Jim, the Musician
K&M: Have you written any new songs lately?
Jim: Yes! I've actually been doing some writing with a few different friends. Some stuff for me and some stuff for a few outside projects. I don't have anything recorded yet, but I will keep you posted.
K&M: Looking back at your education at Berklee College of Music in Audio Engineering and Production, what aspect of your studies do you feel prepared you best for your life now as a musician?
Jim: Wow. Interesting question. I would have to say all of it. There are aspects of the ear training (which helps you hear the progression of a song) and production and engineering classes that have all contributed to the musician that I am today. I had a great experience at Berklee. But, like anything in life - it is what you make of it.
K&M: What would you consider the most rewarding about the music business? On the other hand, what is the most frustrating?
Jim: The best part of music is a fleeting thing. For me, it is on the rare occasions when you feel that you are a part of something special. Ironically, that is sometimes when you are in a room with one other person. It CAN be in front of thousands at a show, but usually not for me. In the studio, when you create something and record it - or when you write something new - mainly in the creation of things is where I get the most fulfilment. There are times though, when I am playing live and have a great moment. Any time I am able to contribute to something - where I feel that my talents are being used - that is always a good thing.
There are too many frustrating things to list...
K&M: While on tour you must lead a very busy schedule every day. For our aspiring musician visitors to the site, can you tell us what a typical day is like on the road as a working musician? What can a future musician expect being part of a touring band?
Jim: Hey - that's 2 questions! Haha - those are really tough - only because every day is different. You might have to wait for the memoirs for the answer to the first one.
You can expect anything and everything. If you do a tour for any length of time, you can be sure that you will be tested unlike you have ever been tested before. Your patience, your beliefs, your expectations, who you are as a person - all of these things will be questioned. Hopefully, you will like your answers.
K&M: Another question for our aspiring musician visitors! What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into the music business? Any tips or suggestions?
Jim: Go to law school instead! Whatever you want to do in life, do it because you love it. Do it because it gives you some satisfaction. It's not about the money, or the popularity or anything else.
K&M: You mainly play guitar in bands and you are a self-confessed gear-head and a guitar tone freak. Yet your own CD is predominated with piano chords. How come? Do you consider yourself a guitarist or a keyboard player?
Jim: I have been a piano player all of my life. It will always be my first love. I am in ways a much superior piano/keyboard player than I am a guitarist. But, over the past few years, I have been put in situations where people need me to play guitar. And I love that too. Playing guitar lets me stand up and move. There are things I love about both instruments - but as a writer, I seem to always go back to the piano. I am very comfortable sitting with that view - looking down at the keys. So, to answer your second question, I am both. It is interesting how people always want to put you in a box. No one wants to allow anyone to be more than one thing. I always find that funny. I always wanted to be a good MUSICIAN. Whether it was playing instruments, or singing or writing. The people I respect are great musicians.
K&M: You started playing piano at six, drums at eight, guitar at twelve. Which instrument you think you are best at?
Jim: Piano - although, the guitar and I have been getting to know each other well over the past few years. Though I don't have the technical ability that I have on the piano, I have developed a style that I think is a bit unique. Probably because I approach the instrument from a pianist/singer mentality. So, that is cool.
K&M: Do you have your eye on any new equipment or gear you want to purchase over the months to come?
Jim: Always! Why, are you buying? Hehe - Can't really think of specifics - but there is ALWAYS more gear to get.
K&M: You have one of the most distinctive voices we know and your vocal range is massive. Have you ever had any professional vocal training?
Jim: Thanks. I took a few lessons with one of the best vocal coaches in LA named Seth Riggs. He is great. Not really for the sound of my voice - more for voice strengthening and warm ups and to keep your voice healthy on the road. But, I've never really had voice lessons. I learned to sing from my father and by singing along to the radio.
K&M: Stemming from that, we assume you take good care of your voice. Or not? What do you do before a show to warm it up?
Jim: Sometimes I warm up. Do a few exercises. But not nearly as much as I should. I don’t smoke and try not to put myself in places where there is a lot of it. That KILLS my voice. Usually, talking a lot can get me a bit scratchy. Since I can be a talker, sometimes I have to watch it.
K&M: You've written some great articles for music magazines such as "Premier Guitar." What other music publications do you read or stay current with?
Jim: I like Electronic Musician and stuff like that. Not as much of a fan of the tabloid types of music mags - but I still read Rolling Stone. That is still the quintessential one for me.
