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MP3 just Jay - Through My Eyes

Some of the best Retro 80''s AOR sounding rock... period.

11 MP3 Songs
ROCK: 80''s Rock, POP: Power Pop

A long talk over coffee with Just Jay

Sitting in a Starbucks Coffee shop, amidst a stream of corporate yuppie types busily typing away on laptops, fiddling with their cell phones, talking about who knows what boring topic is their focus of the day and their pursuit of the "corporate ladder", I sit with Jason Gonzalez. He wears a very worn looking T-shirt, jeans, blue socks, and running sneakers. He looks out of place in this "Hot Spot". He is 32, and an insightful person can see a chip on his shoulder. He looks a bit moody, though still retains a hint of boyishness about him, as though he would "goose" you when you sit down.

He has sold more albums than Pearl Jam, Creed, and Matchbox Twenty, before they were signed to a major label. In a music industry which says out of one side of its mouth they are looking for "the next unique thing", when the only thing listeners hear on the radio are clones of other bands, because they are afraid of taking a chance, his music style which has been called too alternative for Alternative, not modern enough for Modern Rock, not edgy enough for Hard Rock or Metal or Thrash, and not hip enough for Hip Hop, is as instantly identifiable and recognizable as any major label artists". Jason Gonzalez, a.k.a. Just Jay, can honestly say he is music industry "original.

He has been at this on his own for a while now. In 1998, after 6 years of dealing with "creative differences" and less motivated band mates, Jason, inspired from listening to the solo Paul McCartney album "McCartney", which was recorded entirely in McCartney''s house using a 4 track reel to reel recorder, Jason Gonzalez made the bold move to leave the full band scene. In his NJ basement studio, he self recorded his debut CD "Through My Eyes" using a combination of a computer, and a 4 track cassette recorder. He played every instrument, overdubbing them track-by-track, and mixed it down before sending it out to be mastered and pressed.

With fears of creative differences still on his mind, he decided to hire session players, called himself Just Jay, and took to the road in NY, NJ, and PA, playing for whoever would let him. In a pinch, after suffering through many lineup changes, even his wife Theresa stepped in to play keyboards for a show, after Jason gave her a crash course on keyboards, MIDI and music theory.

His spark was ignited while he was a student at Ithaca College (Ithaca, NY), when his roommate noticed him singing along with the Steve Perry song "Oh Sherrie", and told him he sounded just like Steve Perry. Still too nervous about being in a band, he spent the next year playing acoustic guitar in the stairwells of his dorm. "It was great in there, all concrete walls and floor. There was a natural reverb which made the guitar ring out and your voice sound huge." Not long after, his roommate, and groups of 2, 3, 5 and sometimes more students would join him, all playing guitars and singing. They would switch on and off with lead and harmonies. "It got so we were skipping classes and just playing. People would open the doors to the stairwell, or sit around us just to listen to us. It was these times which I think influenced my use of harmonies and acoustic or clean sounding guitars on my albums."

He first came to European attention in 1999 with the "Through My Eyes" album. The singles "Starting Over Again" and "Holding The Line" got airplay in local college radio stations in New York, New Jersey, and Europe. Heart Of The Rock, Flash, Fireworks, Hard ROXX, Loud and Clear, Strutterzine and other melodic rock/AOR magazines in Europe picked up on him via https://www.tradebit.com and his own website. Moving to Seattle in 2000 for a change of pace and scenery, he faced a city that laments the loss of grunge and has since tried (with only marginal success) to fill the void with anything and everything that can reasonably pass as music.

What has made Gonzalez stand out? For starters his voice, which will remind you of the great Steve Perry of Journey, or possibly The Outfield or Foriegner, while his songwriting hints of Tears For Fears, Rick Springfield, and a touch of Eddie Money among others. But it''s his "story" that makes him a bit different. In an industry where there are more bands and artists fighting for the attention of a major label in one year than there are students vying for Ivy league freshman positions in the last 40 years, every band has had to pay their dues to succeed (or still fail), but in most of those cases, there are several people working together for the same dream, sharing the heartaches and successes, as well as the never ending responsibilities and hats required to either earn a living as an independent artist or obtain enough attention to warrant that golden carrot of music, the "deal with a label".

In Gonzalez'' case, he has shouldered those multi-hat burdens on his own shoulders for his entire music career. He has no artist manager, no tour manager; they won''t talk to him because they think his music isn''t marketable. Booking agents won''t work with him because they think clubs won''t like his style. Most local press won''t review his music or interview him. The local radio stations won''t play his music because they think it doesn''t fit their format (radio friendliness). His musicians (a constant lineup of which is always a problem even in icon bands) have been hired guns whose only care outside of making it to performances on time and knowing the tunes and harmonies (which is never complete) are when, where, and from whom their next paycheck is coming from. He has no roadies, no mixing engineer, no sound engineer, no PR, no image consultant, and no local, independent or major label interest. He even keeps a mocking running tab of the lack of music industry interest he has received on his website for all to see.

