first instrument you played, and how old were you?
I wanted to play the Saxophone, but my Dad wouldn’t let me. He said I needed to learn the piano first. I wasn’t happy about it, but it turned out to be a good idea. I was around the age of 9 or 10, I think, when I learned the piano. My Dad felt the piano was the basis of all musical instruments.
What other instruments do you play?
After the piano I learned how to play the sax, guitar, drums, bass, pretty much everything. It was important to first get the rhythm in the piano, it’s also a percussive instrument, and then go to a wood instrument like the saxophone.
Clemons has composed all of the songs on Eyes On The Horizon (with exception of “Democracy,”) and has played guitar, keyboards, saxophone and handled lead vocals on all of the tracks. The Jake Clemons Band kicked off the album release on September 7th with a performance at the famed Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ before touring throughout the US, Ireland, UK, Europe and Canada.
Tell me about the Big RoaD’s Winter Bash?
It’s a celebration of New Jersey’s annual Clarence Clemons Day, this year it will benefit Monmouth County SPCA. About 8 years ago, the great state of New Jersey decided to create a Clarence Clemons Day, they had a proclamation ceremony along with a celebratory concert. Clarence Clemons Day is officially on January 11th.
The celebration this year will be held on January 10th at the Headliner in Neptune City. Along with The Jake Clemons Band, there will be other guest performances by Jarod Clemons and the Late Nights, Eddie Testa, and Bob Polding, playing original music.
Tickets for the show can be purchased at: Bigroad.ticketbud.com
How old were you when you first performed with your uncle Clarence, and what was the venue?
It was at Church. I don’t remember how old. I was young, maybe 11 or 12.
Other than your uncle, and Bruce, what musicians/artists, have you felt most inspired or influence by?
Stevie Wonder has been one of my favorite song writers, he’s a power figure, unworldly and supernaturally gifted. I’ve also been a massive fan of David Bowie because of his approach to perform and his presentation as an artist. I’ve been a fan as long as I’ve liked rock and roll. Which wasn’t at a very young age. My parents were very conservative. I was only allowed to listen to band music and gospel, so I was a bit late to the game. It wasn’t until I was older when I started listening to other types of music and discovering my own style.
Tell me about “Eyes on the Horizon,” the album and the tour.
The record is about recognizing where we are as a society, as a people, and a greater community; and addressing the issues that we’re currently facing. And while we’re acknowledging what the issues are there’s still hope for the future, as long as we keep our focus on who we want to be and where we’re going. If we don’t keep our eyes (up) towards where we want to go we’re not going to make it there.
The tour has been a lot about a feeling of community and recognizing the amazing characteristics of empathy. Right now, we’re at a time where there’s some strong opinions and we’re divided as a people. We’re not connecting the way we used to. We used to have a strong connection to the community, we don’t have that any more. Or even the basic moral principles as a human being that we should be able to identify with and get behind.
“This album is a lot different from anything I’ve done before, “Clemons insists. “My last album reflected a very personal and inward point of view. This one is definitely more outward looking. It’s really speaking to the troubles and travails we find in the world today. I’ve always had a fairly philosophical outlook and am happy to share views on society and culture, but never used that voice so directly through my music until now.
There are situations where parents are being separated from their children, people are put in cages, it’s not a good thing. This is not a political perspective, it’s a human perspective, when you’re talking about the basic standard principles of what’s right and wrong.
It seems like it’s a mix of genres, (rap, rock, ballads, and reggae) would you say that’s accurate?
Yea, I write based on how I feel and what I hear, and I try to convey a certain message. The tone and feeling of the song is shaped around that.
Is there a particular song or genre you feel most connected to?
No, I wouldn’t say so. I think a large part of it is how I grew up because I was so limited on what I could hear, so I try to embrace everything. When I put together a record, I’m just looking at how to convey the message the best way.
When you write a song, do you begin with the lyrics or the music, or is it different each time?
It’s different every time. There are hundreds of songs that will never see the light of day. Sometimes I just start writing down lyrics. Sometimes It’s a melody. Sometimes it’s an entire song that I just start hearing it in my head. Other times I’m just writing down cords. I write on the piano, the guitar, and on the saxophone…and sometimes I write music without any instruments at all. I’m writing all the time.
What advice would you give someone who wants to write music?
The biggest thing for me was learning how to listen to music. Understanding music is important. I tried to hone in on one genre to learn how to enjoy it.
Another thing, when you discover who your favorite band is, try to find out what inspired that band. Listen to their album and find out what inspired that. When you do that you find you might unlock something along the journey. And then you have to just write what you feel. Don’t try to do anything different.
You and your band have toured quite a few countries; Ireland, England, Scotland, etc. What was the most memorable experience you’ve had on tour?
There were a handful of times in Ireland where there would be what’s known as a “lock out.” That’s when you’ll end up in a bar somewhere, and if everything’s right in the world, the bar owner will go lock the door. And there’s a guitar that gets passed around, everyone gets a turn on the guitar and it goes on for hours. Just sharing a tune, it’s a gift to everyone. It was an amazing experience…In Ireland everyone has a song. They don’t ask you if you sing in Ireland, they ask you if you sing well. (laughs)
Who are The Jake Clemons Band members?
Mark Rashotte on guitar, Jeff Louch on Keyboard, Marika Galea on bass, and Bucky Wheaton on drums. Jake primarily plays guitar, and then the Sax and keyboards as well.
What countries would you like to tour that you haven’t been to yet?
I’ve been to Japan, but haven’t played there. I would love to play in Tokyo. I’d love to play anywhere in Asia or India. I’ve played in South Africa, but I’d like to play in some places further north in Africa, I’d love to have a gig in Kenya.
I feel that rock and roll is the most pervasive music, it’s so universal. It started in the mid-1900’s and there’s no place on earth that doesn’t have their own version of it. I like to experience all different forms of it.
You performed at SeaHearNow, what was that like?
SeeHearNow is a special gig. It’s one of the coolest roles I’ve ever had. My whole job was to ride the waves and then play music whenever it moved me, when there was a connection. It was a blast. I ended up surfing a lot and met some cool people.
You have a Birthday coming up soon, how do you feel about turning 40?
That’s an interesting question. I mean, I don’t know how much it’s hit me yet. For me the biggest thing about turning 40 is, theoretically, you’re not a youth any more. You can’t make dumb mistakes and blame it on being young, (laughs). There’s more responsibility that comes with the age I guess.
Although, in my head, I’ve always felt like I was 60. I’ve always felt older. I guess because I like to take it slow, I even drive slow. I like to spend time with people and talk about things that are important. It’s never been hard for me to become older.
What’s next on the Horizon for Jake Clemons, where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Well, you know… I hope to put out a few more records. And more touring. I’m just excited about being on the road and creating something that feels supernatural and cathartic, liberating and explosive. Doing something bigger than what might happen in one night.
Eyes On The Horizon is now available everywhere digitally and in stores on CD.