1 What type of music do you write?
My music is a blend of different styles: rock, pop and country with a smattering of blues. My lyrics can be personal, drawn from my own life experiences. Recently, I worked with a number of female vocalists in Louisville and Nashville. It was a challenge to write from the female perspective and fun to go into the studio with a bevy of pretty girls. Much of the material comes off as “feminist rockabilly.” God Given Talent, Hard Earned Love, I Feel So Country, All Roads Lead To You & The Truth are doing well on the web. There is a Shania Twain influence, and I try to create Shania-esque girly images. Visuals are important in songwriting, and I strive to dress mine in upbeat melodies.
2 What made you pursue music?
It was in me from the beginning. It was a need. I felt driven to write and record. It sounds crazy, but it was like I had to pursue music to validate myself, to prove that I could succeed to some degree in this field. I wanted to go to Nashville from age 19. It took me a decade to get there because of the Army and college. Once in Nashville, I befriended a musician who had a studio in his back yard. We recorded song after song and produced an album called Rising from the Ashes. I was able to express what was in me. The result was like a catharsis.
3 Who and what are some of your inspirations?
There have been many inspirations across the years. 1950s rock & roll started everything. Elvis Presley lit a fire. From the moment I heard Hound Dog on the radio, I knew I had to own a copy of that record. An Elvis influence pervades my catalog, evident in such songs as Hard Earned Love. I was hypnotized by the rock & roll of Elvis and still perform his songs today. I have made three trips to Graceland in Memphis. In the 60s, it was The Beatles. In the 70s, it was ABBA from Sweden. I traveled to Stockholm and wrote a book about ABBA, parts of which are on my website: JimColyer.com
4 How would you describe your sound?
I place importance on good production. To me, a quality production is one which stresses the vocals. People want to hear the singer. They want to be able to understand the words. They want to sing along. Instrumental tracks need to support and augment the vocals. Lead guitars and keyboards should stay true to the melody while improvising enough to create interest. Drums and bass are the foundation. The other tracks sit on their shoulders. In the end, the record is the thing.
5 What do you feel makes you unique to other artists of today?
My uniqueness lies in that I am still doing this when people with far more talent than I have, have given up. I am still moving in the direction of a breakthrough, of giving a classic song to the world. I have 100 original mp3s at my site. People around the world are hearing my songs and giving me feedback. My environmental song, Save The Planet, is well-received in many countries. That I am not afraid to expose my material in an aggressive manner has allowed me to get independent cuts like I Looked Twice, recorded by the Illinois-based band, One Night Stand.
6 What kinds of music do you listen to outside of yourself?
I hear a wide variety of music by doing karaoke. Through the course of and evening, I hear everything from Elvis to hip hop.
7 Who are some of your favorite artists?
Burton Cummings from Winnipeg, Canada, has long been a favorite. He and Randy Bachman fronted The Guess Who. Everyone knows American Woman. I respect The Bee Gees, and it was good to see them inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
8 What motivates you to make your music?
A great motivation is just sitting around strumming the guitar. I start putting chords together. A melody line comes, and suddenly I have a hook around which to write a song. Sometimes it comes easy. Sometimes it comes hard. It is stimulating also to watch live bands. The enthusiasm of young musicians and the fans who support them is contagious.
9 How often do you create music?
1997-2004 was a Renaissance for me. I wrote 200 songs and spent a lot of time in the studio. I worked with many singers and musicians, both in Louisville and Nashville. Things slowed when my son reached college age. I was helping him more. Now that he is out of college, I want to pick up where I left off.
10 What kinds of music did you grow up listening to?
Top 40 was the big thing. As a kid, I listened to Louisville radio stations, WAKY and WKLO. I would get home from school and throw myself on the bed with my radio. I bought a lot of records. 45s and LPs, from local shops. I took an interest in sound tracks from such musicals as West Side Story and Gypsy.
11 What in life first inspired you to pursue music?
I always enjoyed singing along with the radio. As far as pursuing music myself, it may have been the way girls were reacting to singers, the screaming and swooning and all that stuff. I saw their reaction to guys like Elvis and The Beatles. I hate to admit it because it sounds shallow, but on the subconscious level, I may have gotten into music to impress girls.