But while most musicians would have long since given, Gonzalez has instead sold over 30,000 albums (and keeps all he earns, no issues with "artist royalties" here), growing more successful along the way. The debut CD "Through My Eyes" sold over 10,000 copies making it one of the most successful independent releases in 1999 despite critic''s harsh reviews about his voice sound too much like Journey''s Steve Perry. No phones were ringing from any one in the music industry. Undaunted, Gonzalez recorded "On The Edge Of The Edge" using a lower, throaty and chest driven vocal range to avoid the dreaded "Steve Perry Clone Syndrome". The more subdued, acoustic guitar driven "On The Edge Of The Edge" (released in 2001), which was recorded in a professional studio used by major label signed acts, and involved a producer, charted on several Hot A/C and AAA radio stations in the country on the strength of the singles "A Shoulder To Lean On", "I Will Find A Reason", and "It''s Just A Feeling", and the supporting WA, OR, and North CA summer tour helped sell 17,000 copies, but again no doors have been opened. The single "Walkin''" kept his sales going and his already established presence in Europe strong, though many heavy metal critics over there found the music a little too soft for their tastes.

At the end of the 2002 Summer Tour, Jason Gonzalez decided he needed a break. "The hassles of dealing with schedules of session players made it very tough to enjoy playing. I was spending more time tracking phone calls, scheduling, being a Webmaster and sending out samples and press kits, than I was playing and writing. Worse yet, I found myself always thinking about those things that I would have to do when I finished playing even as I was playing! I hardly had time to write new material. That wasn''t why I got into this in the first place." He took a year and half long hiatus, spending time on home fix up projects.

As fall of 2003, approaches, Jason has started recording his 3rd solo album tentatively called, "Live". "This album is more groove oriented. It combines overdrive guitar riffs and with alot of keyboard driven songs. Many of these songs were written on keyboard rather than guitar." Gonzalez has also decided to radically approach the tracking, and forthcoming summer tour planned. He will be playing Washington, Oregon, Canada, and North California. "I''m shooting for about 17-18 songs, but going for a more "little man against the world" approach. I''m purposely using digital simulations for some instruments, doing bass, drum, and some guitar tracks using keyboards, using acoustic guitar simulators through an electric guitar, things like that. And I''m not trying to hide that fact. My wife will be doing my sound engineering when I''m playing out. And I''m only having myself out live. The drums, backing vocals, bass, and some of the guitars will all be pre-recorded. It''s a unique concept, but I''m going out with an honest, "Listen, this is who I am, I''m trying to play my stuff and sell CDs; I can''t find players who like my style to play and record with, or people who want to support me. I''ve got a sound that sounds great live every time, since allot of it is automated, and I put on a great show. What you hear on tape is exactly what my show sounds like live. Take it or leave it. I''m not doing any active promotion, I won''t be begging radio stations, magazines, e-zines, labels, anyone to notice me. My only goal is to put on a good show and win more local fans. And anyone who knows me knows I always achieve whatever goal I set."

About his entire career, Jason quipped, "I used to let it really get me down, get really pissed off about it. I mean there are so many bands who haven''t sold anywhere near as many CDs as I have (and many of them are 3, 4, and 5 people all working together, not one guy doing it on his own), and they''re being hailed as the next great this or the next great that, being signed by major and independent labels, when some of that music really sucks. I mean stop and listen to the radio when you''re in a crowded restaurant sometime and you''ll realize how many of the singers and songs sound like the same person sang and wrote them. Then I looked at how I live compared to how most of them, including a ton of major label "pinnacle of success" bands live, and realized I earn more than a lot of major label artists. My CD sales, show attendance, and the lifestyle I lead speak for themselves as to my success as an artist. And my fans and the friends I have met and made in the industry are the most important thing to me, not sucking up to some "industry contact". If you don''t care about being a celebrity, and realize that doing what you love is what matters, then who has the last laugh? People call me arrogant, but as I see it, I''m the one who has been ignored and dismissed, and I''m not about to let that or anything else stop me from doing what I want to do. I never have. If the US music industry doesn''t like me, I don''t do it for them anyway. I stopped caring about what US music industry "moguls", "talent experts", A&R reps, "trendsetters", "people who will make or break your career" and other so called "networking contacts" said about my music after my 2nd CD "On The Edge" sold 17,000 copies and my shows for my summer Edge tour were packed. These were the same people who told me my music doesn''t sell, isn''t marketable, isn''t trendy enough, and isn''t hip enough, and that I was too old to be a music industry artist career start out success when I was 26.

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