Interview with Jeremy Fisher
by Anthony Montenegro
Vancouver-based troubadour Jeremy Fisher celebrates the release of his new album Goodbye Blue Monday (released in the U.S. September 18 on Wind-up Records), a timeless burst of acoustic rock & roll that's brainy and hook-filled, playful and provocative, all at the same time. As committed as he is to having fun, Fisher is serious about his mission. "Music can do a lot of things," he says, "but the greatest thing music can do is to make listening to a record the best three-and-a-half minutes of your day, or the best night of your week when you go to a show. It's an escape from the hum-drum; it's a drug that's actually good for you."
As part of our Jeremy Fisher Virgin Mobile LIFE sweepstakes, Jeremy recorded a song about our lucky Grand Prize winner, who also took home a signed custom acoustic guitar!
Click here to check out the winning song, and you can even download it as a ringtone or ringback tone, or check it out on Virgin Mobile Headliner's Jukebox!
Download Jeremy Fisher ringtones to the left. If you're a Virgin Mobile Headliner user, you can get the latest news, info, and alerts on Jeremy, and if you've got a Wild Card or Cyclops handset, check out the Jukebox section where you can stream music from Jeremy's new album Goodbye Blue Monday!
Virgin Mobile was able to catch up with Jeremy, and we asked him a few questions:
VM: Do you have any ringtones set up on your own phone? If so, what are they?
JF: All I use is vibrate. My thing with ringtones is I love them. I love sitting around and going through ringtones on other people's phones. But when it comes to my own I get tired of them after five or six times, so I just go vibrate. That's the only thing I don't get tired of. In fact, you know, it feels good sometimes.
VM: Tell us a little about your new album, Goodbye Blue Monday.
JF: Well the album Goodbye Blue Monday is brand new, my first one out in America and its kind of a throwback to 60's and 70's acoustic rock and roll. Thematically it's a little bit all over the place but sonically it's just really got that vintage vibe and I'm really proud of it. I always wanted to make a record like that and I felt like I really was successful in achieving what was going on in my imagination. In some ways the producer actually exceeded those expectations so yea I'm pretty stoked about it.
VM: Comparisons of your musical and vocal style have been drawn to both Bob Dylan and Paul Simon--sizable compliments, to be sure. How do you feel about comparisons to them, or to any other artists?
JF: It's pretty flattering to be compared to such great songwriters. Comparisons are inevitable and they may be important too. How we explore music is comparing what we are listening to that's kind of new to what we already know and I think everybody--I know everybody goes through that, and so I guess the challenge for me is to accept those comparisons graciously and try to stay true to what I'm doing and hopefully one day grow to a point where I have an identifiable voice and I outgrow those comparisons.
VM: Who were your strongest musical influences?
JF: AC/DC! I love their records from the 70s. Actually last night my drummer Isaac and I were staying up real late driving to Dallas and talking about early hard rock and heavy metal. It's kinda funny because I definitely don't play that kind of music. I think if my voice were different I would. You can hear a bit of that in songs like Cigarette. There's definitely a bit of that influence. I listen to all music. I listen to a lot of older delta blues and country blues and folk revival stuff. Right now I'm learning to play the banjo so I'm listening to a lot of banjo music.
VM: So on the AC/DC side, are you a Bon Scott or a Brian Johnson guy?
JF: Bon Scott. You know, that's just my preference but I got the respect for Brian Johnson too. That was the first show I ever went to. It was on their Razor's Edge tour in 1991, maybe it was 1990, at Sky Dome in Toronto. But for recordings I'm down with the Bon Scott stuff.
VM: Everyone has a guilty pleasure band that they're somewhat embarrassed to be a fan of. What are yours?
JF: Yea, there are a lot, for sure. You know, in a way as I'm growing older I'm finding that the guilty pleasures are kind of just pleasures. Because I don't really care--I'm not in high school anymore and I don't need to impress people with my list of things that I'm into. I was a pretty big Rush fan, I probably should have brought that up in the last question but I guess that's something that's not cool to be a fan of. I don't listen to a lot of their stuff anymore but it definitely gives me nostalgia. I like a lot of hair metal ballads, like To Be With You by Mr. Big and More Than Words by Extreme and Remember Yesterday by Skid Row. I love those, I don't know why, they're just--they're almost as funny as they are good ballads. Yea those are my guilty pleasures. Oh, you know what--when I do karaoke sometimes I sing Celine Dion "The Power Of Love" and I do a pretty damn good job, if I can say so myself, so there must be some part of me deep down that actually loves the song.
VM: Which artists would you most like to collaborate with?
JF: You know, I guess there are always the dream ones--I would love to play with Angus Young because I think it would be a lot of fun, but I think if we ever made something it would probably be unlistenable, or uninteresting to anybody else. Obviously my main influences I would love to meet and play with. I don't know that Angus Young and I would have a lot to relate to--maybe we would... I would probably just be annoying to him.
