Jeff Litman

jeff Jeff Litman

This debut album, "Postscript" was great. Could you tell us what it’s like being known as a music prodigy and then "leaving" classical to go into pop music?
JL: Well, I really wouldn’t use the term, "prodigy."  I was a moderately talented classical guitarist, and had some prospects in that area, but I realized it wasn’t really for me.  What sealed it for me was the fact that whenever I wanted to listen to music to relax/enjoy (ie not for school), I found myself reaching for the same stuff I’ve loved since I was a kid.  Beatles, Beach Boys, Jason Falkner, Jellyfish.  Melodic pop/rock is the first type of music that really grabbed me, and I realized I needed to follow that.  There were some aspects of a life in classical music that appealed to me.  While still difficult, classical music has a more well-worn career path (advanced degrees, academic professorship), but in the end I felt like if I was going to pursue a music career, it had to be one that I was really passionate about.  I still love classical music, and listen to it all the time.  I just changed my focus a little bit.  Plus the whole "practicing 6 hours a day" thing was getting old! 

Tell me how you got started in the "music business" with Andy Thompson?  
JL: I met Andy at a kindergarten talent show.  He played "the entertainer" by Scott Joplin, and I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever heard, so we became friends.   We played in bands together in High School and have remained in touch since then.  He is simply one of the most talented people I know, both as an instrumentalist (this guy plays a LOT of instruments very well) and engineer/producer.  When I started writing and recording, he was naturally the person I would go to for advice and recording tips.  At first he simply answered my questions, but as the project got more serious, I knew I wanted him to take a real producer’s role.  Generally I would work out the tunes and arrangements here in my home studio, and then I would go to Minneapolis to re-record things that needed to be rerecorded and tweak the arrangments/lyrics/tunes with Andy.  After that, he mixed it.  It was great to bounce ideas off of him.  The solo DIY singer/songwriter thing can get somewhat lonely and isolating without someone to work with, so I really enjoyed the time that we spent in the same room, cranking these things out. 

Tell me three of your musical heroes and what makes them so special
to you.

JL: oh, there are so many.  Well, at the risk of being too obvious…. 1) The Beatles–for their diversity, ingenuity, boldness, and for SO MANY great tunes.  They really didn’t miss the mark very often.  2)  Prince–cause he’s SO badass.  I’d say he is one of the two best live performers living (the other being Springsteen).  3) Jon Brion–"Meaningless," besides being a terrific album, introduced me to the concept of the multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter making a record by himself.  This was a real influence on me, and along with Jason Falkner, sent me in that direction.  I also love that he’s got his hands in so many fields (producing records, film scoring, songwriting, the largo shows). I’ve also had a hard time focusing on one form of musical expression, so I really love how unapologetic about it he is. 

So is the album about several girls or just one special relationship that went bad? 
JL:  Getting to the heart of the matter, eh?  The album started with the specific and moved out to the general.  Yes, there was one specific relationship that went very bad.  However, I think the songs ended up being more about me and changes that I have gone through since that relationship ended. I’d love to keep my distance, and say that everything is fictional (I’m a story teller!), but I’ve always only been able to write about my life and things that have happened to me.  I hope that it doesn’t come off as self-absorbed, and I really want to get to some universal essence of my experience that my listeners can relate to.  But ultimately, the songs are about girls/my relationships/my life (what else is there, anyway? 🙂

Any interesting stories about playing live? 
JL: I used to play in a wedding band in rural Indiana that would get kind of rowdy!  Open bars + wedding musicians + remote rural locations can be dangerous. Recently, I had a couple fun gigs.  One in Minneapolis at the 7th St. Entry, and one at Arlene’s in NYC.  Those are both clubs that I have been to as a fan many times, so it was fun to finally play there. It was also great playing with the bands I got together.

With such a fantastic array of songs here what do you do for a follow up, and when?
JL: For right now, I’m really focused on getting Postscript  out there.  I did write many more songs than ended up on the record.  I really believe in limiting records to 45-50 minutes, and only putting out the best of what you write.  However, there are some good tunes that just didn’t fit on this record for one reason or another.  Probably an album’s worth.  I try to write something every day (at least on days when I have time to sit down and think), so new tunes are always coming out.  Sometimes I play them live, if I think they are good enough.  The next record is a ways down the road, but I’d like to do something a little more stripped down, with more of an acoustic/rootsy vibe to it.  More straight-ahead arrangements without so many overdubs.  We’ll see, though! 

Awesome. Thanks for the interview, Jeff!

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