Spotlight Interview with Jack Byron
Updated: Jun 18, 2022
A fresh single from Jack Byron gives that classic rock vibe riddled with a southern undertone and sonically driving guitars between acoustic verses that all feel emotional and intensely personal as it gets.
"Say Goodbye" is incredibly relatable and just about everyone has gone through a loss of love, a breakup, something that hurts emotionally and leave you in awe not knowing what to even feel at times.
It's things like this that give people like Byron that drive to write a killer rock song that even though has its edginess to it, has this breathable and soothing almost 1950's songwriting style in there that lets it come through with a brightness even amongst its sad premise.
This was impactful to many. Or it will be for that matter.
You can feel it in your bones and it's actually pretty amazing that the artist can take something like this and weave it into a catchy pop song the way he did.
It's very catchy, it's bouncy and colorful.
There's almost nothing better than a song about hurt that's done with such a positive musical tonality.
The track has a clean and crisp feel to it and as we said before, it does touch on a sort of nostalgic songwriting approach that actually works super well here.
With such a great release, we wanted to find out where this came from. What was this really about? Let's find out with a little chat between us and jack Byron.
RAG: Okay so let's start with "Say Goodbye". This track had an amazing and impactful feel to it! Where did this single come from?
Thanks for that!
“Say Goodbye” came from a place of penetrating contemplation. I had been tinkering with a few chords one evening and I started musing on a situation I had been in. The song has a bit of a longing for a once potent love, resentful summer sweat kind of feel, something a bit punchy.
I was aiming for an anthemic, 4am in the driveway, getting your heart kicked out kind of song.
Who was the heartbreaker and who was the one who walked away with a shattered heart, isn’t the point, of course . These situations are more often than not, complicated, with both people usually turning into an unreliable narrator once the music's over, naturally.
More often than not, as the saying goes, “It takes two to tango.”
One thing is for certain, though: Both of you will never forget that night.
RAG: I'm hearing some great styles on this release. Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
My biggest influence is The Beatles. Their music has been there for me through the best and worst times in my life. Of course, the sheer brilliance of their musical innovation and creativity has been written about the world over, but I really love that their music taps into a higher ideal for what artists should be aiming for. Of course, every artist has tunes written for the simple joy of writing a tune, but the overarching theme that seemed to permeate The Beatles’ songs was elevating consciousness through great music. The great music wasn’t the end, it was the means. I think that kind of thing is what I find most attractive about my biggest influences.
John Mayer is another huge influence. When I was in high school, his record, “Room for Squares” blew my mind open. I discovered how beautiful an acoustic guitar on a pop/rock record could be. The ambition of incorporating these complex, jazz flavored chords and sequencing them with great melody in a way that is universally appealing is something I had never really known of anyone else doing. If there was, no one did it like he did. He was able to keep his amazing artistic sensibilities intact, while creating accessible, beautifully crafted music. I ended up stealing a copy of his now legendary ‘Continuum’ from my local library in high school after my interest in his other work was piqued, and it blew me away. The minimalist sound, the essentialist approach, the blues, the songs. Here was an artist who never seemed to compromise the essence of who he is, who wasn’t afraid to switch the style up and take a risk, despite the commercial pressures. The versatility in sound from ‘Battle Studies’ to say, ‘Born & Raised’ is astounding. That is something I greatly admire about John Mayer, and I’ve been a huge fan for a long time now.
Bob Marley is another one of my favorites, although I've only dived into his greatest hits and his record, ‘Exodus.’ One listen through ‘Exodus’ though, and you swear you could feel your third eye ripping open… So much poetry in 50 mins. Why he is one of my favorites can be summed up in a few of his lyrics:
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds”
“Open your eyes, and look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?”
“This could be the first trumpet, might as well be the last. Many more will have to suffer
Many more will have to die, don’t ask me why”
“I no come to fight flesh and blood, but spiritual wickedness in high and low places. So while they fight you down, stand firm and give Jah (God) praises”
Bob Marley poured his whole heart into his music, and the world is much better off for it. Even if it takes many more lifetimes for the whole world to elevate to that level of awareness collectively, I have the faith that we will get there.
And of course, Bob Dylan. The Maestro of songwriting, and It’s hard for me to pick a favorite Dylan Record, but I have cried while listening to “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” admittedly. I didn’t get into his music until my early twenties, and I’m glad I discovered it at that time, to better appreciate the scope and depth of his art. If I could write one song that would touch the hem of greatness that is a Bob Dylan song, I could die a happy man. The sheer creativity and innovation in his music and lyrics is unparalleled. ‘Blood on the Tracks’ is one of those records I visit time and time again when I need to be reminded of the standard of songwriting perfection.
In regards to influences, I could go on, but I think that’s enough for now.
RAG: So how did this all begin for you really? When did you fall in love with making music?
I’ve always loved music, ever since I can remember, but I fell in love with making music when I was about 17. That’s when I learned enough guitar to start building songs. The first tune I had ever written was a little song called “Under Over You,” a bit of mushy acoustic affair. I recorded an acoustic demo at a buddy’s house and burned the song to a few CD’s that I gave to a few friends. Whether their positive feedback was sincere or out of politeness, I can’t say, but that little song is what started my journey as an artist.
RAG: What's next for you as an artist?
“Say Goodbye” is the first song I am releasing since moving to Nashville about 9 months ago. I am hopeful that this song will put me on the map around Nashville, and get my music out there in a more pronounced way. This is the first project I’ve done with a clearly defined, orchestrated effort, so I am optimistic and starry-eyed.
