By Sabina Mollot
Stuyvesant Town rock singer Garland Jeffreys has been keeping busy lately.
The veteran musician, now 73, was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in November.
Additionally, his early hit song “Wild in the Streets” was recently featured in the Netflix original series “The Get Down” and was also included on the official RCA soundtrack for the show.
Then, last Tuesday, Jeffreys launched a PledgeMusic crowd-funding campaign aimed at producing a new album and a documentary about his career.
The doc features Harvey Keitel, Laurie Anderson and Graham Parker, all singing the Brooklyn-born crooner’s praises. The album is expected to be released sometime in the spring.
Finally, in keeping with what has become an annual tradition, Jeffreys will be performing at Joe’s Pub at 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. His 20-year-old daughter Savanna, who’s also a musician, will open the set with some of her own songs and the father and daughter will also perform a duet.
Reached at home, Jeffreys spoke with Town & Village about the aforementioned projects and a European tour planned for 2017.
The documentary and album, he said, have already done well in terms of crowd-sourcing; a day after going live, the campaign pulled in half the asking amount.
With campaigns through the crowd-sourcing company Jeffreys is using, PledgeMusic, the asking amount isn’t made public and team Jeffreys (Garland and wife and manager Claire) didn’t want to say what that amount is. However, this is the second album to be funded this way for Jeffreys.
He’s previously told T&V he prefers the “hustling” that’s involved in asking fans for the money than dealing with record labels.
As for the film, it will focus on Jeffreys’ career, which began in the early 1960s when he performed at various venues in Greenwich Village to the current time. Using the working title, “Who is Garland Jeffreys?”, Jeffreys said, “It goes back and it really covers my career.”
Over the years, the singer and songwriter, whose parents are black and Puerto Rican, has been known for making music with some political/racial undertones. A particularly blunt example of this is in the 1992 song “Don’t Call Me Buckwheat.”
The album, meanwhile, has already been recorded, with Jeffreys repeatedly calling it his best work in at least a decade.
“The record I’m very proud of and very excited about,” he said. “Any time I make a record, I put myself on the line in the sense that I try to do my best. I alienate everyone around me and I’m dedicated to try to do something really great, really special, artful.”
Asked if any of his new material was politically inspired, Jeffreys demurred, instead just making a general statement about the recent presidential election.
“I’ll say something about the election. It’s not my kind of election,” he said. “I think there was a lot of shenanigans. Some of us expected that this would happen and we’re not happy. We’ll say we’re not happy with our fearless leader.”
He added, “Getting back to the music, I would say it covers a lot of ground. It’s honest. It’s direct. It’s clear.”
The album, which is so far unnamed, comes just three years since his last one, “Truth Serum” in 2013. In 2011, he released the album, “The King of In Between.” But it’s the early hit song “Wild in the Streets,” originally released in 1973, that Jeffreys is still most well-known for. It’s been covered by multiple artists and in May, it was also used in a L’Oreal commercial, with several models swaying to the beat.
However, despite the recent commercialization, which Jeffreys readily agreed to (the song was also used in a video game a couple of years ago), he made a point of saying he never tries to live up to that hit when writing new material.
“I’m not that kind of guy who writes songs like that,” said Jeffreys. “I wouldn’t want to be that guy who does commercial songs every time. I want to be what I’ve always been, writing songs on ideas and circumstance and race.”
As for that induction into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, Jeffreys was personally given the honor and his statue award by David Johansen, formerly a member of pioneering punk band New York Dolls as well as a former neighbor.
Though Jeffreys is a longtime resident of Stuy Town and a native of Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay neighborhood, he grew up for some time in Gramercy, on Second Avenue and 17th Street. Johansen, he recalled, lived about a block away. “He and I go back a long time. It was literally a stone’s throw from each other’s place.” He added, jokingly, “That’s how rock and roll was invented.”
Other winners of awards from LIMHF this year included rockers Steven Van Zandt and Steve Vai and even another Stuyvesant Town resident, musician and music teacher Joseph Rutkowski.
Jeffreys, who has always had a larger following throughout Europe than stateside frequently tours and that’s what he’ll be doing for much of 2017.
He’ll be going to Paris, the U.K. and Japan as well as later the West Coast of the United States, where, he admits in his bio, to being “a cult favorite” rather than a rock star.
“It’s going to be a busy year,” Jeffreys said.
Meanwhile, when asked whether he felt his own city was still a place that’s hospitable to musicians, he seemed to think so — at least for him.
“I’ve been inspired by my city, the good, the bad and the ugly,” he said. “I’ve always fed off of it like so many artists. I always find something here, and it’s not hard. It’s natural; I’m a New Yorker through and through. That comes out in my creativity.”
When at home, Jeffreys is easy to spot, sporting his signature houndstooth fedora. Asked about his favorite accessory, he explained that he likes that it adds “a little bit of flash” to even a drab outfit. “I’m a hat man, so if something fits I want to keep it,” he said.
For tickets ($50) or more information on the upcoming Joe’s Pub concert, visit the website.