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Interview: Jake Thistle

Jake Thistle “Brooklyn Can Wait”

1. Who are your biggest music inspirations?

Well, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers got me into music when I was three through their incredible Super Bowl Halftime performance, so they definitely qualify at the top of the list. Jackson Browne has an unbelievable wealth of songs that have taught me quite a bit about the art, John Hiatt is another incredibly versatile, prolific (and highly-underrated) songwriter who I love and absorb as much as I can from, then there’s Bruce Springsteen who has written some of the most amazing “story” songs in history. Speaking of history, there’s also Mark Knopfler, who writes some of the most intricate and clever songs based ON history…haha. The common theme is that I get inspired by transcendent songwriters who have had the tenacity and talent to withstand the test of time while continuing to create important music for the world. That’s certainly a lofty, but worthy goal to aspire to, I think.

2. What are some of your favorite memories of growing up just outside of New York City?

I’m from about 25 miles outside of New York City. Great place to live and grow up; close enough to get to the city, get to the shore, get to the mountains, and even get to other cities, like Philly and D.C. without too much trouble. I started to play guitar when I was nine, and was playing gigs before I turned ten– I won’t say that doing that was easy, but it would have been nearly impossible living in most other places. Here, there was a fantastic music community that afforded me a lot of opportunities to play with great musicians in the area, mostly in bars at the time. I was mostly self-taught, but started learning as much as I could by paying close attention on stage to the musicians who let me sit in. Playing live with other musicians was the best teacher I could have asked for, and I have a ton of great memories building relationships with those great guys. There were SO MANY cool musicians that I consider friends, but VERY early I played at a bar when I was ten with Dave Gellis (he was from Blood, Sweat and Tears at the time); we hit it off and he ended up giving me my only real in-person lessons before he went back on tour. Great memory. Then I played regularly with Lou Pallo (Les Paul’s rhythm guitarist for decades), not long after that– we played just about every Sunday for years, and when I was up there, I was the youngest guy on stage by about 70 years…haha. But that’s the magic of music– it bridges generations. He was a great friend, and I have awesome memories of those times. Anyway, that music community gave me so many special memories growing up. I appreciate everyone I’ve played with who took the time to teach me something– and there are a lot of great people in that category.

3. Could you tell us a little about your songwriting process?

It really varies for me, personally. Sometimes the songs come quickly; Brooklyn Can Wait was like that, actually. For that one, I had a line and a melody and it pretty much all came together at once almost fully formed; it didn’t require a lot of editing. Other times, I’ll have something, either lyrics or a melody that needs some time to marinate, or I just feel like the song can be stronger and can’t hit on the right fix immediately. I put those away until something resonates with me enough to craft into something I think can work well. Generally, I find it’s easier for me to write the words and melody together, or even just start with the melody. I do find it a little more difficult to write lyrics and fit music to them later. More than anything, I’m trying to craft something that feels real and true. If I can do that, I know that I can perform it in a way that will help the song connect with people.

4. What was the inspiration for “Brooklyn Can Wait”?

I really wanted a song that highlighted the importance of wanting to go somewhere because that’s where you want to be, not because you don’t like where you are. I think that’s especially a common consideration for people my age, because most of us are in that weird middle ground of adults but still teenagers, and trying to figure out exactly what that looks like…haha. However, it’s an idea that has resonated with me for a while and I’m hoping it does with everyone else, too!

5. What was the experience like working on the music video for “Brooklyn Can Wait”?

It was a great time! This was the first time that I wasn’t the focal point of one of my music videos; I was more of a secondary character narrating through song and that was a lot of fun for me. Jonny Servais directed the video, and Vernie Ritkies starred as the protagonist. They and the crew did a great job bringing the song to life, and I definitely appreciated their work on it. We spent the day filming on location in New York City, it was a beautiful day, everyone had a good time and at the end of the day we had what we needed to tell a story. That’s the definition of a good day shooting a video…haha.

6. What is the most meaningful line in “Brooklyn Can Wait” to you?

That’s a tough question, they all mean something to me. But if I had to pick one, I think “Take some time before it takes you” is a line that can resonate with a great many people.

7. What advice would you give other to other young artists looking to take off?

I think the best advice I could give would be to hone your craft consistently– and that spans all of the facets that come with the territory, like writing, playing, performing, and building your brand. But do all of that for the love of doing it. If you focus on doing what you love to do, the journey IS the destination, and what you love to do moves with you wherever you go. You can’t fail with that mentality, because you’re naturally satisfied with the space you’re in. More importantly, though, audiences can tell when you’re not committing to what you’re doing in the moment. They intuit when something is forced or fabricated for effect, so it’s important to really love what you’re doing– if it’s meaningful to you, it’ll feel meaningful to them. Also, growing up, I always looked back at two phrases that ring true for me: “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”, and “the harder you work the luckier you get.” If you’re working on what you love consistently and try to say “yes” to as many chances to play as possible, you’ll naturally be ready for when the opportunities arise. Opportunities are everywhere, sometimes even in places that don’t look like opportunities at the start. Be open.

8. What can we expect next from you?

I’m extremely  excited to debut my studio EP in November, called The Half Left Out. In addition to Brooklyn Can Wait, it will also feature Ghosted Road, which won Indie Boulevard’s Americana Song Of The Year, and The Dreamer, which was also well reviewed upon release, along with four other unreleased tracks. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I can’t wait for people to hear the EP in its entirety. And even as we’re preparing to release The Half Left Out, I’m busy writing for the follow-up album even as we speak. I also hope to be touring and playing more to support the music, and people can check out www.JakeThistle.com to keep up with what’s new and where to find me. I appreciate it!

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