Paving New Paths in Country and Roots Rock with Jeff Tuohy
New York, New York is certainly not the first place I pictured one Jeff Tuohy calling home after listening to his music. The vast majority of what you can hear from any one of his albums would feel more at home in the bars and dives of New Orleans or Nashville than in the belly of a metropolis, but with all art in general, it’s not about where you are but where you wanna be.
Jeff seems to have found a way to blend it all together – a modern cityscape framed by rolling countryside, a folk heart in a subway station; his music has room for it all.
The veteran musician with nearly twenty years of studio releases under his belt already seems poised to keep moving forward. Last year saw the release of ‘Hudson Delta,’ a release that has served as a self-made genre tag for Jeff’s unique blend of sounds. It’s certainly a solid idea given how many flavors of music seamlessly collide within even a single song, let alone an entire album. Track 6 called ‘Murder in a Dancehall’ is a perfect example of this, combining elements of modern country, New Orleans jazz, reggae, and blues rock into one sweltering groove. It’s all too easy to picture condensation dripping from a whiskey glass in a packed bar on a humid summer night down south while rocking back and forth to this track, as well as ‘The Devil’s in New Orleans’. A sauntering bass line rumbling underneath muted horns and pointed piano lays an apt foundation for a growly vocal that flawlessly builds tension right into the explosive chorus. Jeff really shows his vocal chops throughout this tune in particular, reaching both low and high seemingly comfortable in his range. As if that weren’t enough, his range as a writer shines through as well. Just as if someone reached over and flipped the channel, popular hit ‘Old Roads’ comes on right after ‘Murder in a Dancehall’ on the record, which takes us down a path that would fit right in at home on the top country stations throughout the nation.
Going back further into Jeff’s discography yields impressive results as well. On his 2009 release ‘Cocoon,’ you can find two of his biggest songs to this day: ‘Monogamy’ and the viral ‘Bourbon Street’. The former reminds me of everything I loved about ‘Songs About Jane’-era Maroon 5 but with more contemporary and southern sensibilities. Soulful backing vocals provide just the right cushion for Jeff’s edge while the rhythm section once again rests right in the pocket. The latter, however, continues to reach new audiences to this day way ahead of everything else, nearing 3 million plays on Spotify at the time of writing. What makes the seemingly inconspicuous ‘Bourbon Street’ stand out? Well, take the best of Dixieland jazz, whisk in some swung jazz, add a pinch of gothic discernment, and you’ve got a raucous romp through ragtime revelry. You’re just gonna have to check it out yourself to get it.
So what’s next for Jeff Tuohy? Aside from most likely working on the next musical project like all artists, you can most likely find Jeff touring his tunes during the summer months as evidenced by recent performances in Nantucket, MA. Keep an eye on his socials to see where you can find him next. Wherever you may come across his music, whether live or streamed, I’m sure you’ll come away with something to take and enjoy. Jeff’s standout commingling of genres led by a tempered passion is bound to meet you somewhere.
“Diversity makes artists interesting”
If someone’s listening to your music for the first time, what song would you give them to start?
Jeff Tuohy: ‘Bourbon Street’ or ‘Murder In A Dancehall’. The first is the most popular. The second incorporates three genres, which is a good preview to my writing style.
What artists shaped you the most growing up?
Creedence Clearwater Revival, Michael Jackson, ABBA, Neil Diamond, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Def Leppard, George Michael, and the cast of the Annie Soundtrack are my first musical memories.
Middle school- Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, Tool, Metallica, and other rock/metal bands.
My tastes were all over the place as a DJ, musical theater actor, and lead singer in high school: Dave Matthews Band, Notorious B.I.G., Dr. Dre, Rusted Root, and the original cast of Rent, to name a few…
Your songs tend to combine a number of different styles from all sorts of genres of music. Is it more of a conscious effort or a natural byproduct of your wide range of influences?
I believe inspiration comes from The Source, God, or whatever name you’d like to use, so I don’t throw ideas away because they aren’t a certain genre.
Diversity makes artists interesting. Albums like ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ ‘Thriller,’ ‘Led Zeppelin IV,’ and ‘Rumours’ take you on a journey.
My theater experience also plays a part.
“Rushing is a precursor to screwing up”
What’s the most recent thing you did in an act of self-care, whether for yourself or someone else?
Showing up is the most important thing you can do for others whether it’s at a high school senior project, little league game, or next to a hospital bed (I’ve done all three in the last month). Being present physically and emotionally is an invaluable support system.
Giving back to the community is a priority. My friends and I recently created an event called The Woodbury Wassail where local businesses and musicians donate their product and talents with proceeds going to local food banks and shelters.
For myself, not rushing. Rushing is a precursor to screwing up. It leads to anxiety, leaving things behind, not properly completing a task, and in a recent extreme case- breaking my arm snowboarding at Le Massif in Quebec.
Journaling, meditating, and exercising five-to-six days a week before acknowledging texts/emails involving the day’s business are also part of my routine.
What piece of gear have you bought that significantly affected your creativity? (If no gear, just anything in your life that’s affected you creatively.)
A composition book and a box of Pilot G2 1.0mm pens.
What albums and/or bands have you been really digging recently?
I’ve been listening to Jason Isbell’s Weathervanes on repeat and revisiting War’s The Word Is A Ghetto.
What advice do you have for other creatives out there?
Keep going and read the following books:
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin
What’s next for you musically?
We’re pressing a limited edition vinyl of ‘Hudson Delta’ and scouting studios for the next batch of songs. It’ll likely be in Washington, CT or Nashville, TN.
Any closing musings?
One of my favorite quotes is “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” – Epictetus
Simple to grasp. Nuanced to apply. When you think you have the first part, you find it solicits more specificity, which significantly impacts the second.