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 John’s “Don’t 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, “There’s nothing I can teach you you don’t 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. That’s 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. It’s also a nice conversation piece. “What’s the name of the band?” “It’s JUST JAY.” “Jay?”, “No, JUST JAY”. Kind of a “Who’s 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. That’s 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 there’s not a lot of harmony practice required because they both have great ears for it. We’ve 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, you’d have JUST JAY. Despite the many who say we sound a bit like Journey, if you were to play the two band’s albums cut to cut or back to back, you’d 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 can’t quite put my finger on exactly who these guys sound like. I hear so many different influences in there.” And that’s exactly true. If you were listen to a just Jay track, you’d hear something that you didn’t 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, “Oh…that’s cool! They’re 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; there’s 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 80’s bands and harmonies stuck in my head. I also like Journey’s 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 it’s good and bad. Bad because it makes it tough to get this music exposed, especially given the US’s “jump on the
band wagon and sound like everyone who put up their own money to buy a label’s interest” attitude so prevalent on 90’s music these days. I’ve had labels tell me it’s a shame I can sing so well, they want male vocalists who strain to hit notes! But it’s 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 don’t 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! It’s a great style and one that will be around long after other fads and trends disappear.

REVIEW JUST JAY CD 'Through my eyes'