I’ve got more tunes to release after this one, so in the words of Bob Dylan, “but for the sky, there are no fences facing.”
RAG: What inspires you to write a song?
Inspiration to write can come to me from a few places, actually.
More often than not, I’ll be strumming a bit of guitar or playing a bit of piano, and I’ll hit on a sequence of cords or a little riff that feels good under the fingers and sounds good to me, and I’ll starting singing random melodies and words, in a sort of stream of consciousness kind of way, following the muse until something coherent takes shape, either a phrase or melodic idea, ideally both. The main idea for the song will usually start to fall into my head from the ether and then into focus. After that, I let the conscious/logical aspect of my mind take it from there, to finish sculpting the song. There's other times when I will be driving down long stretches of highway driving to a show, from two to four hours, typically, where I’ll fall into a driver’s hypnosis while the music is off, and a melody or lyric idea will fall in. The beauty of being inspired to write a song in this way is the fact that your melody is not constricted by the sequence of chords you would be relegated to had you started writing on the guitar or piano. It’s great fun too, since sometimes you’ll discover a new chord to play in the attempt to figure out the chords for the melody!
Topics of love, relationships, philosophy, spirituality, social commentary, good times, bad times, situational songs, songs about your own feelings, and songs that tap into the feelings of others can all be a great wellspring of inspiration for any songwriter I’d say, myself included.
RAG: What are you doing when you're NOT working on music?
Of course I’m always listening to music when I’m not creating it.
I have a thing for books: memoirs, spiritual texts, esotericism, alchemy, history, anything that helps me better understand myself and others, that’s the gold for me.
I recently read a memoir called “A Long Way Gone” written by Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone, and I would recommend that book to anyone who wants to get a panoramic view of the true cost of war. It's a fantastic read that will make the hairs on your arm stand up. I’m currently reading “Lincoln’s Melancholy,” by Joshua Wolf Shenk, a book on how depression challenged Abraham Lincoln and fueled his greatness, and I’m really enjoying it.
I try to follow the teachings of Jesus to the best of my abilities, to love God and to love and treat others the way I would like to be treated. Of course, I’m not there yet, but that is my life’s definite chief aim. Even if I mess up seventy times seven times, I will not give up that aim.
I love spending time with my family and friends. Getting together with family and old friends from my hometown of Chicago when I can and being on the music scene here in Nashville with the new friends I’ve made is what makes it all worthwhile, I’d say.
My wife and I are really enjoying living in Nashville, too. When I’m not making music, co-writing with other artists, playing shows, recording, or working on the side as a groundskeeper, and Dina isn’t working as a nurse at the hospital, we are spending quality time together, checking out the scene, having at home dinners, walking nature trails. We love to get out there and travel, and we’ve got lots more places to check out!
I maintain a pretty active lifestyle as well, and maintain a regular workout routine to keep healthy in body and mind.
RAG: Who are you listening to right now?
Currently I’m going heavy on a few albums: the James Brown record ‘The Payback,’ Jack Johnson’s record ‘Sleep through The Static,’ the Lenny Kravitz compilation ‘Greatest Hits,’ Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’ and Tame Impala’s ‘Currents.’
I’ve also been getting a good dose of John Lennon, Kanye West, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams Sr, the Cranberries, Marvin Gaye, Kendrick Lamar, Chris Stapleton, Buena Vista Social Club, Jimi Hendrix and Dave Matthews.
RAG: Are you doing live performances?
Absolutely, I am booked throughout the summer and I’m so grateful for all of the venues I’ve been able to play so far, seeing as I’m essentially new to the scene down here. When I’m not playing at writer's rounds or sets in Nashville, I’m on the road playing other places in Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Alabama, Illinois, and Ohio, with the goal being to keep expanding and expanding. I love bringing my songs anywhere and everywhere and to as many people and places as I can.
RAG: This single seems like a big undertaking. What kind of advice might you have for other up and coming artists out there?
The most important thing is to always be a student, no matter how much you think you know.
It has been a big undertaking, for sure. As an independent artist, there's a lot of trial and error, and a lot you must do on your own. I think it’s essential to be willing to make mistakes and learn from them, with the implication being that you must be willing to take a risk and potentially crash and burn. Sizing up your own work as objectively as possible and educating yourself on how to constantly improve the promotion of your music in an ever changing and fast paced environment is also an essential key.
I also have a fundamental belief that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. There’s abundance all around, and I think it's essential to discipline the awareness to recognize it. There's opportunity everywhere if we are aware, but if we think that little opportunities don’t amount to much, don’t seize them, and aren’t grateful when they arrive, how can we expect a dream opportunity to arrive if we haven’t acted on the little opportunities given to us already?
RAG: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?
Thank you all so much for being on this journey with me. You all are the reason I love what I do so much. I love that we all come in different races, colors, and creeds, and that there is an understanding between us that the power of music and love overcomes all.
We get to connect, empathize, uplift each other and strengthen common bonds through these songs.
I recently played a song of mine in Kentucky called “The Hill.” After my set a woman came up to me and told me that my song really had an effect on her. She disclosed to me that she has cancer and has 5 months to live. These are the moments I live for and cherish. Nothing makes me happier than when someone feels a bit more understood and less alone because of one of my songs. I will always be grateful for that, and I am forever grateful to all of you.