Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Looking behind the curtain with Jay Clifford

Jay Clifford has a lot to be excited about.

He’s about to release his first music video directed by none other than Zach Braff. Driving Blind, his first solo album since parting ways with Jump, Little Children, has received nothing but positive reactions from fans and critics alike. He’s about to head out on the road touring with good friend Howie Day. And if that wasn't enough, on Feb. 14 he and his band with take the stage for a one-night-only performance of his music with the Charleston Symphony.

I’m not sure when the guy sleeps.

I got the chance to talk to Clifford last week just after he arrived home to Charleston after shooting footage for his video, of his album’s opening track, “Know When to Walk Away,” in L.A. with Braff.

“We did a lot of the shooting in the back alleys at the Scrubs set,” Clifford said. “It was a lot of fun.”

The two hooked up in the last year or so after Braff started expressing an interest in Jump on his MySpace blog. Through the magic of mutual friends, they met out in L.A. while Clifford was recording Driving Blind.

“He was a regular guy and just really into music which is cool,” Clifford said. “Next thing I know we’re in this 6-month email correspondence.”

The premise of the “Know When to Walk Away” video is nothing new, but that’s not to say I’m not incredibly excited about it.

“The idea is [Braff] did a little video blog that he’s gonna put up on his MySpace that asks people to submit video versions of people lip synching the song,” Clifford said, adding that he hopes to get submissions from around the world — people singing in front of the Eiffel tower, the Great Wall of China, landmarks from all over.

It may take a little while before the video is actually released, but Clifford’s got plenty to keep himself occupied in the meantime.

The release of Driving Blind in September could almost be seen as a make or break for Clifford’s career. Many a musician have come out of bands to find they just couldn’t hack it on their own.

“Jump has some pretty passionate fans. So to move on from that and do something else, it definitely felt like a little bit of an uphill battle,” Clifford said.

But thankfully, and not surprisingly, the majority of his fans have embraced the new music.

“It’s been really great,” he said. “I’ve been excited about the way people feel about it.”

After writing for the band for more than a decade, Clifford said writing just for himself wasn’t much of a departure.

“It’s different in some ways. I did a lot of writing on the piano for this record, and that’s new for me,” he said. “It comes from the same place. It’s kind of the same general process where you’re weeding through the subconscious and trying to figure out what you’re saying as you’re saying it. But it’s surrounded by so many different variables.”

Of course, he’d had experience writing with and for others — Howie Day and Sean Lennon just to name a couple.

Clifford wrote a song with Lennon that would have been on Lennon’s album Friendly Fire.

“It ended up being a great song,” Clifford said. “We only had 3 or 4 hours together but it was like looking behind the curtain. I went to his house and he was rehearsing with his band so it was him, Harper Simon, Bijou Phillips was there. It was kind of rock royalty and me. They left and we just started writing this song and the phone rings and he’s like, ‘Hi mom.’”

And that’s how he found himself sitting in a Korean restaurant, listening to Yoko Ono talk about her Tokyo art opening.

“It was surreal. There’s those moments. They’re obviously cultural icons, but they’re people,” Clifford said. “There’s moments of just being human but certainly there’s a while other layer to look through.”

Back in the real world, Clifford is just now finishing the charts for his Feb. 14 performance with the Charleston Symphony.

“It’s gonna be the string section, all the brass and full band. A total of I think 37 people,” Clifford said. “This symphony show is kind of my excuse to step back and take a look at the last 10 to 15 years and play.”

If you’re not dedicated enough to make the trek to Charleston, you can catch Clifford and his band at Cat’s Cradle this Friday. Slow Runner and Steven Fiore will open. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 day of show.

1 comment:

Olenka said...

Oh Wow! I'll be at Cat's Cradle and at Charleston's symphony concert! Even my parents decided to come out to Charleston for the occasion!
Thanks for sharing those tidbits about Sean Lennon and Yoko, it's great to find out little details like that!