Monday, April 4, 2011

The Jay Berndt Revival Continues...

If you don't happen to live up in the north east ya may have missed out on the article featuring Jay Berndt in the Providence Phoenix. Well, fret not dear friends, here is a link to the article and the content below.

"A few months back, former Kilgore frontman Jay Berndt unleashed his official solo debut Sad Bastard Songs (Rusty Knuckles Music), a fistful of growlers we're highly fond of around here (Berndt's album as well as his bruising, Hungry Man-sized baritone are saluted in our 2011 Best Music Poll), with Berndt injecting a glorious dose of acoustic blues ("I Still Believe In You," "Running Blues") and country ("Nameless") while purging his demons with gospel-stomping anthems (the mighty "Requiem for a Heavyweight") and unnerving, stone-cold pleas for peace of mind (the chain-gang album closer "Spiritual" is a killer). Sad Bastard Songs brims with introspective anecdotes, as opposed to the social/political issues Berndt clawed and howled at with Kilgore. 

Berndt is an enigmatic and engaging one-man show (look up his high-octane, acoustic cover of "Ace of Spades"). At a recent CD release show at the Met, he had the room captivated while telling the story of reuniting with his grandfather, who he grew up assuming was just a cold and bitter old man.
We caught up with Berndt prior to his show at the German Club last weekend, and on Friday he'll be one of a dozen prominent local artists performing at the Tom Waits tribute at the 201, with proceeds benefiting Amos House. See you there.

HOW HAS YOUR APPROACH TO SONGWRITING DIFFERED FROM THE KILGORE DAYS? The biggest difference is I'm no longer an angry man in my 20s. I had a pretty big chip on my shoulder and was trying to be deep by speaking about social and political issues, while only scratching the surface of who I really was. Even with the Preachers and Brimstone, I wrote mostly humorous anecdotes, but my best songs were always the honest ones. That's where I am now; the songs speak honestly about what I've been through and who I am.

WHEN/WHERE DOES INSPIRATION HIT YOU TO WRITE, AND HOW DOES THE SUBJECT MATTER COME TO LIFE IN THE STUDIO? "CONSIDERING TAKING MY LIFE" COMES TO MIND. I spend a lot of time trying to find a good melody to sing, and then the tone of the melody will dictate the mood of the song. Once I find a story to sing about, I typically sit down with a pot of coffee and a guitar, and just work it out. "Considering . . ." was written after the death my friend Brian Redman and how I had never really accepted death and loss as a part of life. I had always run from those feelings, but I felt I needed to finally address it head on.

I WANTED TO REVISIT THE STORY YOU TOLD AT THE MET ABOUT YOUR GRANDFATHER; YOU HAD THE ROOM TOTALLY ENGAGED. That story was about the last time I saw my maternal grandfather. He had just opened up and told me these stories about horrible things he had endured in his life. I feel like maybe he was trying to come to terms with whom he was and searching for some type of redemption. I never want to live with that kind of fear, so I write about it in my songs.

DOES THE IDEA OF A NATIONAL TOUR APPEAL TO YOU NOW, AFTER YOU DID IT FOR SO LONG WITH KILGORE? Been there, done that. No, I don't have any desire to go back on the road. It's a tough life. It's hard not to lose yourself and those you love while you're out there. In the Kilgore days I had nothing to lose. Now, I have a wife, a home, a great job, so I'm not making any sacrifices to run away and join the circus. Now my passion is writing and recording songs. That's why I built [recording studio] Moto Destructo; it's my safe haven. I can record any ideas whenever the inspiration hits. I have another 12 to 15 songs in various stages of completion that will be ready for the follow-up to Sad Bastard Songs.

WILL WE SEE A BRIMSTONE ASSEMBLY OR REVIVAL PREACHERS REUNION? No. I'm really trying not to do any more reunions. I love both of those bands and the music we made. There's no bad blood between us, it was just time to move on to other things. I am compiling a "Rare & Unreleased" compilation of Preachers, Brimstone, and solo songs that will be available as a free album download. It has some really great studio and live performances, including that cover of "Ace of Spades."


YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE UPCOMING AMOS HOUSE BENEFIT/TOM WAITS TRIBUTE SHOW? The best thing about this event is that all proceeds are going to a great charity. In 1990, I had volunteered for a few months at Amos House during my senior year of high school. Sister Carol, the entire staff, and those who came in need of a hot meal were just amazing and inspirational people. I am hoping this event is a huge success."