Jersey Budd - poet, dreamer, rocker, and gentleman.
Putting on Jersey Budd’s debut album Wonderlands is like loading up the jukebox with quarters. You can almost hear the whirl and click as the next record drops down. This is music from the very soul of the American heartland; music blaring out of the car radio while you’re parked in front of the 7-Eleven, or slow dancing with you baby down at Frankie’s Bar and Grill with Jersey’s smooth single malt voice coming out of the old Rock-Ola. Sha la la la.
Yet despite the buoyancy of the music these are songs that hold some pretty sobering truths; the wounded economy, blundering, bickering politicians, and trying to make ends meet on an ever shrinking paycheque. As Jersey sings “Are you people aware that you’re living in the shotgun times?” Like the greats before him, John Mellencamp, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, Jersey Budd’s music is that perfect combination of working class morality and classic rock in roll idealism.
I caught up with Jersey right before his show at Manchester’s Night and Day (see corresponding review). Over beers, with the nighttime sounds of the Northern Quarter serenading us, we talked family, friends, music and holding on to your dreams.
We’ll have a bit of atmosphere, Manchester atmosphere, Northern Quarter atmosphere. Maybe you could tell us a bit about yourself? I know you’re from in Leicester. Are you from a musical family?
No, no. Me mum and dad listened to all The Beatles and Stones years ago, I remember that. But none of them are musical. Me granddad, me Irish granddad on me mum’s side, he used to play the fiddle and the spoons, every Christmas he would be like…so as a young boy I used to get inspiration from that really, yeah.
Can you play the spoons?
I can’t, no. And I can’t even wash up the spoons [Laughs].
What music did you grow up listening to?
It was The Stones, The Beatles, Springsteen, Dylan, Cat Stevens, Neil Young, Bowie, and all that kind of music. Yeah, that's the first time I ever listened to Bob Dylan, that album As Good As It Gets, and I remember his husky voice, like real real deep. And I remember that very vividly when I was a youngster, me dad used to be into tug of war, so he used to train for championships with Bob Dylan in the [background]. I remember being about four or five, him trying to do press-ups to that. That’s my first memory of music.
Yeah, if you want, yeah. They’re the legends of a lot of rock and roll, because you can learn a lot from the legends. I mean they’re the top boys. I’ve always said it makes sense just to learn from them, and take some inspiration from them.
You mentioned Springsteen. I’m a big fan of his myself. Is it a coincidence, your name Jersey, is that your real name?
It is, yeah.
So you’re a big Springsteen fan?
I am, massive, but it’s not like, don’t get this idea of me sitting there all day everyday listening to him. I’m not. I share the same, um, what’s the word? The same ethic as him in terms of, when you go to a gig, the audience want to be entertained, they want a bit of a show. And music should be a release from your day-to-day life. They want to come see you and forget about that, you know? So in that way, in a rock and roll way, in terms of his music, he gets it off his chest and whatever he wants saying he says, but he does it in that sort of energetic way. And that’s why I get compared to him I think, I try to be energetic on stage, don’t know if it comes across like that, hopefully it does.
When I listen to your music a theme that seems to recur is holding on to your dreams.
Do you think it’s something that’s getting harder to do in today’s world?
Oh it’s unbelievable. I thought the same as you when I actually heard the album as a collective, and I got exactly the same feeling as you, and it is true. It’s getting harder because the money side’s not there as it used to be, you’re making a little bit of money from your life. It’s just a vicious circle. Bands can’t pay to get into a recording studio to record some new stuff, to get promoted, to push yourself, to get gigs. And it’s just a vicious circle sometimes. I do feel for a lot of these young bands. I mean, I’m still coming though it if you want. It’s getting really hard. That’s why I write about it, just trying to inspire them to keep going, and keep believing.
I love that line in ‘She Came Back’: “Don’t take them away from me, my dreams are all I have.” And I think there’s a similar line in “Shotgun Times”.
Yeah, “How can I dream, if you don’t allow me to dream.”
[At this point our beers arrive]
You got Tom Meighan of Kasabian to sing back up on your song ‘She Came Back’, I hear at an exorbitant fee. Four cans of Fosters and a pack of cigarettes?
[Laughs] That’s all it was. Honestly. Yeah, we grew up together. He was a few years older than me. He used to go to school with my sister, they were in the same class. I’ve known him for years. I used to be in a band with his bother John when we first started out, probably 16, 17, trying to get somewhere. But yeah, Tom, I asked him, just on a night out, all drunken, the guitars going around. I saw him in the studio the next week, "come and do some singing", and he went “Yeah, I’d love to.” But I didn’t think anything of it till he rang me on the Saturday morning, “Do you still need me?” And I said all right. He hadn’t forgotten. He was a legend for doing that. He was in and gone in 45 minutes.
Took his cigarettes and left.
That’s it yeah! [Laughs]
Didn’t you open for Kasabian a couple of times on their tour?
We did yeah, we did the three dates in Leicester, we did the Albert Hall with them, I played Newcastle, yeah I’ve done a few gigs.
How was the reaction of the audience?
Unbelievable. I mean, considering how the types of music are so different, you know what I mean…
Yeah, but there’s still kind of a thread that goes through them. I mean I think if you listen on just a superficial level, yeah they’re totally different…
There’s still that heart and soul in it that I think a lot of people miss in Kasabian, that there is this heart and soul which is definitely apparent in your music.
You’re dead right. It’s the same thing that Serge would probably say. He writes about dreams, he’s got a different way of expressing it, the language and the lyrics, but…
But the meaning’s there and the emotion is there.
What are your future plans? I know you’re touring this album now.
We’re touring the album, we finish touring next Saturday. Then we’re off doing a European tour with a band called The Rifles, so that takes us all around Germany and I think we finish in Amsterdam or Paris in the middle of November, and then we’re pretty much back in the studio get some new songs on up till Christmas and then we’ll hopefully get back on tour early next year, you know what I mean, keep pushing it, try to earn a little bit of money from it.