VM: You took the initiative to create and produce the entertaining hit video for Cigarette yourself; painstakingly by hand, frame by frame. How long did it take, and would you have done anything differently if you'd had an unlimited video budget?
JF: If I had an unlimited video budget there probably would have been all kinds of people giving me that money that had ulterior motives and agendas that would have made it turn into a really sucky video. I wouldn't call myself a skilled video director, but I was very inspired. I think part of what was inspiring was that it was such a long shot to even create something watchable because I had never done it before. It took me about a week to do Cigarette and I did one for two other songs on the album: Scar That Never Heals and Jolene, and they are all up on YouTube and on my website. Each one took about a week and they were just inspired by the fact that I was interested in learning about animation. I think that in some cases a budget is the wrong place to start with, ya know? It's important to have a budget once you decide what it is you want to do, but in the spirit of creativity and innovation I think its best to try and make a lot out of a little.
VM: In 2002 you completed a cross-continent tour from Seattle to Nova Scotia in support of your Back Porch Spirituals album--traveling the entire route by bicycle! What was that like? What was the strangest thing to happen along the way?
JF: It was...I mean it was EPIC...that's the only word I think there is to answer what that was like. It was epic. I could either just say that or I could write you a book on it. Every day felt like a week. So much happened, I met so many people, and it kind of started me on this trajectory that I'm on now, just touring and playing music. It was very exciting. As for the strangest thing to happen along the way...I don't know if it's the strangest because there were many strange things, but probably the one that sticks out in my memory was getting nailed by those little stealth sprinkler systems that come up out of the grass in dry areas in the middle of the night to keep them watered. One time I was sleeping out in the middle of a church lawn with no tent or anything, and in the middle of the night they went off and all my stuff got soaked. I was in the high desert in eastern Washington and I had to drag my stuff onto some asphalt and try to stay warm the rest of the night while coyotes circled me and howled and stuff. That was kind of weird and strange, and I'm glad to still be alive!
VM: Some of the tracks ["Lay Down (Ballad of Rigoberto Alpizar), and "American Girls" come to mind] on your latest album Goodbye Blue Monday have a more serious message, while others are more light-hearted examples of introspection. How do you balance the different contexts when performing live shows such that you can transition between them?
JF: You know what, that's an interesting question--and you get points for that one by the way, no one has ever asked it to me in that way before, and I get a lot of the same questions over and over, but that's a good point. You definitely don't want to play a song like The Ballad of Rigoberto Alpizar and then follow it up with something as lighthearted as Cigarette because it just feels emotionally strange to do that. When I come up with my set list I try to have it make some kind of sense and transition in and out of those more serious songs with stories or just make musical sense of how they're coming together. It is tough to do, but important. I think I learned that lesson from John Prine--another major influence that I forgot to list earlier on--he is one of those song writers that in the same song can make you laugh and cry, because he talks about really serious stuff, but he also has a way of making it so poetic and humble that you can really identify with it, and it packs a strong emotional punch. That's what I aspire to. I guess I can't give you that clear an answer because I don't know that I've mastered it yet.
VM: Music is such a powerful medium, able to convey both messages and emotion in a way that each individual can tailor to their interpretation of the world around them. How do you approach your songwriting in terms of what you're trying to express to your listeners?
JF: I don't know, it's not conscious, I think that in a lot of ways it's just like talking, there's not as much thought as there is just emotion and feeling. Music for me is very much that way. For me it is way more important to create a mood than to tell a story. That's what books, magazines and blogs are for I guess. The main thing is to try and stay honest.
VM: What music are you listening to right now? What recent albums have impressed you?
JF: My favorite popular single right now is that Alicia Keys song No One because its such a good vocal take, I really like that. I really like Feist, and I like her new album, but I like her last album Let It Die even more. That one is still getting a lot of spins for me. Jamie Lidell. Old Man Luedecke; he is a banjo player from the east coast of Canada, because like I said I'm learning to play banjo. There's a wide variety of stuff right there.
VM: Tell us something about Jeremy Fisher that no one knows.
JF: I don't know...I'm such an open person I don't know if there's anything nobody knows. I guess very few people know that I have a deep love for the game of hockey and that I played for 10 years, but that I suck really bad at it.
VM: Do you have a favorite team?
JF: My love for hockey is like my love for music. I have always been more interested in the games that I'm playing in than in games other people are playing so I never really followed it, I just love the game and love playing. But for the sake of--ya know, journalistic convenience and all that, I'll go for the Leafs because I grew up closest to Maple Leaf Gardens.
VM: What position do you play?
JF: I was left defense except one year when I was really young when I played goalie.
VM: Right or left shot?
JF: I'm a lefty, but only in hockey. I'm right handed otherwise. The only other thing I do with my left hand is brake my bicycle because you've got to do that with both hands to stay safe.
VM: Well there you go. Now we know that the normally right-handed Jeremy Fisher is an avid hockey player with a left-handed shot.