Jim Walsh - The Jim Walsh Band
On the phone with Philip Anderson - May, 2002
 
From the East Coast comes a new band with a distinctive style of music and distinctive vocals. That band is the Jim Walsh Band. With the unique arrangement of playing hard rock with acoustic guitars only - but not having a mellow sound at all - and Jim's original low vocal style, this band is sure to be on the radio everywhere before too long.
 
We had a chance to talk with lead singer and the namesake of the band, Jim Walsh, and find out how the band formed, what their drive is and where they are headed.

K2K: To start with, your latest release, "In The Short Time", is that your first album?
JW: It's actually our second release. We had released the CD entitled "The Say So" about a year and a half ago. A little more than that. It was met very well by radio across the land, so we jumped right back in and put this out. It [In The Short Time] was released on February 8th [2000].
 
K2K: Are you getting airplay more on rock or alternative radio stations?
JW: Believe it or not, we're getting spins from adult contemporary, the first track "Forever", it's doing really well for us. We're currently number 9 on the New Music Weekly, Next Up Chart. Basically that translates to number 49. Also, number 107 on the FM QB chart, both for AC. But it is also being spun on classic rock stations and modern rock.
 
K2K: Part of what I liked about your sound on the CD was, if you're familiar with bands like Days Of The New, you used acoustic guitars but did not opt for that "I wish I was Pearl Jam" sound that so many bands do.
JW: (laughing) Very well put.
 
K2K: Did you make a conscious effort to be different or is that just the way it came out?
JW: No, actually myself and Steve, the lead guitar player, he is an absolutely incredibly guitar player. He has a very unique style. On the same note, we've been compared to Days Of The New and Alice In Chains unplugged, we've also been compared to Al DiMeola with vocals.
 
K2K: I didn't hear as much outstanding leads as much as the overall melody of the music. Except for the walk, there was a ripping lead on there. But, I don't see Al DiMeola there.
JW: Yeah, I think the DiMeola comparison comes from some of the verses and along those lines. The arpeggios and such.
 
K2K: Now, on "Old Number 32" and "Great Big Disaster", how much early Van Halen did you guys used to listen to?
JW: Wow! That's an interesting one.
 
K2K: They totally sound like something off of the first two albums of theirs.
JW: That's a new one but I like that. I like some old Van Halen.
 
K2K: Well, I think that it was when he [David Lee Roth] was doing those down and dirty, raw vocals.
JW: Yeah, and I think that's when he really meant it. There was nothing forced about it. Maybe that's what you're picking up on there.
 
K2K: They're heavier than songs like "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)", but something along those lines. I can't think of a particular song, but the style.
JW: Ah yes. Gotcha. Actually, some of my other favorites were "Drop Dead Legs".
 
K2K: "Gin Joint" has a cool smokey, bar feel to it.
JW: We thought "Gin Joint" was the black sheep of our CD. It's a very popular one live. Everybody yells for that one. Ironically, that was one of two songs that weren't picked to go to radio. We did a test marketing on the CD and they actually chose 9 of the 11 songs as singles.
 
K2K: Who picks these?
JW: Our promotion firm is Loggins Promotions. They'll do a test market with different CDs, in house, with management, basically sit down to rate the CD. "Is there one single on here?" We actually had three songs with a 4 star rating for AC and four more right behind it with 3 1/4 stars for AC and/or Top 40. Then they gave us 4 stars for Modern rock and Adult-Oriented rock. Those were for "Old Number 32" and "Great Big Disaster".
 
K2K: Where do you get your vocal style from?
JW: I have an extremely eclectic group of influences. I love everything from old classic rock, I love Pink Floyd, Bad Company. Paul Rodgers is one of my all time favorite vocalists. I also am a big fan Depeche Mode. On the other side as well, I love Frank Sinatra. Basically, what it comes down to is that I love a great song. If the song is written well and performed well, any song that grabs you...
 
K2K: But your vocal sound is unique. It's a nice change.
JW: Thanks. I'm not trying to go out and imitate anyone. If you want to do that, that's great, but it's been done before.
 
K2K: How long has the band been together?
JW: About 2 1/2 years now.
 
K2K: Where are you based?
JW: Long Island.
 
K2K: Is the record company your own?
JW: Yeah, independent label. It's our own label. It was actually Steve's label, the lead guitarist. After we started getting some support, gaining some momentum, we started to really push and go as far as we possibly can go on our own. If the day comes that a larger company would come and step in and says "We'd like to take care of these things for you..."
 
K2K: Are you open to get with a major or an independent who can offer you something nicer?
JW: We're trying to put together things that are going to stay around. Five, ten, twenty years from now, I hope somebody's checking out the CD, very much like old Van Halen, and play it and still get that same feeling from it, you know, on a nice summer day with the windows rolled down. I'd rather rot away in obscurity than sell out just to make a buck and so forth. A lot of people are picking up that it comes from the gut, what we're doing. I hope that we'll be around for a while, no matter what level that might be. We're going to keep knocking on doors and traveling around the country playing for people.
 
K2K: In your music style, how did you come up with that acoustic style?
JW: Myself, I had always played on acoustic guitar. When I started playing, I really just wanted to play for myself and a couple of people. Just sit down and play. When myself and Steve got together to decide to do this project, he grew so accustomed to hearing me with an acoustic guitar that he said, "Why don't we stick to acoustic and do an acoustic album?" That's what the mindset was. As we got down to writing the album, it just kind of evolved in front of us. As it became a little more progressive, we decided to keep it like this.
 
