Jared McCloud

Finally – the hybrid I’ve been looking for! Jared McCloud is producing an earlobe grabbing combination that takes pieces from two of my most worshipped styles: heavy rock gym anthems and smooth singer/songwriter – think metal music ran head first into PEV favorite Trevor Hall. Maybe I’m not doing the genre justice… here’s McCloud’s take on his music: “I guess it would fall in a singer/songwriter genre, but I have always had trouble trying to define it. I grew up playing in Hard Rock, and Metal bands, so I tend to have a little bit of an edge to my style. I think that’s what sets it apart- it’s a bit more Rock n’ Roll than other singer/songwriters, but lighter and more complex than just a Rock sound.” Boom. Get it?

The Connecticut native first rocked the scene with “Romance of the Atlantic” in 2009, but today brings us “Painful Words of Loving Grace”. Jared gets into it: “With the new record I was really going through a lot in my personal life, and trying to figure out who I was. I had a lot of personal relationships dissolve and some not so great things happen. Also, my career was going places where it hadn’t been before, so there was a lot to think about. All of the songs on the record are extremely personal to me and sort of cement themselves in that time period of my life… Once it was done, I felt like I had left it all on the table, ya know?” It’s full of honesty, to be sure. Jared will be on the road in northeast this summer, and will take part in Hotel Carolina 2011 come September – keep an eye out. There’s so much more to learn, so pick up “Painful Words of Loving Grace” and read on for all the answers to the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Jared McCloud

PEV: How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

Jared McCloud (JM): I guess it would fall in a singer/songwriter genre, but I have always had trouble trying to define it. I grew up playing in Hard Rock, and Metal bands, so I tend to have a little bit of an edge to my style. I think that’s what sets it apart- it’s a bit more Rock n’ Roll than other singer/songwriters, but lighter and more complex than just a Rock sound. I tried to think up a new label for it, but “Folk Metal” was already taken.. I remember Ben Folds describing his sound as “Punk Rock for wussies”… maybe I’ll go with that.

PEV: Calling Connecticut home, what kind of music were you into growing up? Was anyone your main influence?

JM: Oh, TONS of influences. My Mother and my Brother were probably my biggest influences, as they dictated what I listened to as a kid- usually whoever I was in the car with. It could literally be anything from Motown to Thrash. Once I grew up a bit, there were a lot of people that “hit” me and shaped the way I hear and write music though. Nirvana and Jane’s Addiction were HUGE for me, as well as a lot of other bands in that genre. But also people like Brian Wilson, The Temptations, The Eels, Ben Folds. In the last 10 years I’d say I really fell in love with the classic great American songwriters. Tom Waits, Dylan, and Springsteen have all really shaped my writing as well as people like Chris Whitley and Jeff Buckley. I could list names all day.

PEV: Now that you’ve been able to play in the business, what was it like for you when you first started out?

JM: First starting out was tough. I really wanted to be perfect and spent many a show stressing over that rather than just putting on the best show I could. I learned a lot of what not to do I guess you could say. Plus, you would be stressing over the show, and then have to worry about trying to find a place that would let you play! I decided that I didn’t want to do covers, so I would get a lot of “What do you mean you play originals…”, or “How many Bon Jovi songs do you know”. Then you finally find places that will give you horrible slots and start to SLOWLY build something of a fanbase, and you have to worry about shady bar owners and sketchy bouncers skimming off the top of the door.

Looking back though, it’s all been great. I guess paying the dues and going through all that makes me appreciate the great crowds now, and the wonderful venues that I keep going back to.

PEV: Do you remember the first time you thought to yourself – “I am really onto something!”?

JM: Yeah, it was when I decided that I was going to stop writing songs just to write heavy songs, and going to just be as honest as possible. The songs that started coming out were a totally different direction, and as soon as I showed them to some people they seemed to go nuts. That also led to my career getting a lot busier! From there I landed my first indie deal, and started to get a lot of radio play, as well as touring and sponsorships. It was the best decision I could have made, and has proven to be a pretty life changing one.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Jared McCloud show?

JM: The live shows are never the same. I like to make each one special- an event. When I was a kid going to a concert was larger than life and it seemed amazing, so I try to make them all different so there’s a reason to keep coming back. Sometimes it will be more of a dynamic Rock and Roll show, with my backing band and it will be really high energy. Other times it will be very intimate, just me and a guitar. I do try to make each one as much fun as I can, and talk to the audience- try to bring them into the performance as much as possible. I love it when the audience will sing with you, best feeling in the world. No matter what kind of show I try to connect with everyone I can.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

JM: Usually trying to think of what songs I want to play, or if someone asked for a certain song. Most of the time just excited to play, I have the best job ever!

PEV: What’s your take on today’s mainstream music scene?

