JUST JAY is a new AOR multi-instrumentalist in the style of JOURNEY/STEVE PERRY/THE STORM. Last year he put out a CD titled 'Through my eyes' which is an independent release. The guy is very mucyh influenced by STEVE PERRY and you can definitely hear this on his debut CD which also musically contains songs that are very close to the JOURNEY record 'Raised on radio' and STEVE PERRY's solo albums. Time for me to chat with Jay Gonzales, who is the man behind JUST JAY...
Please tell us about your first music experiences?
I guess my first musical experience was when I went to take piano lessons in Middle School. At that time I was really into solo Paul McCartney stuff, so I wanted to learn how to play piano. I went to the first lesson, and the woman started showing me scales. At the end of the lesson I was supposed to pick a song, learn it and come back the next week to play it in front of all the other students and her. The next week came, and the other students were playing Happy Birthday, and Jingle Bells. I brought in Elton Johns Dont Let The Sun Shine Down on Me and played it exactly as Elton John does! After I was done,
she said for me to leave, Theres nothing I can teach you you dont already know. I picked up guitar and bass in college.
Singing always came naturally to me. In
high school, I sang with some acapuelo groups and really got into
harmonies. Then in college, I came back to my dorm and my
roommate was watching MTV. The Steve Perry Oh Sherrie
video came on (which was still popular in 1990. I loved (still
do) that song, and started singing along with it. My roommates
jaw dropped. I thought he was going to say I sucked and to keep
my mouth shut, so I stopped singing and asked, What?
He said, You sound just like him! I figured,
Hey, this guy has one of the best voices in rock, if I
sound like him, I want to sing! So I did. Thats where
I got into playing in rock bands in college, and after college.
Did you do anything musically before JUST JAY?
In college I was in a progressive Rock
Band called Lemonjuice, we played mostly, Rush, Van Halen, and
Zeppelin and a few originals. Then after college, for three years
I auditioned for a lead vocalist slot in a band called Multiple
Personalities. We put
out an album, and toured NY and NJ. We opened for Lisa Loeb, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, and Kool and the Gang.
Some labels approached us, but our drummer decided right then, he wanted to have a family, and our keyboardist just
disappeared. The bummed me, man. We were on the verge of signing and half the band gets cold feet. That project took 3 years to get to that point. Then, just before JUST JAY, I joined a band called Severed Ties, which was heavily Scorpions and Dokken influenced. That band broke up because there were too many writers, each going in a different direction.
When did you form JUST JAY?
Immediately after the Severed Ties debacle, I realized that I had enough material for a solo album. So I started recording a lot of the tracks. 9 months later, the album was done, and I needed some players to go live with the show. I spent 6 months auditioning hundreds of musicians (and no shows), and went through a few different lineups. In light of that and my past band experience, I felt it would be easier to call the band JUST JAY until I could settle on players. Then I trademarked the name, and it just stuck. Its also a nice conversation piece. Whats the name of the band? Its JUST JAY. Jay?, No, JUST JAY. Kind of a Whos On First? thing going on there. But I eventually found players.
I heard Jim Knauss play at an open mic
show, and was really impressed by his ability to give a different
flavor to a chord just by playing a different note than the root.
It really adds a twist on the mood of a song, and is one of the
things that give us our unique sounds. Jonathan Molway auditioned
for the drummer spot, and his playing was unique. All the other
drummers who auditioned, were playing too much for the level of
sophistication required by the songs. Jonathan was more concerned
with playing the right drum or percussion sound to blend with the
overall music. He adds a bit of jazz influence to the music. And
the harmonies sound like a choir. Thats one of the most
important things, and another element, that gives us our unique
sound. The voices blend well together, no matter what arrangement
we use. And theres not a lot of harmony practice required
because they both have great ears for it. Weve added a
temporary keyboardist, and guitarist at times, but the core of
JUST JAY works really well.
Can you tell us all about JUST JAY?
Basically, if you were to give Steve
Perry 13 cups of coffee right before he sang, and then put
Journey in a fist fight with Third Eye Blind or The Who, let them
duke it out, and picked up the pieces, youd have JUST JAY.
Despite the many who say we sound a bit like Journey, if you were
to play the two bands albums cut to cut or back to back,
youd notice a lot of differences, even vocally. JUST JAY
really strives to meet the following criteria to a listener: We
want a listener to say, I cant quite put my finger on
exactly who these guys sound like. I hear so many different
influences in there. And thats exactly true. If you
were listen to a just Jay track, youd hear something that
you didnt hear the last time you played that exact same
track. There are tons of little sound effects, weird instruments,
and chordal riffs, along with the normal rock instruments mixed
all over the place. It makes a listener stop and think,
thats cool! Theyre doing that?!
We have a unique sound. Our arrangements and voicings purposely
stray just a bit on the far side. And lyrically, we write our
audience into our songs; theres something everyone can
relate to in our music.
Live is where the band lives. We love to play live. We play anywhere and everywhere we can. We also put together our own
tours, and rental halls. Everything to build a fan base and entertain, not to attract a label. That will come in time. Our shows
have some choreographed moves, some lights, some fog, and acapuelo parts. We really strive to have our audience come
away with an experience, not a show.
Musically you have been influenced by especially JOURNEY, can you tell us more about this?
I listened to a lot of Journey, and
80s bands and harmonies stuck in my head. I also like
Journeys harmony recording
techniques and arrangements, use of tom toms, and deceptive use of guitar playing keyboard parts. But the Through My
Eyes album had over 130 different influences, from the Beach Boys, to Rap, to African rhythms, to Toto, to Urban
Contemporary R&B. Jonathan has a big jazz influence. Jim has a combo Scorpions and Speed Metal thing going. And
whenever we add a new player the music shifts again.
Your kind of music, AOR rock, is not so popular anymore, what is your opinion on this?
I think its good and bad. Bad
because it makes it tough to get this music exposed, especially
given the USs jump on the
band wagon and sound like everyone who put up their own money to buy a labels interest attitude so prevalent on 90s music these days. Ive had labels tell me its a shame I can sing so well, they want male vocalists who strain to hit notes! But its good, because it opens up a way to promote our band as an Alternative to Alternative Music and something that sounds
different, unique. And I currently dont have a lot of competition in the U.S.
What are the future plans for JUST JAY and/or do you have any side projects?
We are working on our next album,
On the Edge of the Edge. This album will be a bit
more angular than the first album. It will feature different
harmony arrangements, and recording style, and also more lead
guitar and keyboard pads. Whereas the
first album was vocally dominant, this album will be more of a balance between vocals and instruments. Vocally, I have been developing my lower range to try to avoid the Steve Perry clone syndrome. We are also looking heavily to expanding our
overseas fan base. We feel that is where we can really promote the act. We definitely want to play out there as much as
possible, and are looking for a manager and promotion company to help us in that effort.
Finally, do you have anything to add to our readers?
Yes, keep listening and loving AOR! Its a great style and one that will be around long after other fads and trends disappear.
REVIEW JUST JAY CD 'Through my eyes'
WEBSITE JUST JAY
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