Stephen Jacques on New Album: “Groove Atlantic-O” [INTERVIEW]
Stephen Jacques: An Interview On His New Album, “Groove Atlantic-O”
Photo by Darin Back
Stephen Jacques is a true artist and songwriter world-renowned for his prolific, heartfelt alt-rock love songs, Stephen has released ten albums to date, with his eleventh on the way. He is produced by Steve Albini. His body of work was culled from a lifetime of experiences, including those as an engineer, a Hollywood actor, a custom builder, and a TV host. Though Stephen lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, his family hails from New Orleans and New York. His Italian grandfather was a multi-instrumentalist during the roaring 20s and an aunt on the French side of his family was a fabulous blues singer.
Jacques’ music was influenced by great rock and punk bands heard throughout the mid-Atlantic in his 20s and 30s, as well as by a good friend — a Beatles fan — who introduced him to his first chords on an acoustic guitar at age 16. Stephen currently writes all of his music and performs in the Charlottesville, Virginia, area. Over 300 radio stations and podcasts spin “Send Them Love” — cited by DJs as a “little masterpiece” — and his other nine albums to date. “Groove Atlantic-O” is his latest album, available everywhere.
Stephen Jaques Interview
Contributed to by Krista Vilinskis of Elephants and Flowers Media
Tell us a bit about your new album Groove Atlantic-O.
Thank you so much for this opportunity to share what’s going on here in Virginia. I really appreciate what you’re doing for artists around the globe! This record was written after several tours last summer, 2022 – to Costa Rica, Europe, Canada, and USA; so I had a lot of experiences and topics to address in this alt rock genre of love songs. Songs like “Weird Iceland Hotel Dinner” and “Dusty Italian Bike”, and “Syracuse Lawn Chair”. True stories which then often go on a lyrical fictional rollicking ride. It was Engineered and produced by Chicago legends Steve Albini (Nirvana, Paul McCartney,) and Jason Narducy (Bob Mould, David Grohl). Jason was also managing the team of prolific Chicago musicians. It is a fairly eclectic record, which looks to the Atlantic for inspiration, love and romance. Every song is vastly different from the other, and that is always a major factor, utterly important. Those chord and melody differentiators albeit juxtapositions -when I am laying out chord sheets on my large table.
What was your creative process/concept with this new album?
I was thinking about all the different people I met on the tours, and with a song like “Weird Iceland Hotel Dinner”, something that actually happened to me in Reykjavík. So it was fairly effortless and everything flowed – never rushed. I take a lot of breaks between songs and then when I’m feeling it, strum a few chords and set the melody, select a topic from my memory and then roll with the storytelling process. The iPhone is great because a lot of these thoughts can be recorded into the video for future songwriting – whereupon I’m trying to remember an experience or a new song’s melody/ jingle which I often hum into the video. Sometimes it will be 10 of these on the phone for future records; and, often, memories are in my mind for 2 or 3 years before the song goes to chord sheets.
What did you learn about yourself when writing and creating your new album?
Excellent question: I think it was to take a larger break between the edits of the songs, walk away for a longer span…. and also to use the first thing that comes to mind for the lyrics and not overthink it. I am also trying to start some new songs by hitting the keyboard first. I have been playing guitar my whole life yet I just started playing keyboards a couple years ago.
What was it like recording with Steve Albini?
Steve Albini: Amazing man and a true gentleman, a really laid-back Pro. So I experienced firsthand why he is one of the world’s greatest recording engineers & Producers with over 3000 records to his name. Distilled I would then say: focused, professional, great listener, humble, honest, organized and efficient, looking out for the best interest of the artist, unselfish, great sense of humor, and a funny storyteller. We are very blessed to have him and his endless talents amongst us in America. In the studio, you see him on his hands and knees setting up 7 microphones around a drum kit. Very hard worker and a hands-on guy, who deserves all the credit he has received. He is always trying to tell the sincere yet brutal truth of how he sees things. We all hope he never retires.
To round out the team we had: Jason Narducy: Bass, Acoustic & Electric Guitars, percussion, backing, vocals,; Chris Siebold: Lap Steel, Acoustic & Electric Guitars; Vijay Tellis-Nayak: Piano, Keyboard; Gerald Dowd: Drums, Percussion; Stephen Jacques: Lyrics, Vocals, Acoustic Guitars, Mixing: Steve Albini, Chicago IL.; Recordings: Electrical Audio, Chicago IL; Mastering: Chicago Mastering, Chicago IL
What single is your favorite track off your new album and why?
I actually loved singing the song “Syracuse Lawn Chair”, it has such a vibrant and soulful yet very relaxed feeling to it; especially the guitar and lap steel which multi-instrumentalist Chris Siebold (Prairie Home Companion) is playing; all of which gives it a very chill alt-country vibe; Chris is such a super cool, prolific and easy guy to be around, simply an amazing musician; and it is a song that sort of makes you feel like you are on site- in your Syracuse backyard smelling fresh cut grass on a hot summer day – in your cheap colorful lawn chair.
Did your Italian grandfather who was a multi-instrumentalist and an aunt who was a fabulous blues singer have a big impact on you? If so, how?
My Italian grandfather was a New York metro area multi-instrumentalist in the roaring 20s with a jazz band, who relocated to Virginia; an organized hard-working perfectionist, a finish trim carpenter, and an amazing cook; he was always on the Organ and sang love songs to my grandmother, when you opened the front door there he was sitting down playing. But he did not sing. My French side boasted Godmother Carole from Norfolk, Virginia who brought our New Orleans heritage and her wonderful blues singing to all holiday gatherings; she would get up and sing songs, like “the birth of the blues” and was also quite the chef, a fun person to party with no doubt; no dearth of rollicking good times. It was steamed crabs and shrimp and lots of beer to crank up that engine! And in Richmond, Virginia as a kid it was also Bill Waters, a neighbor of ours, who sat on the floor with my dad and sang into a boombox and let all of us kids have a try at it. When I was at the fabulous school of Engineering at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia I’d catch a family friend, the late attorney Pete Decker, on TV singing with Danny Thomas in support of Saint Judes Children’s Hospital; So benevolent Pete was an inspiration as well.
What is next for Stephen Jacques? Any big plans?
Just finished writing a record which may be called “psychedelia scintillating”, which should come out next summer produced by the same team of Steve Albini and Jason Narducy at Electrical Audio in Chicago. Trying to do some touring in Europe and Asia, and also looking to warm up for bands in larger venues; so hearing from them would be fabulous!
GROOVE ATLANTIC-O [LISTEN]
1. Dreams On Fire* (3:21)
2. Women Under Sun (2:05)
3. Where’d My Surfers Go (3:08)
4. Weird Iceland Hotel Dinner (2:55)
5. Syracuse Lawn Chair (3:24)
6. Slept On A Ridge* (2:29)
7. He Got Religion (3:15)
8. Queen Bee Gone* (2:52)
9. Dining With Horses (3:35)
10. Dusty Italian Bike (3:36)
All songs written by Stephen Jacques.
Recording, Mixing, and Mastering by Steve Albini of Electrical Audio, Chicago, IL.
Stephen Jacques: Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Jason Narducy: Bass, Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Chris Siebold: Lap Steel, Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Vijay Tellis-Nayak: Piano, Keyboard
Gerald Dowd: Drums, Percussion
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