Jeremy Aaron is In the Magic Light Thanks to Kickstarter and Some Creativity
New NYC Region CD Releases #6
Twice a month there is a singer songwriter showcase at Caffè Vivaldi in Greenwich Village that features many incredible songwriters. Jeremy Aaron is In the Magic Light Thanks to Kickstarter and Some Creativity Aaron runs the showcase and brings some very talented people, most of which are working musicians peddling their new CD releases to a quiet after work crowd on Friday nights. Caffè Vivaldi, which is cash only is a great place to unwind. It has a nice candle light atmosphere and serves some fancy plates along with drinks at a reasonable price. On a good night Aaron’s showcase turns into an Appalachian style jam session complete with clog dancers, banjo and you name it. Aaron is an excellent fiddler and always does an interesting set of mostly original music, though he will sprinkle in a traditional fiddle tune or a Doc Watson cover.
In the Magic Light is Aaron’s latest CD and it is wonderful. It has ten cuts on it and is a mix of easy listening music and deep folk musings. Aaron is a multi instrumentalist: he plays guitar, violin and mountain dulcimer on the album. The opening track “One Last Night” and “Frozen” sound very adult contemporary. “One Last Night” has a little latin feel and some of Aaron’s songs have a touch of James Taylor in them. Listen to “Carolina in My Mind” by Taylor and you will see similarities in style. After the second track the mix delves into the forest of sublimeness, the poet’s realm. It is the kind of writing that Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot explored in the early days. These tracks, “In the Magic Light,” “Honey” and “Bitter Sun” are so filled with descriptive details. They are like short stories and it takes a few listenings to get the main idea. The songs are as musically ornate as they are lyrically. “In the Magic Light” has has a little roots rock going on in it.
“Frozen” breaks up the heaviousity of the mix adding a light staccato sing along tune before you get to “California” which sounds like vintage American folk with agricultural metaphor. “Coins and Cans” is a hybrid, it’s a fun song with sad lyrics that are sung in a light hearted way. It could be easy listening music or a novelty song at the same time because it has a touch of humor especially in some of the vocal parts as well as clever word play. Aaron’ supporting musicians really did a great job, this includes Kate Copeland on vocals, Ema Chupakhin on piano/keyboards, Anastasia Golenisheva on cello, and Steve Jogoda on drums/percussion. Every song is tastefully executed and have different feels. “Getting Older” is done with that introverted folk style of “Bitter Sun” and “Honey” that are done in. “Bitter Sun” is one of my favorite tracks from the album. It is a good example of Aaron’s fluidity as a composer: One musical section flows into the next, complementing and contrasting the other part. The theme of “Getting Older” runs through a few of Aaron’s tunes.
The last tracks are in waltz time. “On a Sinking Ship” seems to be influenced by appalachian fiddle music but is an original composition. You can hear some appalachian influence in Aaron’s vocals if you know what to listen for. The whole album is like a string of melodies tied together. The album ends with “Filthy Old Farm” also in waltz time. It rolls like a ball giving the album a nice finale.
A: “Yes, my tip for artists is don’t jump into crowdfunding prematurely. Write a thorough plan for budgeting the money you raise and all the details of your project. You have to be serious about your project because the next 30 days will be a full time job asking your friends and family for money. Then once you’ve raised the money, you have to complete your project in a timely manner so nobody starts to think you stiffed them. It helps to give your fans, friends, and family a month’s notice before your campaign begins so you can gain momentum from the beginning. The most common cause of failure is with campaigns that don’t have any momentum on day 1.”
Q: “The title track “In the Magic Night” is sublime. It seems to tell a story from two perspectives, what is occurring on the outside and what is going on in the inside. “Getting Older” has this device also. A few of these songs are similar and these are very poetic.”
A: “My songs are written like an episode of the twilight zone sometimes. I love how simple experiences can inspire the most profound or terrifying awakening.”
Q: “A number of songs on the album are story songs. They are pretty complex lyrically. Would you agree? Would you separate a story song from a typical song that conveys emotions and a particular sentiment?”
A: “While writing these songs, I became obsessed with memory. I dug through my memory searching for universal experiences, and tried to convey the memories on paper. I began by writing random memories and the stories came out of my train of thought. The most naked song on the album, “On a Sinking Ship” is based on a true story of refugees who died in the Mediterranean. When I’m telling a real story, I want the music to be simple so nothing interferes with the story. Yes, I think the lyrics on the album are complex. But if you listen closely the lyrics convey a lot of emotions.”
