Garland Jeffreys is an acclaimed singer and songwriter whose songs cover a variety of styles, including rock, reggae and soul. His best-known songs are his 1973 single “Wild in the Streets” and his 1979 U.K. and European hit “Matador.” Notably, Jeffreys was named Best New Artist by Rolling Stone magazine in 1977. Jeffreys’ most recent album, The King of In Between, was released in 2011 and is one of the strongest of his career.
Now in his late 60s, Jeffreys shows no signs of slowing down. I saw him perform earlier this year, and can safely say that fans of New York City rock ‘n’ roll don’t want to miss seeing him when he returns to town — check him out this Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Lobero Theatre as part of the Sings Like Hell series, with Peter Case also on the program. Click here for tickets.
Garland answered the following questions by phone on Nov. 22, the day before Thanksgiving, and also the day before he was flying to Europe for some shows. Click here for the full interview.
Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at the upcoming show in Santa Barbara?
Garland Jeffreys: What I do in a show is I put everything on the stage. Everything happens. Meaning I put out to the audience. I’m excited about the audience, and I’ll have a lot of friends there. But even if there are no friends, my goal is always to pour it out to the audience who come to see me and pay to see me.
I really enjoy performing, so I’m very fortunate. And I love the Santa Barbara area, and I look forward to that theater. I went in to see it when I was there.
JM: I missed your show in Santa Barbara when you came in February, but I drove down to L.A. to see you at McCabe’s Guitar Shop a few days later. One of the things that really struck me is how much you seem to be enjoying yourself when you’re performing. How do you keep it fun after you’ve been performing for a long time?
GJ: I don’t see it so much as a job. McCabe’s is a good example. I’ll be playing there on this tour around the same time. We’ll probably have a great crowd, like the last time. How could you not get in gear for something like that? All these people are excited to see you. I know what I’m doing up on that stage [laughs], and I pour it out. It’s what I do. It’s not difficult. It’s something that I enjoy. It’s a big, big pleasure.
Then, for example, people show up that I know, that I haven’t seen in years. Like at one of the McCabe’s shows, there were people that came to see the show from New York, and that was just a gas. So these kinds of surprises give you a little kick. And then I have a band up there that I like to play with, and we enjoy playing together. Obviously we challenge each other on some level, to bring the best out of us. We’re complementary. I’m complementary to my band. I like to show a certain excitement about what they’re doing, because they work hard, they play well. The same guys that you saw the first time and going to be playing with me again.
JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future?
GJ: My main plans are to play everywhere I possibly can. And that’s what I’m doing. I’m doing that, I’m playing everywhere. I leave tomorrow and I fly to Norway. I play in Norway, I play two shows in London, I’m playing in Wales. So I’m playing five, six shows, then I’m flying back home. And then I’m coming to the West Coast, to do the West Coast stuff.
You know, I take a break here and there, but then I get back to playing. That’s what I’m doing. That’s what I’m up to these days.
I feel like I’m a very blessed guy. I have a fantastic wife — we’ve been together 31 years. I have a fantastic kid, a teen. She’s really very talented herself. So I feel great being a dad. That’s what I was doing all those years, taking care of my kid, raising my kid with my wife. Not being on the road. Not traveling everywhere like I’m doing now. Because, first of all, I wanted to be around for that experience myself. I wanted to be the father of a child who would have a father around. I took her every morning to nursery school. I mean, she’s really a very smart kid, and she’s well-adjusted, and
she’s fun. And I like to think that I contributed to some of that. I’m having a full life. Rock ‘n’ roll in more ways than one! [laughs] I’m enjoying myself.
JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything about yourself, or your career?
GJ: You can say this. There are things that happened, or you might say didn’t happen, that should have happened. I don’t have any regrets about it. Disappointments? Yes. I guess that’s all in the paragraph that says, “I know my talents, I know my ability. Perhaps down the line other people will know also.” I think you get it.
JM: Where are you speaking to me from?
GJ: I’m in the city [New York City]. I’ve been living in the city for all these years. I grew up in Brooklyn. I live in my place not far from the East River. I’m looking out my window right now. It’s, of course, nighttime. I live in a very nice little community. I’m looking right now down, and there’s an ice skating rink down there. First of all, I see the Christmas lights around this park. I’m just so lucky to live here. I’m looking down, and I see people in a circle around the ice skating rink. It’s really cool.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.