Life has a way of coming full circle. For Blair Shehan of L.A.’s The Jealous Sound, it’s brought him back to his SoCal town and to the creative space to write, record and release A Gentle Reminder, the band’s first album since the pinnacle 2003 Kill Them With Kindness. Chatting with me as he got ready for their nationwide tour, Blair reflected on his personal past, present and the future of The Jealous Sound.
After the success of Kill Them With Kindness, Blair was finding it harder and harder to keep the band’s spark going, “The fire just wasn’t there,” he explained. “And it was just as much my fault as anybody’s.”
For a change of scenery, a living opportunity opened in Las Vegas, where a friend of his wife’s offered to share her Sin City pad where they could all live cheaply and quite well.
“I’m a funny cat that way I guess, I don’t know. It was just one of those things. I tend to make life decisions really quickly.”
And it was Vegas, a town that thrives on secret stories grounded in decadence. “I was by no means a man of moderation when I was there,” he said, looking back. “I tended to go big. But it was glorious at the same time. I had a house with a pool and a hot tub, great views out the back. I had this Bohemian squalor in L.A. But when we moved there it was exciting and interesting for a while.”
For a while, being the duly noted statement. Bouncing from Los Angeles to Las Vegas only lasted for a while, and then he found himself living in Vegas full time and working for the Marriott Hotels chain. The living large lasted two years, a lifetime for most people who typically burn out and return home within a matter of days.
But it did end, as did his marriage.
With a whimsical tone Blair said, “Kinda crazy that things didn’t work out so great. What a surprise.”
So he was off again to Orlando, Florida, having taken an opportunity to transfer via his Marriott employment status.
But it was a short stint of four months, long enough for Blair to regroup. “I got my shit together mentally. It was a quiet time for me to sort myself out.” He also bought a guitar and began writing music again.
With a clear head he realized that he needed to return home to L.A. with a subtle, albeit far away intention of making something of the songs he’d been crafting. “It felt a bit out of reach and I didn’t understand how I connected with that anymore or how that was going to work for me. It was weird to come back and get back into that space and identify myself in that way.”
Back in L.A. and diving back into his connections from years before, including his friend and The Jealous Sound guitarist Pedro Benito, the band found itself on the Sunny Day Real Estate tour in 2009.
And with that tour came a new song added to the set list, “Here Comes The Ride,” one that flows with a reflection on the union that was no longer. “And I have made mistakes / Well it’s true / But the smallest bed I made / Was no mistake with you.”
That song became a part of the full-length album, A Gentle Reminder, which was released in January of this year.
Another track from the album, “Equilibrium,” seems to reflect on the emotional and physical journey he’s been on for the last two years, with a line that looks at the path taken that wasn’t necessarily one of least resistance.
Blair acknowledged this, “I could have taken this easy route but I have to blow everything up and make everything kind of insane. But the things that I go through or the mistakes that I’ve made aren’t any different than 99% of what other people make, you know?”
Yes, and it’s all the flaws and the fascinating elements of the human condition that are the fodder for musical lyrics that inspire the listener and provides that cathartic, aural fix.
At the same time he believes, “You want to stay away from the crap of blowing up your life so you have something to get into as far as writing. There’s a million different ways to create art or music. I look forward to creating art from a healthy, stable place.”
The beauty of getting a few years under the belt with the hindsight, intuitive knowledge enables one to embrace other options for crossing that bridge.
“I approach things differently than I’ve done in the past; the way that I operate is very different. I try to learn the craft of what I do. I read this book, “The Artist’s Way.”
This self-published, best-selling book by Julie Cameron places emphasis on how ‘creative dreams and longings do come from a divine source, not from the human ego.’
For Blair, “It was very influential in how I think about creating art and being an artist. So that was something that played into this record for me.”
While it’s been years between 2003 and 2012, the listening experience of going from one album to the next is seamless. While there is a distinct variance between the old and new material, it feels more like another novel in a series versus a giant leap to another dimension. Blair’s unique, urgent and passionate vocals are front and center, of course. But those guitar lines, lyrical twists and turns, whisper to wailing song structures, that TJS blueprint fans fell in love with on Kill Them With Kindness returns on A Gentle Reminder.
“Well, we didn’t genre fuck our audience,” Blair said bluntly. “The album comes from a real place. It has the weight of something that was important to the people involved.”
One of those people involved was producer John Lousteau from Studio 660 (Foo Fighters’ recording/producing spot), who has been a part of the FF’s album-making process (duh), along with Me First and the Gimme Gimme’s, the soundtrack for “Wicked” and Taylor Hawkins.
Blair couldn’t say enough about working with Lousteau, “He dedicated an insane amount of energy, time, talent, everything, to doing the record with us.”
The Jealous Sound played a few warm up gigs in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Cruz to work through the kinks before the full tour started in San Diego earlier this month on February 3.
Blair admits he felt a bit rusty, having not played out since the Sunny Day Real Estate Tour in 2009. “The day of I sort of had a little bit of a pit in my stomach, trying to remember, ‘Oh wow, how do I do all this stuff?’ And there were a lot of new songs we had to work through. The shows turned out really great. I was thrilled.”
Thrilled about pulling out the old stuff to appease the diehard fans while showcasing where the band is in 2012. “I’ve always seen my life in terms of before a record and after a record. So it’s nice to be like, ‘Okay, here’s a new one. We did it.’”
To win tickets to see The Jealous Sound play Denver’s Marquis Theatre on Tuesday, February 21 from Post303Radio.com. Listen in to win!
Remaining The Jealous Sound Tour Dates (Update: the band is heading to SXSW, playing Saturday, March 17 at Red 7):
02/14/12 Tue Allston, MA Great Scott
02/15/12 Wed Brooklyn, NY Knitting Factory
02/16/12 Thu Philadelphia, PA Milkboy
02/17/12 Fri Cleveland, OH Grog Shop
02/18/12 Sat Chicago, IL Subterranean
02/19/12 Sun Minneapolis, MN Triple Rock Social Club
02/21/12 Tue Denver, CO Marquis Theater
02/22/12 Wed Salt Lake City, UT Kilby Court
02/24/12 Fri Portland, OR Hawthorne Theatre
02/25/12 Sat Seattle, WA El Corazon
02/27/12 Mon San Francisco, CA Bottom of the Hill
02/28/12 Tue Los Angeles, CA The Satellite