Q: “One Last Night,” “Frozen” and “Coins & Cans” are easy listening music. The rest of the album has real folk influence and Appalachian vocal stylings. It reminds me of the kind of writing Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot wrote in the early days. You have lyrics that are kind of stream of consciousness that flow into different movements like a mini classical pieces. Is stream of consciousness part of your approach writing?”
A: “I am heavily influenced by the writing styles of Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. Songs like “Suzanne” or “Last time I Saw Richard” are the ideal that I am trying to reach. I love how those songs tell a story while conveying deeper layers of imagery and philosophy. A lot of my songs transition from realism to abstraction. In that sense I do utilize stream of consciousness. But I hope listeners can draw meaning from the abstract parts of my songs. In a song like Coins and Cans, all the images are connected and meant to convey a philosophical theme.”
Q: “You were brought up north of NYC. Was it a rustic environment? You use a lot of agricultural imagery in your songs. Is this a direct result of coming up in a rustic (or suburban) environment or does it have nothing to do with anything?”
A: “The rustic imagery comes from my time in the Adirondacks and Catskills. As a kid, my family went up to the Adirondacks every summer, which had a profound impact on my childhood. Being close to the wilderness forces people to interact. There was no cell service or wifi up there. We had nothing to distract us from the leaves, lake, forest, corn fields, fresh air, and dirt roads. There’s something inherently human about rustic imagery. On a biological level, humans are meant to be living with nature.”
Q: “What is “Filthy Old Farm” about? There are some great lines in it, about the car battery not working and all. Sometimes the ornate lyrical embellishments draw you in and you miss the story in the song.”
A: “My mom thinks Filthy Old Farm is about my grandmother dying in a car crash while she was upstate. There might be some truth to that. I think my grandma’s spirit haunts me the same way as the ghost in the song. To me, the song is about a spiritual journey that occurs when you are stuck alone in the middle of nowhere and can’t rely on technology to lead the way. I say in the song, you’re “stuck in your skin in the dark.” Technology allows us to never be alone, but it’s healthy to be alone in silence sometimes. I think a lot of people would see ghosts if they didn’t have any technology.”
Q: ““On a Sinking Ship” and “Filthy Old Farm” are in waltz time if I’m not mistaken. The former is an original melody that seems to be inspired by Appalachian fiddle tunes. Is this what you had in mind?”
A: “I grew up playing Appalachian fiddle. I admire how traditional American music often uses a drone chord underneath the melody to add momentum. There’s something awesomely powerful about a solo fiddle accompanying vocals.”
Q: “My favorite is “Bitter Sun.” Nice modal modulations. What is the main idea? As I said the listeners get caught up in the details of a vivid song like that.”
A: “Bitter Sun is about having a dream but there’s forces controlling your life and sidetracking you from getting there. It’s about being terrified because you don’t know when to settle down. You make big mistakes while you search for the perfect life. Every time you think you advanced in life, you find yourself in the same place, falling into the same old habits. You may as well be a “wind up toy.””
Q: “ A song like “Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen has a similar narrative style that can be found in your work. What is your take on “Suzanne”?
A: “When I hear Suzanne, I hear a story of the ideal romance. Suzanne is a wise woman who has traveled the world and found meaning in simple places, and she’s willing to share it all with you. She’s comfortable with nature and poverty. She’s an imperfect human, but her wisdom is less pretentious and more self-aware than Jesus’ wisdom. There’s something incredibly trustworthy and comfortable about her.”
A: “Phrasing is important to me. I want people to hear the music like I’m having a conversation with them. “Coins and Cans’ is my own version of “Like A Rolling Stone.” It’s written from the perspective of a NYC beggar. Karma has come back to bite him because he never paid attention to the homeless when he had a home and money. Losing everything has given him a new perspective. He’s warning the NYC passerby that you shouldn’t ignore the homeless because anyone can become homeless. But nobody is listening to him. Everyone has their headphones in. They consider him like a part of the scenery along with the barking dogs, honking cars, and billboards.”
When I asked Aaron to give us some info on his open mics at Caffè Vivaldi Aaron responded:
“I organize a curated showcase of young musicians at Caffè Vivaldi in NYC. I started the show to create a listening environment where young professionals could get paid to perform in a respectful space, and to grow the community of folk songwriters in NYC. The environment is warm, cozy, inclusive, and intimate. It’s one of the last places with the quintessential Greenwich Village bohemian vibe. When I hear folk/roots musicians who are serious about their art and who touch me emotionally, I want to support them. Since I started Greenwich Village Showcase two years ago it has grown a lot and has become a regular pit stop for musicians coming through NYC on their tour.”
Check out Aaron’s In the Magic Light and come on down to Caffè Vivaldi one night and enjoy the music.