K2K: Does Steve play any electric on this at all?
JW: No, the entire album is all acoustic.
 
K2K: So, when it says "lead guitar by", it's actually "lead acoustic"?
JW: Yes.
 
K2K: How do you like the 12 string guitar feel?
JW: I love it. I hear certain things with the 12 string. It's almost a mandolin feel to it at times. It's just such a versatile sound. It brightens up. Picture how it sounds, just sitting in your living room strumming out a big E chord. The feeling reverberates through the room.
 
K2K: I play an old fat back Ovation.
JW: That's all we play.
 
K2K: It's just hard to play it live, especially if you have any gained weight on you. You kind of have to suck in the gut and place the guitar under your rib cage.
JW: (laughing) Yeah, you get used to it. Pete's is the fat back.
 
K2K: Do you have any 12 string thin bodies?
JW: I have one myself. I usually don't use it live. I have it kicking around. I think it loses something. Then again, I'm from the school of thought that most of my Ovations only last a couple of years. I buy the cheap ones because I use special strings that are like 14s. The strings will actually bend the neck back. They get bent. Once again, it's that sound that fills everything up.
 
K2K: Do you play live ever?
JW: Sometimes. Normally I don't.
 
K2K: Is there a reason why you don't?
JW: There's a lot of alternatively tuned songs. Half of them. It's usually enough. When I kick in, it doesn't really add very much. Technically, the 12 string is two guitars. Pete says that he plays two guitars in one.
 
K2K: Are you ever going to add electric?
JW: I wouldn't say no. If we felt that the song, the performance of that song, called for it and it was really going to make a difference to get over that hill and stay that feeling, there's no opposition to it.
 
K2K: How did you get hooked up with Ovation?
JW: The first CD did pretty well. As we were only using Ovation, Ovation said, "We would be happy to work with you guys." since we were plugging away for Ovation and using only their guitars. So that's where the ball got rolling from there. We also got an endorsement from Crate.
 
K2K: What's your obsession with heavy strings?
JW: Once again, that timbre. That feel. When I sit down and play, the feel of the guitar, I can almost feel the tuning. It's that vibration, that resonance, that I've grown to really love.
 
K2K: Where do you guys play?
JW: We play all around New York. We're supposed to be going on the road very soon. The snowball is finally starting to roll down the hill. Quick backflash, The Say So, about a year and a half ago, climbed up the radio charts, had two singles. We were going head to head with Shania Twain and John Mellencamp and Backstreet Boys. The last time, we got a lot of support, oddly enough, from Louisiana, all the way up to Wisconsin. Both sides of the Mississippi river. We're seeing some of that coming back again. Who knows. It's anybody's guess where it's going to go.
 
K2K: How do you get that "earthy" sound, being from Long Island?
JW: You know, I think it's from so many people trying to be somebody else. It reverts to what you said earlier, "trying to be Pearl Jam." Things like that. We were going to sit down and write a great song. If it wasn't working, we would walk away from it.
 
K2K: What's it like playing out in New York? I've heard it's the pits for live music.
JW: This is very true. But, we happen to be the exception. We've broken the attendance records everywhere we've played. We've doubled attendance at a place that we played Saturday night. We just played with Jason Bonham at a place just outside the city. We outsold him like 5 to 1. We have packed houses every time we play, which we're extremely grateful for. It's very tough. What we do run into though, at the clubs, the booking men will be like, "Oh come on. There's going to be that many people here?" They're very skeptical. We're met with a lot of skepticism. It's tough. We played this one place and they actually ran out of beer. There were so many people there and they [the club] didn't take us seriously and ran out of beer.
 
K2K: Have you ever been out to the West Coast?
JW: Yeah, but not playing.
 
K2K: Are you hoping to tour this summer?
JW: Quite possibly. We're in the planning stages right now. The record is new. What we're doing is planning a tour in conjunction to areas with the biggest support. Since we are independent, we're working smarter, not harder. We'll be coming out to Reno.
 
K2K: Reno? Why not Vegas?
JW: I did a little bit of bungee jumping in Vegas. I'm a little bit of a loon. I go bungee jumping and sky diving. My goal this year is to jump into an air bag somewhere.
 
K2K: So if you're music doesn't work out, you have hopes of being a stunt man?
JW: (laughing) There you go. I actually have a picture of myself, exiting a plane somewhere, on my website. It was the first time we're jumping. It was the absolute smallest jump zone in the country. When you jump out of the plane, you have to maneuver the parachute basically into an area of about 40 yards by 40 yards. It sounds big when you're down here, but when you're on a plane and you can't find it, it's a horse of a different color.
 
K2K: Do you have any touring dates in mind to mention?
JW: There was talk of middle of March. Chances are good that we might be heading out that way sometime in April. I figure that we'll work our way out of New York.
 
K2K: Will you be playing L.A. or San Francisco? Or Seattle.
JW: Seattle is more likely since we're getting some support from Olympia, WA.
 
And with that, we went onto rambling about other people's music, history and stuff in general. Look for the Jim Walsh Band, hopefully, on tour sometime this summer and pick up their CD "In The Short Time". Check them out on their website: http://www.thesayso.com
 
Written by Philip Anderson

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

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