Garland Jeffreys, now on tour, in Stuy Town
Photo by Sabina Mollot
Crowd-sourced project also raised cash
for program helping elderly neighbors
By Sabina Mollot
Stuyvesant Town singer and songwriter Garland Jeffreys has quite a few things to celebrate.
The now 70-year-old rocker – his birthday was on June 29 – is releasing a new album, with some of the material just performed at a packed birthday show at the Highline Ballroom, and he’s raising funds for a program to help some of his elderly neighbors.
Jeffreys, who said he’s close to releasing his 14th album, has gone the independent route in its production. Like with his last release, “The King of In Between,” in 2011, this album (yet to have its name released) is being produced sans label. But unlike in the past, this time the funds were raised by fans and friends. Jeffreys used the crowd-sourcing website PledgeMusic to raise the money, which has a policy of having users donate 10 percent of the funds, after the artists’ goals are met, to charity. Since Jeffreys has been looking for ways to help seniors in ST/PCV, he opted to give that money ($400 so far) to Favors for Neighbors.
That program, which is run by Stuy Town management as well as Beth Israel hospital, provides services to resident seniors like social worker visits and matching them up with young neighbors who can run errands and do other services for them.
Based on publicly viewable information, 157 percent of the album’s goal amount was reached, a result of 283 pledges. Those who donated were promised goodies that ranged from a free digital download of the album to dinner at Jeffreys’ home near the Oval. “My wife, Claire, is a pretty good cook,” he wrote in a May blog post. It’s worth noting that Claire is also his manager, while teenage daughter Savannah, an aspiring singer herself, has performed with her father many times.
Jeffreys, who’s shared stages with Lou Reed and Bruce Springsteen, has been performing for decades and has produced albums under labels such as RCA, Epic and A&M. But, as he told Town & Village recently, at this point in his career, he has no interest in working with a label.
Using the crowd-sourcing method, “you have to hustle,” admitted Jeffreys, but, he added, “It frees you from the grips of the record business. When you go with a label, when you use some executive’s money, you pay a price. It may come sooner, it may come later. They dictate to you what kind of album to make and they are often mistaken in their selection about what is good music.”
Besides, through PledgeMusic, Jeffreys said he’s only doing what he does normally which is engage in an interactive way with fans. “I love this Pledge thing because it brings the fans into the picture,” he said.
Those who donate will also get sneak peaks at behind-the-scenes work, which is going to be part of a documentary-style video. Jeffreys is putting the video together alongside the album, which is slated for release in September.
“It’s almost done,” said Jeffreys, though he opted to remain mum about the recording’s title and even song titles. Musically, the style will be different from past rock songs he’s written, he promised, though once again he declined to reveal how.
But, he added, “In my mind, this album is some of the best stuff I’ve ever done, so I’m pretty excited about it. It’s very strong emotionally.”
His most recent album, “The King of In Between,” was the first one he released after a 13-year-break from recording albums, though he still contributed to others. One recent feature is on 2012’s “Occupy This Album” by Music for Occupy. Meanwhile, older hits have remained selling, like the song, “Wild in the Streets” (from 1973) which was used in a bar fight scene of the video game, “Max Payne 3.”
In the past, Jeffreys’ style has been influenced by his own background — he’s a Coney Island, Brooklyn native who’s racially mixed (black and Hispanic) and many songs have revolved around themes like race, conflict, poverty and a desire to bring people together.
Additionally, for the past couple of years, Jeffreys has been trying to come up with ways to help lower-income elderly residents ST/PCV, in particular women, with things like medical expenses and just having those who live alone checked on.
The singer has said he was turned on to the idea of starting some sort of organized outreach by some of his older neighbors, including those in his own building. They don’t always discuss their problems with him, but then, he’s said in the past, they’re often obvious enough where they don’t have to.
Last year, he mentioned in an interview with T&V how he noticed an elderly woman at she sat near the basketball court in Playground 9.
“She was really debilitated and could barely understand me,” he recalled, but he noticed that she still seemed to appreciate that he’d struck up a conversation.
Since then, he’s been making it a point to reach out to older neighbors, and with a tour schedule that sometimes offers him months free at home, he’s become more aware of things like when neighbors he sees around are suddenly not there, sometimes having been taken away for medical care.
“There’ll be more to come” for Favors for Neighbors, he said, adding that he’s open to the idea of holding benefit concerts.
Jeffreys, who performed in Stuy Town last year, won’t be performing on the Oval again this year, since he’s been touring and will be doing shows throughout Europe as well as in Canada. “I would definitely play another time, though,” said Jeffreys.