JM: I don’t really know too much about it! I have always been sort of “late to the party” with whatever is current or popular, I just stumble on things as I find them. Once in a while the mainstream seems to get it right, or bands that really deserve it seem to get that attention, usually reserved for pop starlets. Nirvana is a great example of that. Arcade Fire winning big at the Grammys… Kings of Leon blowing up. It goes to show you that if people are really into what you are doing, you can be huge, mainstream be damned.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

JM: It comes from anywhere. It will be the way someone says a certain phrase in a conversation, or just an idea that pops into my head. I have mountains of scraps of papers with phrases or ideas for songs that are waiting to be used. Sometimes It takes a while to write, and work on the tune, others the song comes out in minutes. The last song on the new record (“No Place For Lovers”) was written after an argument I had. I sat down, still all fired up and grabbed a pen and just wrote. The way you hear it in the song is exactly how it came out- I didn’t change anything. No matter where the inspiration comes from, it’s always personal to me. It has to be, or I wouldn’t be able to sing about it.

PEV: Tell us about your latest release, "Painful Words Of Loving Grace". What can fans expect from this work? What made you choose this title for the album?

JM: My last record was about love lost and found, so when it was done I decided that I didn’t want to do that again, I wanted to sing about other topics. With the new record I was really going through a lot in my personal life, and trying to figure out who I was. I had a lot of personal relationships dissolve and some not so great things happen. Also, my career was going places where it hadn’t been before, so there was a lot to think about. All of the songs on the record are extremely personal to me and sort of cement themselves in that time period of my life. The title came from what the songs were to me- hard things to talk about, but things I needed to say. Once it was done, I felt like I had left it all on the table, ya know?

PEV: Do you ever find yourself getting writer’s block and if so, how do you get over that?

JM: Sometimes, sure. In the middle of writing this record I had the worst case of writers block I ever had. Everything I put down just didn’t sound right to me. It all stopped after a few months when I wrote what might be my favorite tune on the record, “Ballad of Xavier J”. That song is about my Great-Grandfather, who I never got to meet and had this tragic, classic Americana story about him. I actually had to go to the town archives to learn about him, as everyone that knew him was gone, but there were all these stories about him. I felt like it was an “Irish-drinking-song” just waiting to happen. Once I got through that the rest of it seemed to come pretty easy.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Jared McCloud?

JM: Hmm, I guess that I am somewhat of an introvert. Being on stage helps with that, and I learned pretty quickly that no one wants to watch the awkward guy on stage mumble over a guitar. So I had to get through it.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

JM: I think right from the beginning, it’s really all I have ever wanted to do. I started playing when I was 5- other kids wanted to be baseball players or firemen, but I just wanted to play guitar. I only actually started singing because the band I was putting together in Middle School couldn’t find a singer. I was happy to be the guitar player, but one day at practice I just started singing as well, and it sounded pretty good. Then I realized that I had something to say, and guitar was just part of it. I wish I had something cooler to say, like “it was all for the chicks, maaaan”, but I don’t think I could pull it off.

PEV: What one word best describes Jared McCloud?

JM: How about “persevering”. Or uh, oh- I just came back from a tour with my friend Ernie Halter and he called me “inimitable”, which sounds a lot cooler, so let’s go with that one.

PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?

JM: Touring is the reason I get out of bed every day. Any time I am on the road you will find me having a blast! I love seeing the new faces, and getting to talk to people who have heard my songs. Whenever they tell me that a song I wrote means something to them, it’s the nicest thing they could say. The only down side of touring is missing home. My family, my dog, a lot of the time I am not around for friends birthdays or things like that. I try to make it up to them when I am back, but still feel bad about it.

PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

JM: Haven’t done Europe yet, hopefully soon! I would love the chance to go play for people in all those different countries, and check out all the stuff I have read about for years.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

JM: It’s funny, there are the people in my family and circle of friends that have been following me since the beginning, and every milestone I have had I have shared it with them. They couldn’t be more supportive and I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. The other side of that coin are the people I know that don’t really follow what’s going on with me, but when I meet someone considerably more famous/cooler than I am, THEN they are impressed… I guess I’m still just the kid with the guitar to them.

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

JM: Again, I should have a cooler answer for this, but when I am home I like to relax and just see my friends and family. I like to paint and have done both covers to my records. Play with my dog, go to the beach, catch up on T.V.- just do normal home stuff. 

PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

JM: Sure, I have a bunch of friends around the Northeast that should be on everyone’s radar. Andrea Nardello out of New Jersey is a great songwriter, and one hell of a singer! We have toured before in the past and will be doing another one very soon. Also my friends in Album from CT are incredible! Jill Cagey, also out of Jersey, my friend Josh’s band decibel out of NYC, Jared Costa out of Philadelphia, my friend Rob’s band Revolution, I love You also out of Philly…tons of awesome artists I have had the pleasure of meeting and their music is great, so check ‘em out!

PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think you would be doing as your career?

JM: Man, I have no idea. There really isn’t anything I would ever want to do other than this. Whatever it would be I would probably quit. I had a bunch of jobs growing up where one little thing would set me off and I was out of there! I think I was just made for this.

PEV: So, what is next for Jared McCloud?

JM: Well, I will be on the road very soon- I am doing a short run in July in the Northeast so hope everyone comes out for that! Also, I am THRILLED to be a part of HOTEL CAROLINA 2011 this September in South Carolina. There will be a TON of great singer/songwriters there so everybody should check that out! I am sure there will be a lot more touring in the future, and probably next year I will start gathering some songs together for a new record. I already have a bunch written, and have been toying with the idea of trying them out live over the internet, so check my sites for that!

Web site: www.jaredmccloud.com, www.facebook.com/jaredmccloudmusic

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