Mondays are like Mini-Christmas here at A&GS HQ. That’s usually when physical copies of albums arrive in my mailbox. And on the Monday before this interview I got my very own copy of Jeff LaBar’s debut solo CD, One For the Road which I jammed endlessly in the days leading up to it, and I still crank it at least once a week now. So when the day came to sit down with Jeff I did my best not to fanboy all over the place (total fail!), and I definitely had him laughing. It was a fun conversation, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. So check it out, guys:
Amps: Wow, Jeff…this record is pretty fucking goddamn good, man!
Jeff: (Laughing hysterically) “Pretty fuckin goddamn good” Wow…that’s the best review I’ve gotten!
Amps: What was the impetus for this record now, after all this time?
Jeff: Well, I never really got to do my songs with CINDERELLA and my writing style’s a little different than my playing style. And believe me, I’ve enjoyed my years in CINDERELLA but I’ve been threatening to do a solo record for a long time to my wife, who’s my manager, and the people around me. And Tom (Keifer) has always been the main songwriter for CINDERELLA. And when he announced he was putting out a solo record our tour manager Larry and my wife Debbie, they took me aside and they said, “NOW!! You have to do it now!!” And I said, “Oh, OK…stop yellin’ at me!” (laughs) Next thing I know Larry got me a record deal with Rat Pak Records, and I’m like, “Whoa, slow down there, cowboy! Lemme go in the studio and see what I can come up with.” So I took advantage and I went in the studio. I got Troy Luccketta from TESLA to guest on a song, and we went to his studio so he could lay down some drum tracks and then I went to my studio and we just got to work. I sent Fred Coury the stuff to mix, because I wanted him to mix the whole record. And based on one song I signed the deal with Rat Pak Records. And it was Game On from there.
Amps: And you couldn’t be with nicer people. I love Jen over there.
Jeff: You know, I’ve never met anyone there face to face, but I talk to them every day! Great people!
Amps: I lived in Philly for 14 years; it’s where I caught EAGLES Fever, and listening to you talk, it reminds me of my years there. Plus, living here in Dallas only makes me hate the Cowboys even more.
Jeff: (Laughing) I know, you can take the boy out of Philly, but you can’t take the Philly out of the boy! And don’t get me wrong, I love Texas…but I hate the Cowboys!
Amps: How long have you been living in Tennessee?
Jeff: I came to Nashville in ’04 after commuting back and forth from Philly for years to record with CINDERELLA. Fred was the first one to move to Nashville and he bought a studio. And then in 1998 after CINDERELLA hadn’t done anything in a while Universal asked us to record a song or two for a greatest hits record.
So we all went down there to record “War Stories” at Fred’s studio. And then one by one we all moved here (laughs). Tom moved right after that, Eric (Brittingham, bass) was next and I was the last holdout. I came down in ’04 to play with Fred’s wife’s band NAKED BEGGARS and during the three year span of working with that band constantly I met my wife in Iowa, who came to work for the band selling merch. So I was like, “Well I guess we both live here now!” We’ve been here ten years and we’ve been together ten years.
Amps: “Asking for a Beating” is a pretty meaty, dirty track as is “Nightmare on My Street.” Tell me about them. They’re both heavy as fuck!
Jeff: (laughing) well, musically they’re riffs I came up with quite some time ago. It’s only recently that I put them together to make sense in a song. When I recorded both of them with drummer Christopher Williams I overdubbed everything; bass, guitars, etc. but I didn’t have lyrics for either of them. So me and my wife were sitting and watching TV and I’m like, “You know what? I have to go into the studio and cut vocal tracks tomorrow, and I don’t have any lyrics.” So she goes, “Well, you better get on it!” So I grabbed my iPad while we’re watching Law & Order or something, and I just started writing lyrics. And I’m sitting there laughing my ass off, and my wife says, ‘What the HELL you laughing at? You look like a psycho!” I’m like, “Wait’ll you hear these lyrics!” (laughs). It’s all tongue-in-cheek, though. “Nightmare” was gonna be about a serial killer that may or may not be me. And “Beating” is about a person who could use a beating. But I think the politically incorrect part is that it’s a woman. It’s an ex….please know that I would NEVER, ever hit a woman. Again, it’s tongue-in-cheek. It’s all a joke, man. You gotta have a sense of humor to get that.
Jeff: You know, I keep getting that question, but I don’t have a band at the moment. I pretty much did the record myself with the help of some drummers. My band for the video included my son Sebastian who plays guitar in MACH 22. They’re great, you gotta hear’em! My bass player was Jasmine Cain, and she’s a great singer/songwriter and solo artist as well, and my drummer was Matthew Arnn who’s in this great rockabilly band called HILLBILLY CASINO. See, they’re all busy with their own bands, but I talked to Sebastian and he’s willing to do it, and if I can drag the others away, or include their bands on tour, I think we can make something happen.
Amps: You gotta, man! You just GOTTA!! I think it would go over like gangbusters.
Jeff: Well, we’ll see. I’ve never been a frontman before. I’ve never been the guy in the middle. Studio is one thing, but engaging a live crowd the way most singers do…I’ve watched Tom do it for years and he’s a master at it. And I think I’ve learned a lot from him, so I’m thinking maybe I could do it.
Amps: You decided to helm the vocals yourself. Who knew you sang so good, huh?
Jeff: My vision for a solo record was that I wanted to do everything myself. Even though I started out as a drummer, I’m not as good as what I’d want on a record. A song like “Nightmare”, I can’t do that! So I got guest drummers and I did everything else myself. I’ve been singin’ as long as I’ve played guitar, just nobody knew it. I’m a really good singer in the bar (laughs), but we all are, right? My wife knew, too. And the guys in CINDERELLA are behind me, they’re really supportive. Fred has been involved from day one with mixing, and Tom has always had more faith in me than I had in myself. And Eric and I have been doing stuff on the side for so many years. It really was those three guys that encouraged me to just do it.
Amps: I told Tom last year that Live at the Key Club from ’99 is in my Top 10 Live Albums of all time. Hell, it’s Top 5! The energy from that performance is amazing!
Jeff: Thank you very much. Did you know that album was recorded purely live? We didn’t overdub anything. It is truly live. We pride ourselves on being a great live band. Before we go on tour we do four straight weeks of rehearsals. We plan new things, and come up with ways to bring songs together.
Amps: Before I let you go, please, say something to the fans out there.
Jeff: Uhhh…wow. I think I’ve said everything but I just wanna say that the album is available online and it will be in stores as well. It’s seven songs, so we’ll call it “Side A”. If you like this…I’m gonna make “Side B”. (Amps roars with approval!)
Before we hung up Jeff, proud papa that he is got my physical address so he could send me a MACH 22 CD (review coming soon). He’s really proud of his son Sebastian, who is quite a guitar player himself. And that’s the kind of guy Jeff LaBar is. Yeah, his album was out at the time, but at the end of the interview you could hear how proud he was of Sebastian and we spent some time talking about MACH 22. And I thought that was really nice, and really classy of him. One For the Road is available now via Rat Pak Records, so grab a copy today!