Jim Regarding Avril
K&M: You are Avril’s principal backup singer. In an article you said “I can honestly say that half of the gigs I’ve gotten are because of my pipes.” Was that the case with Avril?
Jim: Well, first of - I would hate to label myself like that. Saying that I am a "principal" backup singer might undermine the other guys in the band. A lot of the other guys sing as well (and they are really good singers) - That being said, I do sing a lot. - I know that Avril was looking for musicians that were strong singers, so I'm sure that it helped to be able to sing some of the higher harmonies.
K&M: How much did you know about Avril Lavigne and her music before auditioning for her?
Jim: Just that she was a huge star - and I had obviously heard a bunch of her songs on the radio.
K&M: How did Kashmir intro to “Losing Grip” come about? We love Zeppelin and you guys do an awesome job!
Jim: Well, technically, it's not really "Kashmir". It's more of an ode to it. It's just one of those things that came up in rehearsal. Devin had been doing something close to it and then I think Steve (keyboard player) started doing the string line. It just kind of happened - and we decided to go with it.
K&M: Avril has recorded "Girlfriend" in eight other international languages. Have you been asked to learn the lyrics of the song in any other languages as of yet in order to be prepared to perform it live?
Jim: No, not me.
Jim On Other artists
K&M: What band or artist are you listening to right now?
Jim: I've been checking out some older stuff from the 80's and 90's. Going back to Journey, John Waite, Bad English and a bunch of 80's pop stuff. I am working on a project that has 80's influence and I've been trying to get into that head space.
K&M: Okay, fun question, this is our random iPod shuffle question! Take your iPod and search at random. What are the first three songs that come up?
Jim: OK. Let's see...
1. Huey Lewis and the News - "The Power of Love"
2. Foreigner - "Hot Blooded"
3. Radiohead - "Exit Music"
Pretty good stuff!
K&M: Time to confess - what is the one CD in your collection that you think people would be surprised to hear that you own?
Jim: Surprised? Or embarrassed? Surprised - maybe Ibrahim Ferrer or… I have quite a lot of Mozart and Frank Sinatra. Though I am not embarrassed by anything I like, I think people might think I would be embarrassed about my love of Madonna. I must say, nothing gets me going in the morning like "Get Into The Groove".
K&M: We are great fans of Hanson. They are still going strong. Have you heard any of their music? Except of course MMMBop, which even my 98-year-old half deaf neighbour has?
Jim: I've heard some stuff. But, a friend of mine just mentioned them to me and said that I would really like some of their newest stuff. I'll look into it.
Non-music related/fun questions
K&M: Over the past six months you have travelled all over the world promoting with Avril. Which country have you enjoyed visiting the most while on the road?
Jim: China was pretty cool. Partially because I had never been there, but it is definitely something different. It is very developed. The skyscrapers are everywhere and they are all incredibly tall. They also have a lot of interesting culture. I always enjoy going to foreign places where I can see cultural differences. To see that we (Americans) are not the only culture - and that there are so many different people living their lives in varying styles. I find it healthy and I end up with a greater appreciation of my life and the place that I live.
K&M: On tour, which museums or tourist attractions have you visited while visiting other countries?
Jim: I do a lot of the usual things that one would expect. Louvre, Big Ben, etc. I went to the Art Museum in Madrid the last time I was there, that was amazing. I like to visit churches in Europe and other countries. It's funny, because I never go to church in the US. But, I love seeing the architecture of old churches. They have amazing history and feeling to them.
K&M: Jim, your life seems to be very busy between touring with Avril and working with other artists writing and more. When you have a moment of free time what do you enjoy to do the most, any particular hobbies?
Jim: I love movies. I love TV. I grew up with TV. I am also a huge sports fan. Football is No.1 (Philadelphia Eagles - I know, they lost their first game. I blame that on the fact that since I was in transit, I was not able to watch the game - and thus, their mojo was off with my absence). My wife (partially why I married her) is a huge Football fan too. Try finding a woman who loves music AND Football. Believe me, I know how lucky I am. I also (as you know) love basketball. I have a hoop at my house and play whenever I can. Which segues very nicely into your next question.
K&M: When and where did you learn to play basketball so well?
Click to see how good Jim is!
Jim: Let's be realistic. I am not a great ball player, but I have moments. I can shoot and have a lot of hustle. Just like other areas of my life - I take what I've got and try to use it to its highest potential. If I have any skills, it is all from watching Allen Iverson.
K&M: Hotdogs or hamburgers?
K&M: Are you a good cook?