12 What if any rituals do you perform before going into the studio?
I pray before going into the studio. I sit in the car in the parking lot and offer a prayer. It has a calming effect. After a few moments of silence, I say “Let’s go!” I feel that God gives me the power surge I need.
13 What is it about particular songs you’ve come up with that makes you feel like you’re in the right place?
How Did You Do That? is a song with a magician theme. I went to a lady’s house in E-Town to show songs. Her 13-year-old son came into the room doing magic tricks. Someone asked, “How did you do that?” Instantly, I had my title. Over the next couple of days, images and fragments came to me. I had lines like “You must have had an ace up your sleeve” and “Pulled a rabbit from your hat.” I was sitting in the parking lot of a Walmart and heard three songs in a row by Terri Clark on the radio. That did it. Tears streamed down my face as my melody came and my words coalesced to form the finished piece.
14 Do you make music for enjoyment, to get emotions off your chest, for others, for yourself, or for any other specific reasons at all?
Honestly, I write and record the songs I want to hear. If other people like them, that is the ideal situation. I do it because it is fun and also to give vent to my emotions. Sometimes it starts with an idea. Sometimes it starts with a kind of pigeon English. There have been times when I was challenged to write a song about a particular topic. The mother of model Niki Taylor wanted someone to write a song about her daughter that died. I rose to the occasion.
15 Where do you see yourself in music in 5 or 10 years?
I see myself having major label cuts. I am a member of ASCAP and currently do my own publishing. I can see signing with a major publisher. I would relocate to Los Angeles to work with good people. It is important to me to pass along my best songs to the next generation, those which inspire positive and constructive behavior. I am thinking of my gospel song, Jesus Paid My Debt, and my wedding song, I Promise. I Promise has been performed at weddings. One bride-to-be said she selected it from 400 wedding songs.
16 Do you perform any shows?
I have played the Bluebird Café in Nashville, also the Broken Spoke and Douglas Corner as well as lesser known venues.
17 If you do, when and where is your next one?
I mean to resume writers nights this year.
18 What are some of your fondest memories of past performances?
One of my fondest and funniest moments came while playing the Bluebird in Nashville. My guitar was grossly out of tune. I just kept playing. At the end of the set, the lady who hosted the show came to me and suggested that I purchase an electronic tuner. The very next day, I took her advice.
19 What are you shooting to achieve this year?
I am pitching my Christmas song to Justin Wilde, a Christmas music publisher in Burbank, California. I am signing a mechanical royalties license for my song, I Looked Twice. And Katrina Lynn, a 17-year-old in Pennsylvania, has recorded I Feel So Country.
20 Do you target your music to a specific audience?
No specific audience. I do what is in me. The chips fall where they will. If people like what I do, they let me know.
21 If so, who is that audience?
My only audience is people who like honest songs and the hard work which goes into them.
22 How did your family and friends perceive your ambition to make music when you first started?
My earliest songs were about breaking up with my first girl friend. They reeked of self-pity and “stream-of-consciousness.” My mother picked up on this and was horrified that my lyrics were so personal. My parents could not accept my long hair, and my father and I clashed regularly. My mother wanted me to be a chemist. I wanted to rock!
23 Where are some of your favorite music venues to visit?
In Louisville, I like Coyote’s and have been inspired by what I heard there. In Nashville, it is Exit/In and the Wildhorse on Second Avenue. I managed to pitch a song to Sara Evans at the Wildhorse.
24 What are some of your favorite music venues to perform at?
Dutch’s Tavern in Louisville has always been a favorite of mine. In Nashville, the Bluebird Café is intimate and cozy. The audience is right in your face. The Broken Spoke is a great place for songwriters and performers alike. The Spoke serves good food.
25 What are some things you find yourself doing in your spare time outside of music?
I travel. In this decade, I have made trips to Australia and Hawaii. In Australia, I attended a star party with 300 astronomers. In Hawaii, I spent time on Waikiki Beach and climbed Diamond Head Crater.